Croatia get better of England in World Cup semi-final
MOSCOW. Russia (AP):
When the final whistle blew and they knew they were going to their first FIFA World Cup final, the Croatians ran to their jumping and cheering fans in their iconic red-and-white chequered jerseys.
Mario Mandzukic scored the winning goal in the 109th minute and Croatia shocked England, rallying for 2-1 victory yesterday.
Defender Sime Vrsaljko kept the score even in extra time by heading a shot off the goal line about 10 minutes before Mandzukic scored for Croatia, which is the first team in 28 years to come from behind to win a World Cup semi-final match.
"Mentally strong team," midfielder Ivan Rakatic said. "It's just unbelievable to get back in the game in this way."
The Croats will play France for the title on Sunday in its biggest sporting moment since becoming an independent nation in 1991.
France, which won its only title at home in 1998, will have an extra day of rest after beating Belgium 1-0 on Tuesday. Croatia played three straight extra-time matches two ended in penalty kicks.
Football will not be coming home to England, and there will be no title to match the 1966 triumph at Wembley Stadium. Harry Kane & Co. will deal with the same disappointment that felled Alan Shearer and David Platt, Paul Gascoigne and Wayne Rooney, Beckham and Gerrard.
Croatia's legs at the start seemed to carry the weight of so many minutes in the knockout stage, and a pressing England went up quickly. Kevin Trippier curled in a free kick in the fifth minute.
But Croatia found energy after the break when the game opened up, making England's missed first-half opportunities seem all-the-more significant.
Ivan Perisic tied the score in the 68th minute with his fourth goal of the tournament.
Mandzukic scored after Walker stuck out a leg to block Josip Pivaric's cross. The ball popped up and Perisic outjumped Tripper to head the ball behind the defence.
Mandzukic alertly reacted to the unexpected ball in the penalty area, splitting defenders John Stones and Harry Maguire, who had taken four short steps up. The ball bounced twice, Mandzukic ran onto it and one-timed a low, left-footed shot to Pickford's left.
Mandzukic was mobbed by teammates, who jumped on him in the corner and trapped photographers under them in the crush.