Croatia 2-1 England: Hits and flops from the game, World Cup 2018
Zlatko Dalic's resolute Croatian side will face France in the finals of the 2018 World Cup after the Vatreni showed nerves of steel to clinch the semifinal against England late in extra time.
Kieran Trippier scored within five minutes of the start from a free kick after Dele Alli was fouled in the vicinity of the box. England had much of the momentum during the 40-odd minutes that followed but failed to register a shot or target during the entire match thereafter.
Croatia, on the other hand, organized themselves much better in the second half - closing the half-spaces, cutting off midfield links and forcing England to go wide or take the aerial route only for the attack to be snuffed out with crucial interceptions or headers.
It was a question of when – not if – that Ivan Perisic’s equalizer finally arrived, courtesy of a brilliant cross from the right by Sime Vrsaljko; wave after wave of Croatian attack was kept at bay by a nervy England who could not penetrate their opponents’ defensive solidity either.
In the closing stages of extra time, Perisic laid on a superbly-won header for Mario Mandzukic; the latter gave the cross its due by beating Pickford and sending his country through to their first ever World Cup final on Sunday in Luzhniki where Didier Deschamps’ men await.
Here are the five players who were among the best/worst in the crucial fixture.
#5 Hit: Kieran Trippier
Barely five minutes into the game, Dele Alli was fouled and England had a free kick. Gareth Southgate’s squad had made the utmost use of set pieces until this game and as the players stood over it, there was a sense of confidence and ease.
It was a scorching free kick taken by Kieran Trippier and he had scored before Croatia had as much as gotten into the game or found their feet. They spent the rest of the first half recovering from the aftermath of energy and enthusiasm that came over their youthful opposition.
Dalic’s men failed while trying to beat Trippier out wide – he was as efficient in defence as effective as in attack. Ivan Strinic had his cup full and required a tremendous shift from Perisic as well to cope with the right wing-back’s forays into Croatian territory when England were on the attack.
He was a figure of such surety and his performance outstanding on a night when his defensive partner could barely cope. This brings us, of course, to one of the two major flops tonight.