Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona and Croatia are moving on to the World Cup Final against France thanks to a thrilling 2-1 victory over England on Wednesday’s semi-final. The Croatians went behind early and needed an extra time goal to win their third consecutive 120-minute World Cup match and move on to the title game.
Early goals are always essential in these big matches because they don’t allow the teams to settle into a defensive shape and make the game boring, so Kieran Trippier scoring a truly sensational free kick just five minutes into the semi-final surely made it not boring. England love to defend and hurt teams on the counter, and they caused a lot of trouble for the rest of the half without any real response from Croatia.
Raheem Sterling wreaked havoc in the Croatian defense with his constant runs in behind, and both Harry Kane and Jesse Lingard had real opportunities to double the lead for the Three Lions. The Croats had real issues finding spaces inside the English defense and could not create any chances in the first 45 minutes.
At halftime, England had the lead and were in full control, needing just a clean sheet to reach the Final.
The second half was pretty much an extension of the first for a while, with England looking a threat on the counter while Croatia struggled to put any offense together. Then Šime Vrsaljko put a cross in the box and Ivan Perišić scored the equalizer, and all of a sudden Croatia not only were back in the game but actually started to dominate and create chance after chance, including Perišić hitting the post after a great individual move.
Despite the crazy pressure, Croatia could not find the winner while England just tried to survive until the final whistle and regroup for extra time. And that’s what we got.
The additional period went pretty much as one would expect for the first 15 minutes, with both teams more interested in not conceding than actually scoring. It looked like we were going to penalties, but Mario Mandžukić put his team ahead with 10 minutes to go and put immense pressure on England to find an equalizer and send the semi-final to penalties. The problem is England couldn’t even get the ball to create anything, and Croatia were experts in wasting time until the final whistle came and they booked a palce in Sunday’s title match.
Croatia: Subašić; Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinić (Pivarić); Rakitić, Brozović, Modrić (Badelj); Perišić, Mandžukić (Ćorluka), Rebić (Kramarić)
Goals: Perišić (68’), Mandžukić (109’)
England: Pickford; Walker (Vardy), Stones, Maguire; Trippier, Lingard, Henderson (Dier), Alli, Young (Rose); Sterling (Rashford), Kane
Goal: Trippier (5’)