Jul 11, 2018 5:31 PM - 5 days, 11 hours, 58 minutes, 59 seconds ago
Croatia in World Cup final for 1st time, beats England 2-1
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Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic, center, celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during the semifinal match between Croatia and England at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein) more >
By RONALD BLUM -
Associated Press -
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
MOSCOW (AP) - When the final whistle blew and they knew they were going to their first World Cup final, the Croatians ran to their jumping and cheering fans in their iconic red-and-white checkered jerseys.
Mario Mandzukic scored the winning goal in the 109th minute and Croatia shocked England, rallying for 2-1 victory Wednesday.
Defender Sime Vrsaljko kept the score even in extra time by heading a shot off the goal line about 10 minutes before Mandzukic scored for Croatia, which is the first team in 28 years to come from behind to win a World Cup semifinal match.
“Mentally strong team,” midfielder Ivan Rakatic said. “It’s just unbelievable to get back in the game in this way.”
The Croats will play France for the title on Sunday in its biggest sporting moment since becoming an independent nation in 1991.
France, which won its only title at home in 1998, will have an extra day of rest after beating Belgium 1-0 on Tuesday. Croatia played three straight extra-time matches - two ended in penalty kicks.
Football will not be coming home to England, and there will be no title to match the 1966 triumph at Wembley Stadium. Harry Kane & Co. will deal with the same disappointment that felled Shearer and Platt, Gazza and Wazza, Beckham and Gerrard.
Croatia’s legs at the start seemed to carry the weight of so many minutes in the knockout stage, and a pressing England went up quickly. Kevin Trippier curled in a free kick in the fifth minute.
But Croatia found energy after the break when the game opened up, making England’s missed first-half opportunities seem all-the-more significant.
Ivan Perisic tied the score in the 68th minute with his fourth goal of the tournament.
Rakitic switched the ball from left flank to right, where Vrsaljko crossed. Walker attempted to clear diving header but Perisic jumped and from behind raised his left boot over Walker’s head to poke the ball past goalkeeper Jordan Pickford from about 8 yards.
Four minutes later, Perisic hit Pickford’s near post.
Mandzukic scored after Walker stuck out a leg to block Josip Pivaric’s cross. The ball popped up and Perisic outjumped Tripper to head the ball behind the defense.
Mandzukic alertly reacted to the unexpected ball in the penalty area, splitting defenders John Stones and Harry ...
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