Exhausted and battered, Croatia reaches its 1st World Cup final

Thursday, 12 Jul, 2018

Croatia, with a population of just 4.17 million, booked their place in the July 15 final at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium by beating England at the same venue 2-1 after extra time on Wednesday night.

Referencing the 52 years that England have gone since winning the World Cup, The Guardian sport section leads with the image of the moment Mario Mandzukic fired the winning goal beyond Jordan Pickford.

"Well done England you've done us all proud", she said. They proved lethal from set-pieces, deployed a modern system which plays to their strengths, and have shown themselves capable and unflustered when it comes to game management.

With Croatia trailing 1-0, Vrsaljko curled in the cross that Ivan Perisic volleyed into the net in the 68th minute. Marie Croatian community member Stipe Saric predicted, he told the Sault Star in a post-game interview. Suddenly, England looked like the exhausted ones. The average age of the English squad was under 26, the joint-youngest in the World Cup tournament, and only three of the current players - Ashley Young, Jamie Vardy, and Gary Cahill - are over 30.

England's chances of advancing still seemed decent enough as long as the score remained deadlocked. "There's nothing better than getting an early goal but we needed the next one".

Conventional wisdom holds that Belgium and England will send out the second string again, play a minimum of defense and try to avoid getting any of their high-priced players hurt right before their club seasons begin.

A win for England would help erase World Cup futility. For England, the end still felt premature. It's going to hurt for a while of course.

"The game went a lot better after the first half", said Richard Majic, another spectator at the garage. In big games it's small margins.

"I don't know what will happen if we win, probably nobody will go to work".

He said on Twitter: "Thank you to our wonderful YOUNG team". They're a likable group with a likable manager, and they can really play.

But the cold hard truth is that England squandered its chance to reach the final.

Vida and a team official, both of whom used to play for Ukrainian club Dynamo Kiev, appeared in a pro-Ukraine video posted shortly after Croatia knocked Russian Federation out of the tournament.