Croatia found another level after a dismal first half, to make it to their first World Cup final as an independent country, winning after extra time for their third successive knockout game. They will meet France in the July 15th, 2018 World Cup Final.
Croatia lineup: Subasic; Vrsaljko, Vida, Lovren, Strinic; Perisic, Rakitic, Brozovic, Modric, Rebic; Mandzukic (4-5-1)
England Lineup: Pickford; Kyle Walker, Stones, Maguire; Henderson, Alli, Lingard, Trippier, Young; Kane, Sterling (3-5-2)
The match between Croatia and England started off to a fast pace, with three freekicks in three first minutes. On the third freekick, Modric fouled Alli to earn England a freekick a mere 20 yards from goal. Up stepped Trippier, who has been an England’s not so secret weapon during these finals, creating more chances than any other England player. He stepped up, curled one above the wall and into the net. After only seven minutes, England was ahead.
The goal seemed to have half awakened a sleepy Croatia from slumber, but England seemed the more likely to score. On the 22nd minute, Raheem Sterling fed Harry Kane with a through ball that Subasic did well to block with his feet. The rebound was ruled off as offside. The game was so far not a great spectacle, but England ended the first half happy and looking full value for their lead.
The second half started with Croatia staring at a semifinal exit, and they looked more dangerous and determined that the preceding half. Ivan Perisic was arguably already the leading player, after the 68th minute, a superb cross by Atletico Madrid’s right-back Vrsaljko was volleyed home by Perisic. Croatia was back in the game.
Croatia seemed sure to win and kept pushing for a goal within regular time, but it was not to be. England coach Gareth Southgate hauled off Sterling for Marcus Rashford to offer a more attacking vibe, but he could not prevent the waves from the Croatian attacks. The referee called for the end of normal time and the game went into extra time, and Croatia, of course, felt confident, especially given their bench was much stronger than their English counterparts.
Pivaric and Kramaric came in for Strinic and Rebic respectively for Croatia, as they pushed forward hoping to get a win. England could only call on Dier for Henderson and Rose for Young, evidently a difference in quality between the two sides. In the 109th minute, Perisic acquired a header and Mandzukic reacted fastest to smash in a low shot past Pickford. Croatia was leading and with one foot into the Fifa 2018 World Cup finals.
Southgate brought on Vardy as the final roll of the dice, but Croatia held on firmly and might even have scored if not for Kramaric’s blatant selfishness when Perisic was left wide open on a counter.
Croatia won the match 2-1, their only victory in the knockout stages that did not include penalties. They will go ahead to face France in the world cup final, it’s only the first time they have gone this far into a World Cup tournament. Based on their performance during this match against England , France should win comfortably.