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Croatia cuts short England’s dream of football ‘coming home’

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Croatia’s midfielder Luka Modric (R) shakes hands with Croatia’s coach Zlatko Dalic as he is replaced during the Russia 2018 World Cup semi-final football match between Croatia and England at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 11, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV

Croatia broke English hearts, coming from 1-0 down to beat the Three Lions 2-1 in extra-time and advance to the World Cup final for the first time.

Kieran Trippier’s sumptuous fifth-minute free-kick put England 1-0 up before Ivan Perisic equalised midway through the second half.

Mario Mandzukic was Croatia’s match-winner, swivelling to power home the decisive goal in the 109th minute.

Kieran Trippier has been likened to David Beckham for his quality in dead-ball situations and he showed why, bending a free-kick over the defensive wall to give England a very early lead with his first international goal.

Trippier’s father is a passionate football fan, famously erecting a flagpole to fly the England flag in his front yard and ignoring local council pleas to take it down.

Defender Kyle Walker put his body on the line to block a goal-bound shot midway through the second half, taking the full force of a rasping drive just below the waist-line. Eye-watering stuff.

Shortly after that, Ivan Perisic nipped in ahead of Walker to guide home Croatia’s equaliser off the studs of his left boot.

But it was veteran striker Mario Mandzukic who wrote the biggest headlines, picking himself up after being clattered by England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford late in the first half of extra time to drill home the game’s winning goal in unerring fashion and send Croatia through to football’s biggest day.

England should have sewn this game up by half-time, with at least three clear-cut chances to put the game beyond Croatia’s reach.

Instead, they were forced to adopt a backs-to-the-wall approach for the last quarter of the game and didn’t manage a single shot on target in the second half.

Croatia, with just four million people, will be the smallest country by population to play in a World Cup final since Uruguay in 1950.

Kieran Trippier’s goal was the earliest in a World Cup semi-final since 1958.


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