Published: Thu, July 12, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Croatia stun England in extra time to book first-ever final berth

Croatia stun England in extra time to book first-ever final berth

There's no telling how long that suspicion will last.

After some well-earned downtime following the battling win over Sweden to secure a place in the World Cup semi-finals for the first time in 28 years, it was back to work for Gareth Southgate's squad in Repino.

It will be Croatia against heavily-favoured France in Sunday's final.

England came to a standstill as the 7pm kick-off approached, with roads deserted and shopping centres abandoned as fans dashed home to catch the historic game.

"What more could we ask for?"

The Inter Milan winger poked home a cross from Sime Vrsaljko to haul Croatia level midway through the second half having fallen behind to an early Kieran Trippier free-kick. Southgate has found a formation that works, and his defence is one that can give England a solid platform for the future, but the midfield needs work and new players. Surely their youth and the extra rest would pay off at some point during 30 additional minutes. Surely Harry Kane, the tourney leader with six goals, or another instant hero would convert the one chance they needed. And it nearly happened early in the extra session when John Stones rose to meet a corner kick, only for Vrsaljko to clear the goal-bound header off the line.

So much for my Belgium vs. England final, eh? LOL.

"To get through three extra times to get to the final tells you a lot about the team they have".

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But when Mario Mandzukic caught Stones sleeping with just over 10 minutes to play, burying a left-footed shot under Pickford, England's World Cup dream was over. Croatia deserved the victory.

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The years of hurt will go on - and for all the optimism raised by England's deeds in Russian Federation over the last month, there will be a burning sense of missed opportunity that will take a long time to erase. In big games it's small margins.

"But I don't think when people look at the experience and the last 18 months that we were expected to be in the semi-finals of a World Cup".

When England don't have the ball, they struggle against teams who are comfortable with it.

"They played their best, it obviously wasn't to be". They were a joy to watch.

"But equally we want to be a team that's hitting quarter-finals, semi-finals, finals - that was what we've aimed to do in the long term and we've proved that is possible".

While semi-final tickets remained relatively affordable before the game, going for between £300 and £800 from touts and online resellers, the market for final tickets was already at several times face value.

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