England’s dream sadly came to an end today with a 2-1 defeat to Croatia after extra time. The victors now progress to their first World Cup final in their history, whereas the Three Lions see their dreams cruelly vanish in Luzhniki.
England- Trippier 5′
Pickford, Walker (Vardy 111′), Stones, Maguire, Trippier, Henderson (Dier 96′), Young (Rose 90′), Lingard, Alli, Sterling (Rashford 74′), Kane.
Croatia- Perisic 68′, Mandzukic 109′
Subasic, Vrsaljko, Strinic (Pivaric 94′), Lovren, Vida, Rakitic, Modric (Badelj 118′), Brozovic, Perisic, Mandzukic (Corluka 114′), Rebic (Kramaric 100′)
An absolute dream start for England in this momentous game. Not much of note had occurred before a sloppy Luca Modric challenge gave the Three Lions a free-kick in an ideal position just outside the box. Shades of David Beckham emerged from within Kieran Trippier as he smashed the dead-ball into the top left corner. England took the lead with less then ten minutes played. Full pints throughout the UK have been launched into the air with absolute disregard of monetary impact. Absolutely beautiful stuff.
England continued to apply the pressure immediately from the restart. The Croatian back-line were completely incompetent in defending their wings from the pace of Raheem Sterling, who began many attacking movements in this half. Another crucial chance fell to the Three Lions as an incredible pass reached Harry Kane unmarked in the box. The prolific striker, however, saw his shot saved by Subasic with his rebound rattling the post.
Croatia, however, slowly re-introduced themselves into the game after this early barrage of English brilliance. They continually applied pressure through their style of possession football, utilising their incredible midfield corps. The English defense, however, remained water-tight, and competently dealt with many of these threats.
The half-time whistle finally blew after a short period of VAR uncertainty regarding a possible Croatian penalty. England are only forty-five minutes away from cementing their names into history. Half time, Croatia 0-1 England.
The second half began in a similar style to the end of the first. Croatia continued to apply pressure, however the England defense ensured that no real chances occurred. England enjoyed some chances through their pacy, lethal counter-attack. Commence the fingernail-biting for English fans throughout the country.
English dreams took a large blow, however, when a dangerous Croatian cross found the head of Ivan Perisic, whose glancing header reached the bottom right corner of the net. A rocky spell for the Three Lions ultimately resulted in a goal for the Croatians. England needed to regroup and rebuild their momentum if they were going to have any chance of winning this game. Only minutes later, another Ivan Perisic shot rattled the English post. England seemed to have lost all composure here.
The tides have very much turned in the favour of Croatia in this game. Chance after chance fell to the Group D winners, with only Jordan Pickford saving England from peril. The Three Lions really need to find some composure and possession here. Croatia were looking incredibly dangerous by this point. They constantly dominated the passing-game in the centre of the pitch, leaving England with no room for manoeuvre.
That’s all she wrote for regulation in this semi-final fixture. Extra time on the way. At the end of the second half, it stands at Croatia 1-1 England.
Into extra time. For both sides, this would be a crucial opportunity ensure their progression to the final of this World Cup. The first period of regulation began in fairly equal fashion. A powerful John Stones header from a corner was saved by a brilliant Croatian goal-line clearance, in a hair-raising moment for Danijel Subasic. At the other end of the pitch, yet another incredible Jordan Pickford save denied Mario Mandzukic. The image of the young Sunderland native screaming at the striker’s crumpled form on the floor is heavily iconic. You can take the boy out of Sunderland…
The second period of extra time began in nightmare fashion for the Three Lions, with a well hit Mario Mandzukic strike bombing into the bottom left corner as the English defense lay sleeping. England look lethargic and incompetent in the defense- the corps which some say ensured their path to the semi-final. These final twelve minutes hold an absolutely massive deal of importance if England want to salvage their World Cup hopes.
Unfortunately, the fat lady sang with England still behind. Croatia are through to their first ever World Cup final. The Three Lions’ dream, however, has been cruelly snuffed out. Final score, Croatia 2-1 England.
The Lazy Fan View
Absolute respect to Croatia, who have performed very well throughout this tournament. A win today means that they retain their 100% win rate and reach their first ever World Cup final. They were the better side today, and wholeheartedly deserve their place in the final.
Heartbreak for England, who may not have won the tournament here but have definitely won the hearts of this entire nation. England unfortunately fell victim to the midfield domination of Croatia today. However, the fans can come away with a sense of fulfillment. Contrary to the past two World Cups, England played with passion in Russia. On to the next tournament for this incredibly promising team.