Mandzukic’s goal, after 109 grueling minutes, was Croatia’s second. It was set up by a quick-thinking Ivan Perisic, who saw opportunity in a half-clearance and won it for Mandzukic. Perisic had scored Croatia’s first, another opportunistic goal in the 68th minute that caught out England’s defense — younger, faster, but less experienced in big moments — and negated a fifth-minute free kick by Kieran Trippier.
It was all going so well back then. The World Cup. The semifinal. Everything.
Trippier’s goal, a wonderful free kick from just over 20 yards straight out front, had been the perfect start for his team. It soothed any early nerves and set a tone that this was all possible, that England might just reach its first World Cup final since winning the tournament on home soil in 1966.
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England had built momentum since the group stage, defeating first Colombia and then Sweden amid once-ironic chants of “Football’s coming home” — a 1990s parody of the country’s long trophy drought turned motivational slogan.
Instead it will be Croatia that will face France — its first appearance in a World Cup final 20 years after its first and only semifinal at France 1998.For an hour or more, it didn’t seem Croatia would have enough, England had younger legs and faster legs and, thanks to Trippier, a lead. But Croatia had Perisic, and Mandzukic, and a will to get something, anything, to extend its own run here. SHARE THIS STORY USING ANY OF THE BUTTON BELOW ⬇ PLACE YOUR TEXT ADVERT BELOW ⬇⬇⬇