Mario Mandzukic slotted in a shot in the 109th minute to give Croatia a 2-1 victory over England, advancing to the first World Cup final in the country’s history.
Croatia will face France in Moscow on Sunday, while England will meet Belgium in the third-place game on Saturday.
Three Lions Score on Set Pieces
England started off the match with a bang. Dele Alli earned a free kick about four minutes into the game, and Kieran Trippier curled the free kick over a wall of Croatian defenders and past goalkeeper Danijel Subasic, scoring his first ever goal for England and giving the Three Lions a 1-0 lead.
England continued to generate chances throughout the first half, with Harry Kane nearly scored on a point-blank rebound but saw the ball go off the post. The assistant referee raised his flag late in the play, but on replay Kane was clearly onside, which may have led to an interesting VAR decision had the ball crossed the line.
Croatia never seemed to threaten at any point in the first half, and even throughout much of the second, it seemed as though English goalkeeper Jordan Pickford would have little to do.
But that began to change as Croatia pressed harder for the equalizer. As the second half pressed on, the Croatians began to work the ball into the box more often, getting quality chances on several occasions before the breakthrough finally happened in the 68th minute.
Croatia Ends Memorable English Run
That’s when Sime Vrsaljko put yet another cross into the English box, this time finding the foot of Ivan Perisic, who hit it with his first touch to give Pickford no chance to make a save.
That goal seemed to rattle England, as they spent the next few minutes defending frantically. Perisic nearly scored again on the heels of his first goal, capturing the ball off a misplay by Kyle Walker and firing it home, only to have it come off the post.
While England would settle down, Croatia continued to generate most of the chances in regulation, and then again in extra time. Pickford did his best to keep the score even, but Mario Mandzukic struck four minutes into the second half of extra time, taking a header from Perisic and slipping behind the defense, then putting the ball across the goal into the far corner to give Croatia a lead they would not relinquish.
After the match, Harry Kane – who leads the tournament in scoring with six goals – reflected on England’s run through the tournament.
“It hurts,” Kane told reporters. “It’ll hurt for a while, but we can hold our heads up high. It was a fantastic journey, we got further than anyone thought we could, we’ve just got to learn from it.”
Croatia is the second smallest country by population to advance to the World Cup final (behind Uruguay in 1930 and 1950), and will be seeking their first championship — but will do so as a decided underdog. According to William Hill, France is a 4/9 favorite to win their second World Cup title, while Croatia can be backed at 7/4 odds.