Croatia yet again showed their magnificent resilience to come from behind and beat England 2-1 on Wednesday as Mario Mandzukic’s extra-time goal sent them into their first World Cup final and a possible revenge mission against France.
For the third successive knockout game, the Croats trailed, this time to Kieran Trippier’s fifth-minute free kick, but they fought back once more to force extra time.Ivan Perisic levelled after 68 minutes and, having got past Denmark and Russia on penalties, Croatia rolled up their sleeves for another extra period.
This time they did not need the shootout as, seemingly gaining in energy when they should have been on their knees, they took charge and won it when Mandzukic struck with a well-taken low shot in the 109th minute.
“This tournament will be won by a team with character. We were 1-0 down in three games in a row,” Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said.
“For Croatian football and the country this is history being written — I can’t think of a smaller country to reach the final.”
Despite the disappointment of England’s loss, there was an outpouring of support towards Gareth Southgate’s team, with many describing the side’s achievements at Russia as having ‘exceeded expectations’.
The official Three Lions Twitter handle put out a thank you post for its fans right after the team’s exit:Daniel Sturridge was in no mood to listen to any sort of negativity about his team when he put this out:
England great Alan Shearer lauded manager Southgate for giving supporters “great entertainment” as well as “hope”:Prince William is trending as well as he consoled the England team for after their loss and advised them to “hold their heads high”:Since their dream run to the last four in 1998, their first tournament as an independent nation, Croatia have failed to get past the group stage, with every subsequent failing team being compared unfavourably with the heroes of France.
This side, however, have gone one better and will get the chance to avenge the defeat of 20 years ago when they face the French on Sunday at the Luzhniki Stadium.
England face a third-place playoff with Belgium on Saturday having exceeded many people’s expectations but aware that they let what might prove the be the best chance in a generation to end what is now 52 years of hurt.