Final, 2-1 Croatia: The referee blows the final whistle, sending Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final and England back home.
Croatia achieves the unthinkable, having earned a comeback win for the ages after extra time. The Blazers fell behind in the first half but dramatically improved in the second period, scored a much-deserved tying goal via Ivan Perisic in the 68th minute and took the game to extra time. Croatia remained the game’s protagonist in the extra periods and capitalized on an apparently fatigue-induced error in England’s defense to score the decisive goal 109 minutes after kickoff courtesy of Mario Mandzukic.
Croatia is breaking all kinds of new ground in reaching the World Cup final. Small and low-ranked countries should enter future tournaments confident in their ability to succeed, so long as they’re willing to fight, suffer and never say die.
England will be proud of its overall World Cup 2018 performance but should be disappointed over how its play deteriorated over the course of the game. The Three Lions controlled the first half but seemingly panicked as Croatia grew into the contest. If only they had tested Croatia’s hobbling goalkeeper Danijel Subasic with more than just two shots on target in 120 minutes. England now must cope with further heartache after becoming just the second of 19 teams to lead a World Cup semifinal at halftime but fail to win.
Man of the match: Croatia’s Ivan Perisic scored the game-tying goal and assisted on Mario Mandzukic’s game-winner. His stats represent the fact he was a constant threat throughout the contest.
Next up: Croatia will play France at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday in the World Cup 2018 final. England will face Belgium at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday in the third-place game.
That’s all for now, and thanks for joining us. Let’s discuss this one on Twitter @NESNsoccer and Facebook. Be sure to keep an eye out for some news, fan reactions, analysis and opinion coming up on NESN.com/soccer.
120th minute, 2-1 Croatia: There will be four minutes of added time in the second half of extra time.
120th minute, 2-1 Croatia: Andrej Kramaric hits the side netting, wasting a golden chance to seal Croatia’s victory.
119th minute, 2-1 Croatia: Luka Modric exits and Milan Badelj enters in Croatia’s fourth, and final, substitution.
118th minute, 2-1 Croatia: England’s Kieran Trippier limps off the field. He can’t continue, and England is out of substitutions.
116th minute, 2-1 Croatia: Jordan Pickford saves Marcelo Brozovic’s long-range shot, as Croatia seeks to extend its lead.
115th minute, 2-1 Croatia: Vedran Corluka replaces Mario Mandzukic in Croatia’s third substitution.
112th minute, 2-1 Croatia: Jamie Vardy replaces Kyle Walker in England’s final substitution. England manager Gareth Southgate removes a defender and inserts a striker into the fray.
109th minute 2-1 Croatia: Mario Mandzukic puts Croatia in front four minutes into the second extra-time period.
England’s Kyle Walker failed to clear a cross and Croatia’s Ivan Perisic headed the second ball on to Mandzukic, who beat John Stones to it and shot past Jordan Pickford from a tight angle.
108th minute, 1-1: Marcelo Brozovic curls a shot wide after surprising England on a corner kick.
106th minute, 1-1: The second half of extra time is underway.
105th minute +4, 1-1: That’s the end of the first half of extra time. The Croatia vs. England World Cup 2018 semifinal remains tied.
105th minute +1, 1-1: England’s Jordan Pickford leaves his line and saves Mario Mandzukic’s shot from point-blank range.
Mandzukic is down after the collision with Pickford.
105th minute, 1-1: There will be two minutes of stoppage time in the first half of extra time.
101st minute, 1-1: Croatia makes a second substitution, replacing Ante Rebic with Andrej Kramaric.
99th minute 1-1: Sime Vrsaljko clears John Stones’ header off the goal line.
97th minute, 1-1: Eric Dier replaces Jordan Henderson in England’s third substitution. England still has one more personnel change at its disposal.
96th minute, 1-1: The referee shows Croatia’s Ante Rebic a yellow card for his tackle on Danny Rose.
95th minute, 1-1: Josip Pivaric replaces Ivan Strinic in Croatia’s first substitution.
94th minute, 1-1: Croatia’s Ivan Strinic is down on the field holding his right groin. He stands up and limps off, and it looks like his game is over.
91st minute, 1-1: The first half of extra time is underway.
England makes its second substitution, swapping Danny Rose for Ashley Young on the left wing.
End of normal time: The referee blows the whistle to end normal time. England vs. Croatia is going to extra time.
After a slow opening period, Croatia emerged as the better side in the second half and earned its just reward through Ivan Perisic.
Croatia will play 30 extra minutes for the third consecutive game. Do the Blazers have enough energy to overcome England? We’ll soon find out.
England will be disappointed not to have registered a shot on goal for the last 85 minutes. The Three Lions had their chances, but their shooting has been wayward.
90th minute +2, 1-1: England’s Harry Kane heads Kieran Trippier’s free kick wide of Croatia’s far post.
90th minute +1, 1-1: Croatia’s Ivan Rakitic hacks down England’s Marcus Rashford, and the referee awards a free kick in a dangerous spot.
90th minute, 1-1: There will be three minutes of stoppage time in the second half.
84th minute, 1-1: England’s Jordan Pickford fails to punch a header clear, and the ball falls to Ivan Perisic, who lobs his shot over the goal. England narrowly avoids catastrophe.
83rd minute, 1-1: Mario Mandzukic powerfully shoots from a tight angle, but England’s Jordan Pickford confidently makes the stand-up save.
81st minute, 1-1: England seems to have weathered Croatia’s fine second-half spell, and now there’s no clear indication which side the result will favor.
77th minute, 1-1: England’s Harry Kane finds Jesse Lingard with a fine pass into Croatia’s penalty area, but Lingard drags his shot wide of the far post.
74th minute, 1-1: Marcus Rashford replaces Raheem Sterling in England’s first substitution.
72nd minute, 1-1: Ivan Perisic hits the far post after England’s John Stones commits a calamitous turnover.
68th minute, 1-1: Ivan Perisic ties the game for Croatia.
Perisic beat Kyle Walker to Sime Vrsalko’s cross and stabbed it home with his airborne foot. Croatia’s trusted attacking approach, crosses from wide areas, finally pays off.
Perisic continues to demonstrate why Croatia relies on him.
65th minute, 1-0 England: Kyle Walker makes an important block on Ivan Perisic’s shot from around 12 yards out. Perisic’s effort was powerful and would have hit the target.
Walker now is down with what appears to be a case of the dreaded “football in the groin.”
61st minute, 1-0 England: Croatia’s Ivan Rakitic misses high and wide with a shot from distance.
59th minute, 1-0 England: Croatia is generating more pressure and winning set pieces more frequently in the early stages of the second half. England has dealt with Croatia’s efforts so far but might not be able to do so for the rest of the game.
54th minute, 1-0 England: The referee shows England’s Kyle Walker a yellow card for his role in a tussle with a Croatia player. Tempers are starting to boil in Moscow.
48th minute, 1-0 England: The referee shows Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic a yellow card for dissent.
46th minute, 1-0 England: The second half of England vs. Croatia is underway.
Halftime, 1-0 England: The referee ends the first half. England leads by one.
The Three Lions started the game in dreamland after Kieran Trippier gave them the lead in the fifth minute and they stayed there for the rest of the first half. England maintained its shape and poise throughout the half to easily handle Croatia’s best efforts at scoring the tying goal. As has been the case throughout the World Cup, England hasn’t blown away Croatia by playing flowing, eye-catching soccer. Instead structure and capitalizing on set pieces have made the decisive advantage so far.
England will have no problem sealing the win if Croatia continues failing to integrate striker Mario Mandzukic into its attack. He was anonymous in the first half, and Croatia must draw England’s defensive line higher up the field and serve early balls to him from wide if they are to maximize his threat.
45th minute, 1-0 England: There will be only one minute of added time in the first half.
40th minute, 1-0 England: Croatia’s Sime Vrsalko skies his shot well over England’s goal. It’s an apt representation of his team’s performance so far.
36th minute, 1-0 England: Jesse Lingard shoots from a promising position 18 yards out but misses the target. The England midfielder should have done better on that effort.
31st minute, 1-0 England: Croatia creates its first real danger, as England’s John Stones blocks a shot just outside his six-yard box. The rebound bounces to Croatia’s Ante Rebic, who shoots directly at England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
30th minute, 1-0 England: Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic denies England striker Harry Kane with a point-blank save and a follow-up save, which caroms the ball off the post before the referee’s assistant determines Kane was offside.
28th minute, 1-0 England: Croatia struggles to gain a foothold in the contest, as their midfield and forward lines failing to combine and England’s counter-attacking posing danger from various points on the field.
19th minute, 1-0 England: Croatia’s Ivan Perisic shoots from a tight angle on the edge of England’s penalty area but narrowly misses the target.
17th minute, 1-0 England: Croatia’s approach in possession has been to slow to trouble the England, whose head coach Gareth Southgate adeptly has set up to minimize the opponent’s threat through the middle.
14th minute, 1-0 England: England’s Harry Maguire heads Kieran Trippier’s corner kick narrowly wide of Croatia’s goal.
The Three Lions have kept their focus following Trippier’s goal and have remained on the front foot.
Fifth minute, 1-0 England: Kieran Trippier curls home the free kick, and England leads early on.
Trippier has been one of his team’s chief creators at World Cup 2018. He picked the perfect time to open his England goal-scoring account.
We can’t fault anyone who might have missed the goal. Semifinals don’t usually produce fireworks so early.
Fourth minute, 0-0: After the teams start slowly and physically, England’s Dele Alli wins a free kick in a dangerous spot: central near the top of Croatia’s penalty area.
Kickoff, 0-0: The Croatia vs. England World Cup 2018 semifinal is under way.
Pregame: The teams are on the field for the national anthems and pregame photos. Kickoff is just a few minutes away.
Here’s Croatia’s anthem.
England fans join players in belting out their anthem.
Here are the starting lineups and expected formations.
1 p.m. ET: A potential opportunity to achieve sporting immortality awaits Croatia and England.
The teams will meet Wednesday afternoon at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, in the 2018 FIFA World Cup semifinals. Few expected either of them to reach this stage of the competition, but they’ve come this far through a mix of talent, planning, determination and luck.
After winning Group D, Croatia defeated Denmark and Russia on penalty kicks in the Round of 16 and quarterfinals, respectively, en route to the semifinals.
England finished second in Group G before edging past Colombia on penalty kicks in the Round of 16 and easily dispatching Sweden in the quarterfinals.
The closest Croatia has come to reaching the World Cup final was in 1998, when it fell to eventual champion France in the semifinals. The Croats haven’t fared this well on the international stage since.
England returns to the World Cup semifinals for the first time since 1990 and is making its first appearance in the last four of a major international tournament since the 1996 UEFA European Championship.
Croatia vs. England will kick off at 2 p.m. ET. Join us right here for all the action from Moscow.
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