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World Cup

Croatia ends England’s World cup dreams

Mario Madzukic scored the winners against England on Wednesday night

Croatia etched their name in World Cup folklore when they battled back from a fifth minute setback to overcome England in extra time and book a final date with France.

They are the thirteenth different side, and newest nation, to play in the ultimate game of the 88-year-old competition.

After requiring extra time and penalties in both the round of sixteen and quarterfinals, there had been concern over Zlatko Dalic side’s readiness to last the distance against Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions.

Concern gave way to trepidation when Kieran Trippier curved England ahead on five minutes following Luca Modric’s foul on Delle Ali.

1966 winners England were very much the team in ascendancy for the next forty minutes, restricting 1998 semi finalists Croatia to a solitary effort on Jordan Pickford’s goal.

England could even have extended their advantage had captain and tournament top scorer Harry Kane not fluffed his lines with the goal at his mercy.

The second half was a completely different affair with the Balkan nation’s more experienced stars Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Perisic and Mario Madzukic finally finding their element.

It was Perisic who drew Croatia level by connecting to a cross quicker than Kyle Walker.

Regular time ended 1-1, compelling Croatia to become only the fourth nation to play extra time in three successive games. But suggestions they were fatigued were dispelled when Madzukic reacted fastest to Perisic’s flick to shoot past Pickford for the match winner.

England now troop to St Petersburg where they face Belgium on Saturday hoping to atone for a 0-1 group game loss to Roberto Martinez’s men.

For Croatia, they face Didier Deschamps’ France a day later in the final of the FIFA World Cup 2018.

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