Croatia 2-1 England The dream ended as Croatia win through
Mario Mandzukic was the hero for Croatia as they edged England 2-1 after extra-time in their World Cup semi-final in Moscow.
Mandzukic rifled a shot past Jordan Pickford four minutes into the second period of extra-time, giving the excellent stopper no chance.
England had hit the front early in the match when Kieren Trippier curled a free-kick into the top corner from 20-yards.
Harry Kane had chances to extend the lead in the opening half but Croatia came into the contest more after the break and Ivan Perisic got the goal that forced extra time, where Mandzukic was the hero in setting up a tussle with France in Sunday’s decider back in the Luzhniki Stadium.
The evening got off to a perfect beginning for England on five minutes. Luka Modric brought Dele Alli down 20-yards out and his Tottenham teammate Tripper curled a superb right-footed shot into the net.
Croatia were slow to get going, though Perisic fired a low drive beyond Pickford’s upright on 20 minutes.
Kane’s big moment came and went on the half-hour. He found himself free in the box but his low effort was smothered by Danijel Subasic.
The rebound fell to the England skipper but, from an acute angle, his shot cannoned off an upright and away to safety. The offside flag had gone up, but replays showed Kane was onside and the goal would have stood.
Croatia started the second half on the front foot and they were eventually on level terms midway through the half.
Sime Vrsaljko hung high cross from the right and Perisic was able to poke it beyond Pickford from seven-yards out. England claimed a high foot as Kyle Walker stooped to head clear, but the goal stood.
With that boost, Croatia went seeking a winner. John Stones and Pickford got themselves in a mix-up and Perisic was able to skip into the box and drive a shot low past the goalkeeper only to be denied by the upright.
A nervy end to normal time passed off with neither team able to find a winning goal.
Pickford was England’s hero at the end of the first period of extra-time. Perisic, so often a threat for Croatia, crossed from left and Mandzukic poked it goalwards only for the Everton stopper to bravely deny him with a knee.
Just four minutes later, Mandzukic had his goal. England failed to clear their lines and Perisic nodded a header back into the 18-yard-box. The big striker reacted quickest and drove his shot low and hard across goal into the corner.
Jamie Vardy was thrown on late on but England couldn’t fashion a decent opening and Southgate’s team will now face Belgium in a play-off for third place on Saturday instead of Sunday’s final.