Croatia 2-1 England: Mandzukic ends Lions' World Cup dreams

World Cup 2018 By: Linus Onyeze | 11/07/2018

England’s quest to win a first World Cup since 1966 failed as they couldn’t hold on to their first lead as Croatia came from behind to win 2-1.

Kieran Tripper gave the Three Lions the lead in the first half, but Ivan Perisic leveled in the second half. The game stretched to extra time, before Mario Mandzukic scored deep into the game to send Croatia to the final.

This was going to be it for either side – England could either continue signing the famous ‘it’s coming home’ song or Croatia could finally surpass the feat of their class of ’98. And it wouldn’t take long before the game got going and after just five minutes, Luka Modric committed an ugly challenge to gift England a freekick in a promising position and Trippier set the ball for the free kick and fired in a beautiful strike, which nestled exactly in the top right corner. What a way to start the game for the Three Lions.

Maybe it was England being much better or maybe not, but for some reason, Croatia were struggling to get out of gear one as England looked the more promising side. But on 21 minutes, Ante Rebic tried his luck from the edge of the box after a brilliant solo effort, but it was well blocked by a defender. That was their first effort of the game.

England continued to look the better side even if slightly but Zlatko Dalic’s men were also looking to get on the front foot as frequently as possible and on one occasion in the 32nd minute, Jordan Pickford made a brilliant save! Ante Rebic met a rebound outside the box and attempted to beat the keeper into the top of the net, but the England goalie was up to the task.

Soon after, it was England’s turn to create a chance of their own, when Jesse Lingard collected a pass and ran with pace goalwards before unleashing a great drive from the edge of the box, but it went inches wide of the right post.

With the exception of the early goal, the first half experienced a slow start but the start to the second half was even slower. It was a half that saw slower buildups as England looked to maintain their shape when they had the ball and Croatia, even though needing a goal, also looked cautious when attacking as they tried not to open themselves up to quick counterattacks.

It was a half that lacked bite from the early stages and the first effort didn’t come until the 65th minute when Ivan Rakitic got to the rebound of a shot just outside the box, but his attempt was blocked by one of the defending players. But three minutes later, Croatia would get the goal they needed as Sime Vrsaljko played a terrific cross over to Perisic, who found some space inside the box and put the ball into the back of the net. The Croats were level.

That goal hardly stopped Croatia as they kept pressing for the second goal and Perisic created a good chance for himself and fired in a powerful close-range shot, but his effort ricocheted off the right post. And moments later, Rebic picked up a rebound inside the penalty area and sent a shot to the middle of the goal, but was denied by a reflex save from Pickford.

At this point, it was obvious this game would progress into extra time as both sides failed to score the winning goal in normal time

And in the first half of extra time, there was barely any memorable event to talk about until the second half and in the 109th minute, Mandzukic scored with a shot from inside the box after latching onto a headed pass from Perisic. That goal would be the clincher as Croatia progressed to the final of the World Cup, surpassing their record of 1998.