MX23RW : Sunday, July 22 12:31:21

World Cup

Live Commentary: Croatia 2-1 England

Relive England's 2-1 defeat at the hands of Croatia as Mario Mandzukic scores an extra-time winner to send Croatia in their first ever World Cup final.

Croatia booked their place in the final of the World Cup for the first time in their history courtesy of a 2-1 win over England at the Luzhniki Stadium this evening.

England took the lead after only five minutes when Kieran Trippier gave his side a dream start by curling a 25-yard free kick into the top corner.

Ivan Perisic levelled things up with 22 minutes remaining of normal time to force extra time, and Mario Mandzukic made himself the hero with a 109th-minute winner in Moscow.

Find out how all of the action unfolded on a heartbreaking evening for England courtesy of Sports Mole's minute-by-minute coverage below.

Good evening! How are your nerves, folks? Mine are shredded, and I can barely contain my excitement with just one hour to go until kickoff.

This is without doubt the biggest match English football has seen in 28 years, and some may argue even longer considering how kindly things have opened up for them at this World Cup. They face stiff opposition in the form of Croatia tonight, though, and whereas almost everyone in the country is increasingly confident that it is, in fact, coming home, Zlatko Dalic and co will certainly have something to say about that here.

I'm sure you, like me, just want the game to get underway now but I'm afraid we still have 60 minutes until kickoff, so let's start with that all-important team news...

CROATIA STARTING XI: Subasic; Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic; Brozovic, Modric, Rakitic; Perisic, Rebic, Mandzukic
CROATIA SUBS: Livakovic, Corluka, Kovacic, Kramaric, Kalinic, Jedvaj, Bradaric, Caleta-Car, Badelj, Pjaca, Pivaric
ENGLAND STARTING XI: Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire; Trippier, Henderson, Alli, Young; Lingard, Sterling; Kane
ENGLAND SUBS: Rose, Dier, Vardy, Butland, Welbeck, Cahill, Jones, Delph, Rashford, Loftus-Cheek, Alexander-Arnold, Pope
What can we make of those two teams, then?

Well, we'll have to start with England and Gareth Southgate has once again named an unchanged starting XI for tonight's huge match, meaning that it has been the same side for their last three matches now - a settled team which seems to be helping England.

The only minor doubts following the quarter-final win over Sweden surrounded Jordan Henderson, who was suffering from a tight hamstring, but the Liverpool skipper has been passed fit to play in his pivot role.

That is particular good news for England as Henderson has not lost any of his last 30 games for England, which incredibly is the longest run of any England international ever.

Jamie Vardy missed the Sweden game through injury but is back available today, although he once again has to make do with a place on the bench as Southgate keeps faith with Raheem Sterling.

Sterling is one of the few England players to have been criticised for his form at this tournament - and his performance against Sweden in particular drew the anger of a number of fans on social media - but his pace and movement has been key to opening teams up and, while he has not scored as many as he might have alone, his presence in the team has been integral to England scoring as many as they have.

When it comes to goals, though, the man of the moment is Harry Kane, who once again leads the line and will lead the team out tonight.

Kane is the World Cup's leading scorer with six goals already - two ahead of his closest challenger. Indeed, at the previous nine World Cups only Ronaldo of Brazil - in 2002 - has scored more than six goals at a single tournament. No European player has scored seven since Grzegorz Lato in 1974, and none have hit eight since Gerd Muller in 1970.

What's more, Kane has scored on every day of the week for England apart from Wednesday. Should he net tonight then he would join Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard as the only players to have scored for England on every day of the week.

This would be a good time to do it, Harry!

There have been a whole host of heroes to emerge from this World Cup for England, and many of them can be found in defence. Harry Maguire has made himself a cult hero with his performances and even scored against Sweden, while John Stones has helped himself to a couple of goals along the way too.

Jordan Pickford, meanwhile, bounced back from criticism of the goal he conceded against Belgium by being England's hero in the penalty shootout win over Colombia and then putting in a man-of-the-match display against Sweden in the quarter-finals.

As for Croatia, there are a number of talking points in their starting XI, most notably the inclusion of Sime Vrsaljko, who was expected to miss the game after being forced off with a knee injury against Russia last time out.

However, the Atletico Madrid full-back has recovered in time which means that Croatia are able to name an unchanged back four, with Liverpool's Dejan Lovren and the impressive Domagoj Vida - who avoided a ban for his pro-Ukraine celebration following the win over Russia - at the heart of it.

There is also positive injury news for Croatia between the sticks as Danijel Subasic, like Vrsaljko, has been passed fit to start despite picking up an injury against Russia.

Subasic didn't come off against the hosts and helped his side to the victory on penalties, but he complained after of an ankle problem. It was always likely that he would start this match, but Croatian fans will still be relieved to see him in goal for their side tonight.

Further forward, the solitary change made by Croatia boss Zlatko Dalic sees Marcelo Brozovic come into the team and Andrej Kramaric drop out as a result.

Brozovic's inclusion is likely to mean that either Modric or Rakitic - arguably Croatia's two most important players - are given more freedom to roam and affect the game without having to worry too much about their defensive responsibilities, so that is something England certainly need to keep an eye on tonight.

While Modric and Rakitic are clearly very talented players, Croatia's threat extends beyond those El Clasico rivals and they boast a very dangerous attack too, in particular Mario Mandzukic.

The Juventus striker will lead the line again tonight with support from those around him, including one-time Manchester United target Ivan Perisic. It is a team packed with quality from front to back and they certainly are not World Cup semi-finalists by accident - they will pose a very difficult threat tonight.

Even so, the wave of momentum behind England has grown and grown throughout the tournament, and - at the risk of stating the obvious - you will certainly find a lot more fans tipping them to win the trophy now than you would have a month ago.

England came into this tournament with very low expectations on the whole given the youthful nature of the squad, their recent experiences at major tournaments and a less-than-ideal buildup to this one, but this crop of players have really restored the pride in the team.

It is perhaps no coincidence that such impressive - and unexpected - displays have some once the pressure has finally lifted off the England national team.

That said, none of these players will have felt pressure like this tonight. Henderson and Alexander-Arnold were involved in the Champions League final in May, but even that does not compare to a World Cup semi-final - particularly when your country has not reached one since 1990.

It is England's biggest game for 28 years and they have the chance to reach the final for the first time in 52 years. What's more, it may be the best chance they get to reach the final in a long, long time given that almost all of the favourites have already been knocked out by other teams.

If England are to make it into Sunday's final then they will need to overcome the semi-final hoodoo which has haunted them since 1966, losing each of their last three semi-final contests at major tournaments.

A Euro 68 defeat to Yugoslavia may have escaped the memory of many, but their most recent two still hurt - penalty shootout defeats against Germany in both 1990 and Euro 1996 on home soil. England have already overcome their penalty shootout hoodoo at this World Cup, though, so perhaps tonight they will be able to put another one to bed.

That penalty shootout victory - England's first in four attempts at a World Cup - came at the end of an ill-tempered clash with Colombia in the last 16, and winning in such a manner seemed to take the whole weight off a nation's shoulders. No longer will England fans immediately fear the worst if a game goes to penalties, and the nature of their 2-0 win over Sweden in the quarter-finals will only serve to instil more confidence in this team.

England may have needed a man-of-the-match display from Jordan Pickford to come away from that match unscathed, but they produced a professional performance and deservedly came out on top - not a mean feat for a young squad in the World Cup quarter-finals.

Of course, England cannot deny that they have had an easier passage in this World Cup than many expected, but they can only beat the teams put in front of them and - whatever happens this evening - this has already been a World Cup to remember for Southgate's side.

The Three Lions have scored 11 goals at this summer's tournament, which is already their joint-highest total with 1966, and eight of those have been scored via set pieces - the most at a single World Cup since... (you guessed it!) ...1966.

If you need any more omens to prove that football is coming home then four of England's goals have come from corners, and the last three teams to have scored four goals from corners at a single World Cup have gone on to lift the trophy - Germany in 2014, Italy in 2006 and France in 1998.

There have been signs that England's goal threat is drying up a little in the knockout stages, though; they had 15 shots on target in their first two games at this World Cup, but have managed just six in their three games since then.

That is as negative as I will get about England, I promise! The Three Lions will be a particular threat in the air tonight, with five of their 11 goals having come from headers - a tally only Germany (8) can beat from any World Cup in the current 32-team format.

England have also had five different goalscorers at this World Cup, which is their joint-most ever at a tournament alongside 1954, 1998 and 2002. They have certainly come a long way since their group-stage exit four years ago and their loss to Iceland at Euro 2016!

Now, we're a fair bunch here at Sports Mole, so it is about time I started talking a little about Croatia, who will feel every bit as confident as England ahead of this match following their own unexpected run to this stage.

This is the first time Croatia have reached the semi-finals since 1998, which was their first ever World Cup as an independent nation, when they went on to finish third. Surprisingly, Croatia have not made it out of the group stages since then until this year, and failed to even qualify for the tournament in 2010.

However, while recent World Cups before this one have been disappointing for Croatia, their passage to the semi-final this year means that they have now reached the last four more often than the likes of Argentina, Italy, Portugal, Spain and, of course, England over the past 20 years.

Indeed, including this year the only European nations to have reached the semi-finals more often than Croatia since their debut at the tournament are Germany, France and Netherlands.

Croatia are by no means World Cup novices, then, and while they have never reached the final before, they have shown glimpses of quality at times during this World Cup which suggest that they could in fact be surprise winners of the tournament.

The 3-0 win over Argentina in the group stages was the biggest statement they have made, and they finish top of Group D with a 100% record. they have been less impressive in the knockout rounds admittedly, but have shown great character in those games to make it all the way through to the semis.

Croatia bounced back from conceding a first-minute goal and missing a spot kick against Denmark to win on penalties in the last 16, and they needed a shootout again to beat Russia after the hosts had scored a 115th-minute equaliser.

The ability to bounce back from disappointments and still hold their nerve in the pressure cooker of a penalty shootout is a trait which cannot be underestimated in knockout games, and England will know - should it come to it - that they probably need a three-goal cushion at least before they can feel safe against this team.

Of course, on the flip side two exhausting matches which go all the way to penalties in the space of just six days does take its toll, and fatigue could be an issue for Croatia tonight should it look like going the distance once again.

Only one team in World Cup history has won two shootouts in a single tournament - Argentina in 1990 - and it is only four days since Croatia's last one against Russia. Dalic's side may have to dig very deep tonight.

One area they do need to look out for in particular is set pieces, when exhaustion can lead to a momentary lapse in concentration, which can lead to a goal.

I have already mentioned England's impressive record from set pieces at this World Cup, but it is also worth noting that three of the four goals Croatia have conceded have also come from set pieces, whereas only three of the 10 goals they have scored have come via that route.

Croatia do, however, have goals throughout their team and only Belgium have had more difference goalscorers than Croatia's eight so far in this tournament - although they may prefer that to be coupled with a prolific striker like Kane.

Croatia had only won one of their previous seven World Cup games before this tournament, but they have now won five on the bounce including shootouts and have only ever lost one of their six knockout matches against the World Cup - although that did come in the semi-final against France 20 years ago.

That loss, incidentally, is Croatia only defeat in eight World Cup matches against European opposition.

PREDICTION! Right, we're 10 minutes away from kickoff at the Luzhniki Stadium, which means that it is time for a prediction!

This is a very tough one to call considering the form of the two sides. Both have world-class players to call upon, and it really could go either way on the night. However, there is no way I can go for an England defeat, so I'm backing SOuthgate's boys to get the job done - even if it takes extra time.

SPORTS MOLE SAYS: Croatia 1-2 England (a.e.t)

This will be the eighth meeting between these two sides, with England winning four of the previous seven and Croatia picking up two victories.

Curiously six of the previous seven matches have also been played on a Wednesday, so England will hope that bodes well for tonight!

The only previous meeting between these two sides at a major competition came in the group stages at Euro 2004 when a teenage Wayne Rooney stole the show, scoring a brace between goals from Paul Scholes and Frank Lampard as England came from behind to win 4-2.

This will be the first ever meeting between the two sides at a World Cup.

Croatia got revenge on England for that defeat with a 3-2 victory at Wembley in November 2007 - a match infamous for Steve McClaren's umbrella, a goalkeeping howler and England failing to qualify for Euro 2008.

The roles were reversed two years later, though, and the last two meetings between these two sides have resulted in a 9-2 aggregate scoreline for England - 4-1 in Croatia courtesy of a Theo Walcott hat-trick and then 5-1 at Wembley to seal their place at the 2010 World Cup.

Right folks, it is very nearly time! The anthems have been sung, handshakes exchanged and we are moments away from kickoff in the World cup semi-final. A reminder of the team news before we get started...

CROATIA STARTING XI: Subasic; Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic; Brozovic, Modric, Rakitic; Perisic, Rebic, Mandzukic

ENGLAND STARTING XI: Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire; Trippier, Henderson, Alli, Young; Lingard, Sterling; Kane

KICKOFF: Here we go! England get us underway in Moscow!
The England fans are out in force for this match; there were around 3,400 in Samara for the quarter-final, but there is reportedly at least 10,000 here for this semi-final. They are making themselves heard too!
Lingard brings the ball down majestically and knocks the ball inside for Alli, who is brought down by Modric. Free kick to England in a very good position...
GOAL! Croatia 0-1 England (Kieran Trippier)
What a start for England! It is an absolute dream for Southgate's side as they take the lead after just five minutes, and it is a stunner from Kieran Trippier!

The Tottenham full-back bends the free kick over the wall and into the top corner, leaving Subasic no chance whatsoever! What a time to get your first goal for England!

England can smell blood here! They have come flying out of the blocks and Sterling has just threatened a couple of times with his pace in behind too. The onus is on Croatia now, but England are looking to put this game to bed early.
The first piece of Croatia pressure comes as they win a corner and England make a bit of a mess of clearing it. They soon break out, though, and Kane almost releases Sterling with a ball forward which Vrsaljko does well to cut out.
Feast your eyes on this beauty from Trippier - only the third man to score for England in a World Cup semi-final, joining Sir Bobby Charlton and Gary Lineker. Exalted company indeed!


Young drifts a corner into the area and it is no surprise to see Maguire smashing his way through to get his head on it. He cannot keep his effort down, though, and the referee blows for a free kick anyway.
CHANCE! Another corner, and another Maguire header. This one is a better chance for the Leicester man, though. He gets up well and plants a downward header a yard or so wide of the post.
Croatia just have not been able to get into this game at all so far. England have made a brilliant start and have been on top almost from the first whistle. A second goal would do wonders for them here.
The Bury Beckham strikes again!


SHOT! Croatia have their first effort of the night as Perisic tries his luck from range, but Pickford looks to have it covered on its way wide. Perisic wants a corner - and he should have one as it took a nick off Walker on the way through - but the referee gives a goal kick.
Croatia are beginning to grow into this game a little now and Rebic looks to have created space to shoot from just outside the box, but Stones darts out to throw himself in front of the ball.
A defensive error almost gifts England a good chance as they give the ball straight to Sterling, but his pass inside to Kane finds the Tottenham man offside.
SHOT! Perisic tires his luck from range once again as the ball bounces kindly for him on the half-volley, but he doesn't catch it right and it is never troubling Pickford.
We're 25 minutes into this first half now and England will be delighted so far. They have the early goal, Pickford is yet to make a save and they are looking dangerous on the break too. Very promising signs.
Brilliant pace from Sterling as he gives Lovren a big head start but still beats him to the ball. He then cuts inside and draws a rash foul from the Liverpool man, giving England another free kick in a crossing position.
Croatia have certainly settled after that tricky start, but they are yet to find their usual rhythm here.
CHANCE! Huge chance for England to double their advantage, and it falls to the man they would want too! The ball is slipped through to Kane and he only has Subasic to beat, but he cannot bend the ball around the keeper. The loose ball squirms away but Kane picks it up against and tries to squeeze it in from a tight angle, only for it to take a deflection off the defender, post and loop away to safety.
SAVE! Pickford has his first save to make as Stones cuts out a dangerous ball into the box and Maguire can only poke it as far as Rebic. Rebic curls an effort towards goal, but it is straight at Pickford.
This is Croatia's best spell of the match right now and the nerves will be beginning to jangle for England. A second goal would really settle those nerves, but they can be pleased with their performance so far.
CHANCE! Another chance goes begging for England, who should be further ahead here! Kane gives the ball out to Alli, who in turn plays a square ball to Lingard on the edge of the box. Lingard has the time and space to pick his spot, but he doesn't get his foot around it and fires his effort wide of the target when he should have done better.
That is Kane and Lingard who have now missed clear chances for England, and one can only hope that they don't live to rue them. Gazza in 1990, when he just couldn't reach the ball, springs to mind.
Vida is getting the treatment from Russian fans whenever he gets on the ball, and it is no surprise really considering his comments on Ukraine which really drew the ire of the host nation.
England could well be further ahead here, but right now their priority must be getting to half time with this lead intact. Croatia have grown into the game a little, but England remain in control courtesy of that early Trippier free kick.
This plays right into England's hand; Vrsaljko ends a long passing move by going for goal from a long, long way out, and he slices it well off target.
England almost shoot themselves in the foot here as a mix-up between Walker and Stones is followed by a nervy clearance from Pickford. Croatia win it back and play it to Rakitic, who tries the flick the ball inside Gazza-esque before being crowded out.
There will be one minute of added time at the end of this first half.
HALF TIME: Croatia 0-1 England
Almost a late fright for England as an incident in the final free kick of the half is taken to VAR after the referee has blown his whistle. All the England players are off the pitch, and thankfully no penalty is given.
Wow. What a first half for England, and the only down side for them is that they are not further ahead at the break. Aside from that, though, England could barely have wished for anything more.

Croatia, for their part, have been disappointing and slow to get going, but England also deserve credit for the way they have played. They took the lead early on and now find themselves just 45 minutes away from the World Cup final.

I cannot believe I am typing that!

The only goal of the game so far came after just five minutes, and if a World Cup semi-final goal can be made even more memorable, Kieran Trippier achieved it with a stunning free kick which left the keeper no chance.

Trippier had never scored for England before today, but he could not have wished for a better way to get his first goal for his country - except in the final perhaps!

Aside from the goal, the best chances have also fallen the way of England, who really should be further ahead at the break and will hope that their misses don't come back to haunt them.

Harry Kane has missed the best of them after being slipped clean through on goal with only the keeper to beat, first being denied by Subasic and then by a mix between Subasic and the woodwork from a point-blank range. Lingard has also squandered a clear chance from the edge of the box, fluffing his lines and putting his effort comfortably wide.

As for Croatia, they have only had one shot on target which was comfortably saved by Pickford after the half-hour mark, and aside from that they have offered very little going forward, with two long-range efforts from Perisic the extent of their other sights of goal.

Croatia have struggled to get going and get their best players pulling the strings, and they will need a massively improved performance in this second half.

KICKOFF: Croatia get us back underway for the second half! Can England hold on to reach the WORLD CUP FINAL?!
YELLOW CARD! Rebic becomes the first name in the book this evening for an extended arm on Walker while contesting a header.
Reasons to be optimistic, England fans:

1. It's coming home.
2. This:


YELLOW CARD! Mandzukic follows Rebic into the book at the start of this second half for a challenge on Walker once again.
Kane tries to dip inside between two defenders and is sandwiched, but the referee decides against a free kick in a dangerous position. Harsh decision from the ref there.
YELLOW CARD! Walker picks up a cheap yellow card for keeping the ball away from Croatia when they wanted to take a quick throw-in.
SHOT! The ball drops to Lingard kindly following some route one football. Kane nods it on to Sterling, to tees it up for Lingard, but his effort takes a deflection and loops over the bar for a corner.
Trippier almost pulls another memorable moment out of the bag, controlling a brilliant low cross into the box from Walker's aerial pass over the top. Kane throws himself at it, but it is good defending from Croatia.
Strinic breaks into the England box down the left flank but his delivery is poor and Stones is able to clear.
England are just beginning to hack at the ball a little here, with Walker slicing an attempted clearance behind for a cheap corner. There are just a few signs of nerves beginning to settle in.
Perisic swings a cross into the box which Trippier can only clear as far as Rakitic, but the Barcelona man swipes at his difficult half-volley and slices it well off target.
Henderson slides a clever pass through for Sterling, who breaks into the box and tries to stand up Vida. Vida hangs a leg out and Sterling goes down, but the referee says no penalty. It looks like the right decision on first viewing.
CHANCE! Croatia have one of their best chances of the night so far as the ball breaks to Perisic on the edge of the box, but Walker throws himself in the way of it to make a fine block. It looks like that one hurt though - and I think every man will sympathise with him!
Walker is back up and looks like he will be fine to continue. It will take a lot more than that to keep him out of this match!
Kane collects the ball down the right channel and has no-one in support so tries his luck from an impossible angle, and his volley slams into the side-netting.
GOAL! Croatia 1-1 England (Ivan Perisic)
There have been one or two signs of this, but Croatia have levelled things up with just over 20 minutes remaining through a clever finish from Perisic!

Vrsaljko is given all the time in the world to swing his cross into the box and Walker lines it up all the way for a diving header clear. However, Perisic gets in front of him and produces an acrobatic effort to glance his finish past Pickford with the outside of his foot.

Just 20 minutes remaining in this second half now, and England need to pick themselves up. They have not been anywhere near their best in this second half and they need to rediscover the form which served them so well before the interval.
OFF THE POST! England are really testing their luck here! Perisic picks the ball up on the left and beats Walker all ends up before drilling a low strike across goal which beats Pickford before hitting the far post. The ball bounces back out to Rebic, but he can only divert the ball into the arms of Pickford.
SHOT! England are on the ropes and losing concentration here. Croatia take a quick corner with England sleeping and it takes a good clearance from Maguire to deny Perisic again. The ball only goes as far as Brozovic, who fires his effort over the crossbar.
ENGLAND SUB: Time for an England change as Marcus Rashford replaces Sterling.
It is all Croatia now, and this is the goal which has changed everything. A question mark over dangerous play, perhaps, but for me it is a perfectly valid goal...


CHANCE! Half a chance for England as they look to stem the tide of Croatia chances. Lingard gets down the right flank and plays a shot/cross into the box which evades everyone.
SHOT! Better from England now as Rashford makes headway down the left. Kane turns down the shot and gives it to Henderson, who tries a volley at the second attempt but fires it over the crossbar.
Suddenly a chorus of 'God Save The Queen' rings out around the stadium as the England fans try to stir their team into life. Just 10 minutes remaining in this semi-final now!
I hate to say it, but the most likely winner right now looks to be Croatia, because of moments like below. England are a bit all over the place at the back at the moment...


CHANCE! Another chance for Croatia as Brozovic dinks the ball into the path of Mandzukic, who takes it down on his chest before releasing a volley which stings the palms of Pickford.
CHANCE! England are living very dangerously now. Pickford comes to claim an aerial ball into the ball but doesn't get a good punch on it under pressure from Mandzukic. The ball drops to Perisic, but he cannot steer it into the empty net.

I can't take this much longer!

Croatia are just swarming all over England at the moment. They have the wind in their sails whereas it is England who are looking tired and panicky. Perisic in particular is everywhere.
Just two minutes of normal time remaining in this match, and England would be the happier of the two teams to reach extra time right now. This is unbearably tense!
Bless you, Lovren. The pressure is starting to build again before Lovren, of all people, tries his luck from 35 yards and blazes it high and wide of the target.
There will be THREE minutes of added time... and England have a free kick in a good crossing position!
CHANCE! It is half a chance for Kane as he meets Trippier's free kick with a clear header, but doesn't make good enough contact as it bounces wide.
END OF 90 MINUTES: Croatia 1-1 England
We go to extra time!
I'm not sure I can take another 30 minutes of this! It is nail-biting stuff and Croatia were by far the better team in the second half, after England missed chances to all but put the game to bed in the first half.

Croatia have gone to extra time in all of their knockout games so far, but it was England who were looking leggy at the end of that match.

What on earth will this extra time hold?!

England have been in Croatia's position before! I'm sure they won't be giving them any tips, though...


KICKOFF: England get us back underway for the first half of extra time, and they have made a change in the interval with Danny Rose replacing Young.
A little better from England in the very early stages of extra time as they keep hold of the ball for longer than they managed for much of the second half, and in better positions too.
CROATIA SUB: Croatia finally make their first change of the evening, and it is an enforced one as Strinic limps off to be replaced by Josip Pivaric.
YELLOW CARD! Rebic goes into the book for a poor challenge on Rose. As it turns out he wasn't given one earlier, that instead went to Mandzukic.
ENGLAND SUB: England make their third change as Eric Dier replaces Henderson. England have one more change remaining due to the new rules allowing an extra one in extra time.
OFF THE LINE! England are inches away from regaining the lead! It comes from the usual route of a set piece as Stones is left completely unmarked to meet Trippier's delivery. He flicks it towards goal, but Vrsaljko is there to clear the ball off the line!
Rashford tracks back well on Vrsaljko and slides in, but the full-back sticks his leg out to ensure he is caught and buys the free kick in a good crossing position...
CROATIA SUB: Another change from Croatia here as Andrej Kramaric replaces Rebic.
This has been better from England in extra time so far. They were second best for much of the second half, but look to have regained an element of control over the game here. It is still balanced on a knife edge, though.
There will be two minutes of added time at the end of this first period of extra time.
Perisic has been Croatia's most dangerous player tonight and he makes his way down the left again here before pulling the ball back for Kramaric. Kramaric goes for goal first time, but Dier makes a huge block.
WHAT A SAVE! Jordan Pickford, take a bow! A brilliant ball from Perisic seems to put the ball on a plate for Mandzukic from point blank range, but Pickford flies out and makes an incredible stop. It is barve from the keeper, who clatters into Mandzukic, but it is a massive, massive stop from the Everton man. Incredible.
HALF TIME IN EXTRA TIME: Croatia 1-1 England
Incredible scenes at the end of that first period of extra time, with Pickford making a remarkable save to perhaps keep England in the World Cup. Just 15 minutes to go now, and if nothing changes then we will have penalties!
KICKOFF: Croatia get us back underway for the second period of extra time. A huge 15 minutes awaits for both teams!
CHANCE! England just cannot go to sleep like this. It is the easiest of corners as Modric plays a low pass into the box for Brozovic, who has escaped the attentions of Lingard. Thankfully for England, Brozovic blazes his effort wide of the near post.
GOAL! Croatia 2-1 England (Mario Mandzukic)
Heartbreak for England as Croatia take the lead in the early stages of this second period of extra time. It is more tired defending from England, who are finally punished for their sloppy defender.

A poor clearance sends the ball looping into the air and it is nodded back hopefully into the box. Stones is caught sleeping for a second and that is enough for Mandzukic to get the wrong side of his man and sweep his finish past Pickford.

Less than 10 minutes remaining in this semi-final now, and it is the biggest 10 minutes of these players' lives. Can England add one final twist to the tale or has Mandzukic done enough to send Croatia into the final of the World Cup?
ENGLAND SUB: A final throw of the dice for England as Jamie Vardy replaces Kyle Walker.
Croatia are just keeping the ball now, and England have little choice but to go chasing it, which is opening up more spaces behind them in midfield. Croatia win a corner, though.
CROATIA SUB: Mandzukic limps off to be replaced by Vedran Corluka.
SAVE! Brozovic tires his luck from distance and it is an easy enough save for Pickford, although he almost spills it at the feet of Vida before collecting it at the second attempt.
England will need to end this game with 10 men too as Trippier has been carried off with what looks like a groin injury.
CROATIA SUB: One more change from Croatia as Modric is replaced by Milan Badelj.
CHANCE! Half a chance for Kramaric as he bursts forward into space, but he doesn;t look up, goes for goal himself and fires his effort into the side-netting.
There will be FOUR minutes of added time at the end of this match.
It must be said that Kane has really struggled tonight. It looks as though he is carrying an injury or is simply exhausted as he has not been anywhere near as sharp as he usually is.
England have a free kick with 30 seconds of stoppage time left. Last chance saloon...
ENGLAND ARE OUT OF THE WORLD CUP!
CROATIA ARE THROUGH TO THE WORLD CUP FINAL!

It is semi-final heartbreak once again for England as they crash out at the hands of Croatia following extra time. There may be questions of 'what if?' after England spurned a few chances in the first half, but Croatia were by far the better team in the second half and on the balance of the whole game, you'd have to say that Croatia deserve the victory.

Trippier got England off to a dream start with a fifth-minute free kick which flew into the top corner, but Perisic levelled things up with a little over 20 minutes remaining. The game then went to extra time, and it was Croatia who had the legs with Mandzukic scoring the 109th-minute winner.

Congratulations to Croatia, but England's dream World Cup run is over!

Right, that is all we have time for this evening!

Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for tonight's match as Croatia book their place in the World Cup final at England's expense. It was been a brilliant tournament for both teams - unexpectedly brilliant - and England can be hugely proud of their performance throughout this past three-and-a-half weeks, but they will have to wait that bit longer for football to come home.

I will leave you with our match report, and be sure to stick around for reaction too.

England are in action again for the dreaded third-placed playoff on Saturday before the main event - France against Croatia - on Sunday, and we will have full live coverage of both games on Sports Mole, so check back in for that.

From me, though, it is goodbye for now!

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