History-maker Mandzukic sends Croatia into first Final

  • Mandzukic and Perisic send Croatia into first World Cup Final
  • Trippier had given England the lead after just five minutes
  • Croatia to face France in World Cup Final on 15 July

Croatia have reached their first FIFA World Cup™ Final, coming from behind to defeat England 2-1 after extra time at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow – with Mario Mandzukic’s extra time goal the decisive strike.

The game had started so well for the Three Lions. Less than five minutes were on the clock when Kieran Trippier curled a delicious free-kick past the helpless Danijel Subasic.

Croatia struck back after the break. After continually increasing the pressure on the Three Lions, Sime Vrsaljko’s pinpoint cross was met by Ivan Perisic, who snuck in to level from close range. Less than five minutes later, Perisic found himself in space in the English penalty area, but his effort struck the post, and the follow-up was gratefully held by Jordan Pickford.

The Inter Milan man’s effort off the woodwork was the closest either side came to taking the lead before the 90 minutes were up, meaning England faced a second period of extra time at Russia 2018 – with Croatia undertaking a third consecutive additional 30 minutes.

Vatreni did not need penalties this time though. Mandzukic ghosted in behind the English defence, who momentarily lost concentration, and the Juventus man hammered home a historic strike to send his country into their maiden World Cup Final.

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Team reporter analysis
Vjekoslav Paun with Croatia [Follow on Twitter]
Croatia keep dreaming! Vatreni showed themselves and the world what they are capable of. They produced their best performance of the tournament right when they needed it most, showing their deep reserves of strength with another victory from a game that went to 120 minutes. Despite a quick England goal just five minutes from the start, Zlatko Dalic’s side turned it around. France, are you ready?

Laure James with England [Follow: Twitter]
England’s unforgettable run at Russia 2018 has come to a heartbreaking end but was underlined by Croatia’s ability to smother their primary strengths. The forwards hadn’t the space they have been used to, the wing-backs had retreated and in midfield, battles were physical and play restricted. While Trippier’s early goal left their position in the game favourable, Croatia’s equaliser was a sucker-punch and as the Three Lions dropped their heads, Croatia started to believe. That belief was turned into reality by Mandzukic’s strike.

Budweiser Man of the Match
Ivan Perisic worked tirelessly throughout the 120 minutes, and his goal sparked a Croatian comeback. The Inter Milan man could even have had a decisive brace in normal time, denied only by the woodwork.

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The stat
1 – Croatia are the first team to avoid defeat after trailing in three knockout matches at a single World Cup. As a result of their successive displays of resilience and determination, they become the 13th different nation to reach their first World Cup Final.

What’s next
France v Croatia, Final, 15 July, Moscow
Belgium v England, Match for Third Place, 14 July, Saint Petersburg

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