Croatia beats England to qualify for their first World Cup final

England vs Croatia Mario Mandzukic

GETTY England vs Croatia Mario Mandzukic insists his team have what it takes to beat England’s No 1

Their opponents can count on Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic, and Southgate clearly respects the talent in the Croatian ranks.

An early goal was not enough to stop Croatia from eliminating England's dream of reaching the final of the World Cup for the first time since 1966.

For England, who captured so many hearts with their run to the semifinals, there will be the same disappointment that has haunted them at big tournaments across the world for 52 years. and counting.

"We deserved the victory", said match-winner Mandzukic.

It's Trippier! His first ever England goal.

England's unforgettable run at Russian Federation 2018 has come to a heartbreaking end but was underlined by Croatia's ability to smother their primary strengths.

England's largest travelling support of the tournament so far, estimated before the game to be up to 10,000, were in full voice throughout, urging their young Lions on.

In the second half, Croatia came back into the game and equalised when Sime Vrsaljko whipped in a brilliant cross and Ivan Perisic got his foot above Kyle Walker's head to beat Jordan Pickford.

It stayed level at 90 minutes, meaning Croatia faced extra time for the third successive game, having got past Denmark and Russian Federation on penalties.

Perisic's header in extra-time, which seemed to be a non-threatening ball into the England penalty area, turned into the match-winning assist as England's defence froze to allow Mandzukic to sneak in behind and win the game for Croatia. "And then with the ball, play with the freedom and expression that we have and the same patterns and movements that we have shown".

"It's going to hurt for a while of course". We are probably beyond where we thought we might be able to go.

"But when you've got to this point and we've played in the way we have, and as well as we did in the first half, then you want to take those opportunities in life". But we've fallen just a bit short. "And I hope they know how hard we tried to make them proud".

With the bonus of an extra day's rest and Croatia having been taken to extra-time for the third time in succession, France will be far the fresher of the two sides in Sunday's final.

It was a fantastic curling effort from 25 yards from the Tottenham Hotspur full-back, and England's first goal direct from a free-kick at the World Cup since David Beckham against Ecuador in 2006.

In delirious scenes in Paris, fans let off fire crackers and released smoke flares.

"They were very happy and did not even realise that I was trapped down there", Cortez, who works for AFP Mexico, told the news service.

France coach Didier Deschamps said he was delighted to have the chance to bury the pain of the Euro 2016 final, which his side lost on home soil to Portugal.

"We've got to grow on this now".

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