By Prarthana Mitra
Croatia reaches the World Cup final for the first time after an extra-time goal from Mario Mandzukic gave them a 2-1 lead over England in their semi-final contest on Wednesday. After the 120-minute-long emotional ride, England, which looked in complete control for a while, failed to hold out against Croatia who emerged as the deserved victors and now moves on to a final meeting with France.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 11, 2018
Commiserations and congratulations
It was truly a spectacular moment of joy and pride for the Croatian football team which made its debut at the World Cup stage for the first time in 1998 and went on to finish third. Equally heartbreaking to see was the reversal of fortune suffered by England, which started the match on a triumphant note with Kieran Tripper’s 5th-minute goal.
The match was running in English favour up until the 68th minute, when Ivan Perisic slid in the first goal for Croatia. Modric and his men then delivered a comeback performance to remember, dashing England’s dream of qualifying for their first World Cup final in over five decades. In the face of mounting pressure and relentless attacks from the Croatians, the formidable English defense began to crack a little, just enough for the Croatians to score an equaliser which took the match to extra time.
England is now set to face Belgium on Saturday to settle scores about the third place. Captain Harry Kane is still a strong contender for the Golden Boot unless the next match witnesses Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) or France’s Griezmann and Mbappe scoring significant goal points for themselves.
Nonetheless, English coach Gareth Southgate’s insistence and confidence to carry the two-time Youth World Cup winning squad to world football’s biggest event, deserves special mention. Speaking after the match, he said solemnly and proudly, “Knockout football is fine margins. When you have spells, you have to make them count; we probably needed that second goal. We’ve come an incredible long way in a short space of time. We are probably beyond where we thought we might be able to go. So tonight we weren’t quite there, but the team will be stronger for that.”
Gareth Southgate knows this feeling.
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) July 11, 2018
The Guardian’s Luke Harrison said, “The appointment of Southgate was accidentally visionary but I think the future of English football is bright. So much so that I am almost hoping we don’t win this world cup so we can really win it in style in four or eight years time….I’d agree that the youth World Cup wins are a huge indicator of progress being made in English football development.”
It's going home alright. Just not to England. Croatia are winners, worth winners and they are into their first World Cup final. Let that sink in.#WorldCup #CROENG live updates:https://t.co/fq95imtTEN pic.twitter.com/CHNcewIUgI
— The Field (@thefield_in) July 11, 2018
A significant credit, for the young team’s journey to the semis against all expectations, goes to goalkeeper Jordan Pickford who mused after the match, “It was an experience. Maybe we went ahead to early. But we needed that next goal to kill off the tie. We had some good chances, but didn’t put them away. They have some top-quality players, which showed in the second half.”
First team to score 6 goals in a single game.
First team to secure a knockout victory since '06.
First team to ever win a penalty shoot-out.
First team to score more than 11 goals.
First team to make an appearance in a semi-final for 28 years.
Gareth Southgate's England. pic.twitter.com/L0kMY3dPSY
— bet365 (@bet365) July 11, 2018
Real Madrid star Luka Modric who may win the Golden Ball and is possibly the world’s best midfielder right now, along with teammate and Barcelona player Ivan Rakitic, opened up several opportunities and displayed some of the finest assists in the tournament last night. Goalkeeper Subasic kept saving Croatia’s net from British onslaughts when they came from Kane, Lingard, Trippier and Walker. Shortly after scoring the second goal for Croatia, Mandzukic retired injured, as did Trippier who limped off the ground at the 117th minute.
Modri?’s game by numbers vs. England:
2 chances created
Highest final third pass accuracy (92%)
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) July 11, 2018
But all eyes are now on the final faceoff between France which has proven its mettle more than once, and Croatia, one of the smallest countries in the world to qualify for the World Cup final and now within stone’s throw of finishing their campaign like the invincible force that they are.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius
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