Croatia have made to the finals of the FIFA World Cup for the first time as a late goal from striker Mario Mandzukic made them defeat England with a 2-1 victory.
Croatia, featuring in a World Cup semi-final only for the second time after a gap of 20 years, needed a goal from Mandzukic in the 109th minute from close range after left winger Ivan Perisic (68th minute) cancelled out Kieran Trippier’s goal for England in the fifth minute from a free-kick.
England, bidding to enter the final for the first time since their World Cup-winning campaign in 1966, couldn’t cope up with a stirring comeback from an experienced Croatian side which conceded just inside five minutes.
England expectedly fielded an unchanged lineup from the one which beat Colombia on penalties and defeated Sweden. England exerted early pressure as Luka Modric brought down Dele Alli on the edge of Croatia’s penalty area, resulting in a free-kick. Full-back Trippier bent home a 20-yard free-kick to the top right corner of Danijel Subasic’s goal.
It was a very quick blow for Croatia, who had brought in Inter Milan midfielder Marcelo Brozovic to sit in front of the back four, with Hoffenheim attacker Andrej Kramaric relegated to the bench to counter England’s fast and direct attacking football.