Croatia beats England to qualify for their first World Cup final

Thursday, 12 Jul, 2018

England and their relatively inexperienced roster has defied the odds to reach the World Cup final four.

England's World Cup dream is officially over after being beaten 2-1 after extra-time by Croatia.

It stayed level at 90 minutes, meaning Croatia faced extra time for the third successive game, having got past Denmark and Russian Federation on penalties.

"It's the best opportunity that England's ever had, and probably might ever have", England defender Kyle Walker was quoted as saying by the FIFA's official website.

"It's a special feeling to know that people back home and out here in Russian Federation are enjoying the experience just as much as we are", the midfielder said on the eve of the game.

"This is the most together England team that I have been involved in", he said. They topped an extremely hard group that included perennial title contenders Argentina, Iceland and Nigeria.

Panama tried it against England after conceding to them in the group stages. If England beats Croatia and then France in the finals, knight the man on Sunday.

Crawford was capped twice by the Three Lions in the early sixties and played on the same pitch as all of the triumphant England team of that era at some stage or another during a near fifteen-year career in the game. His absence would likely hand a start to Vedran Corluka in the center of defense alongside Lovren, shifting Vida to right-back.

The England regular spoke highly of fellow midfielders Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic along with Liverpool team-mate Dejan Lovren. Mandzukic will lead Croatia's attack.

If Alli's performance in Moscow is placed alongside that of Perisic, it is clear to see the difference between a player searching for form at this World Cup and one on top of his game.

Croatia have an experienced squad and will go into the match with the belief of going the distance.

That of course happened when Mandzukic netted; with all of Croatia's players joining him in celebration.

Eric Amsalem, a 48-year-old Croatian fan with his face painted in the colours of the national flag said: "It's a small country".

Croatia will need to stop Kane if they are to have any hope of winning the game.

"The biggest pressure came against Denmark in the round of 16 (which also went to extra-time and a penalty shootout)".

England hadn't really faced a truly world-class striker on their run to the semi-finals and in Mandzukic they came up against a player who was equipped to make the most of any deficiencies at the back.

Harry Kane has been England's focal point in the World Cup.

The best chance for a second England goal was wasted by an unmarked Jesse Lingard when he curled wide when a goal looked certain. There will be legitimate questions about how much they have left in the tank.

The contribution of Raheem Sterling remains a polarising debate in England, with the Manchester City player without a goal for his country since October 2015, but Southgate says the forward's contribution in Russian Federation has been essential.