Croatia fought back, after being a goal down, to make sure that the bells of 1966 did not chime for England as they beat the latter 2-1 to mark their debut entry into the final of the FIFA World Cup at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow on Wednesday.
England Trippier’s curled finish in the fifth minute is the first scored from a direct free-kick by an England player at the World Cup since David Beckham’s against Ecuador in 2006.
The early stages of the game were marked by fouls on both sides, but the first dangerous one was won in the fourth minute, when Luka Modric clattered into Dele Alli about 23 yards out and straightaway. England made Croatia pay instantly, with Trippier bending a perfect free kick over the wall and by a diving Danijel Subasic to give the Three Lions an early 1-0 lead and a dream start.
Croatia’s first opportunity came in the 19th minute, when Ivan Strinic took a speculative blast from long distance, putting it just to the left of Jordan Pickford’s goal.
England had a couple of half hearted chances after the start of play but were to rue the missed chances when Croatia pulled even in the 68th minute. Sime Vrsaljko delivered a great cross from the right, and Perisic extended his boot high to meet it, poking it by Jordan Pickford to make it 1-1.
Perisic hit the post moments later, with Croatia buzzing with momentum. The rebound fell to Ante Rebic, but his follow-up chance was saved by Pickford, allowing England to breathe after a chaotic sequence.
Croatia, desperately trying to avoid a third straight match going to extra time, went in search of a winner, and it nearly came through Mario Mandzukic, whose volley from the right side of the box was palmed away by Pickford.
In the second period of extra time, Croatia had a great chance to score off a quickly taken corner kick, with Marcelo Brozovic getting an open look, albeit one of a high degree of difficulty. He put the chance wide left of the post, but it was enough of a warning shot for England not to turn off.
That warning wasn’t heeded. In the 109th minute, Perisic’s glancing backward header played Mandzukic in on goal, and he whipped home a left-footed chance from close range to make it 2-1 and give Croatia its first lead.
England’s task got tougher in the 117th minute, when Trippier had to be helped off the field with an injury. With the Three Lions out of substitutes, they had to complete the match with 10 men.
Croatia who had won their last two matches via the tia breaker threw in all they had in the last minutes of the game. “The England squad have given the whole country a buzz for 3 weeks, but Croatia getting to the final with a population of 4 million is extraordinary,” tweeted Jamie carragher after the match.
“What a return from Croatia, congrats to them, but what a bummer for the England players, staff and great fans what i said before against the run of play that Croatia won for ‘65 England were there the better team but that doesn’t say that u will win the game.” tweeted Patrick Kuilvert.
England dashed hopes of ringing in the chimes of 1966 while Croatia let the misery of 1998 behind as they increased their chances of crowning themselves as world champions for the first time.