As It Happened: Croatia come from behind to advance to first World Cup Final

As It Happened: Croatia come from behind to advance to first World Cup Final

Maxwell Hogg
CroatiaSubasic; Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic (95' Pivaric); Brozovic, Rebic (101' Kramaric), Modric (119' Badelj), Rakitic, Perisic; Mandzukic (115' Corlunka)
EnglandPickford; Maguire, Stones, Walker (112' Vardy); Henderson (97' Dier), Alli, Lingard, Young (90' Rose), Trippier; Sterling (74' Rashford), Kane
SCORE0-1 (5' Trippier), 1-1 (68' Perisic), 2-1 (109' Mandzukic)
REFEREEMandzukic (48' YC), Walker (54' YC), Rebic (96' YC)
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This concludes our coverage of tonight semi-final match. Make sure to check back for our post-match coverage, including match report, player ratings, and analysis. I've been Maxwell Hogg, and thank you for following along with VAVEL UK.

Well that was quite the thrilling match! Croatia will face France this Sunday in the final at Luzhniki Stadium, while England will face Belgium once more in the third place match this Saturday. 

It was a bright start from England, but they couldn't get their shots on target. For as impressive as they looked at points, Subasic didn't make a save until late into the match. Their only other shot on target was the goal. England just couldn't capitalize on their momentum. Harry Kane was absent today as well when the Three Lions needed their top goalscorer.

For the third time this World Cup, Croatia have come from behind to win. They have become the second smallest nation to qualify for a World Cup final, and what a run it has been. This is also the second time a team has trailed at the half to come back and win.

ET FT: It is all over at Luzhniki Stadium. England can't find a goal from the free kick, and the game is over. Football will not be coming home this year. Croatia wins 2-1 and advance to the World Cup final against France.

120+4' Alli tries to send a long ball in, and Badelj handles the ball for an England free kick. Its now or never for England.

120+2' Rakitic fouls Alli, and the two players share a heated exchange before being separated. England is running out of time.

120' Kramaric is in on goal and has Perisic wide open on his left. He takes the shot instead and hits the side netting. Croatia could have put this game away there. Four minutes of stoppage time for England to find an equalizer.

118' England have a free kick, and it's floated into the back post. Maguire goes up and is bumped off the ball. England shouts for a penalty, but there is little in that claim. Replay shows no foul. Modric makes way as Croatia use their final substitution, introducing Milan Badelj.

116' Brozovic as a go from long distance, and Pickford nearly spills the ball to the feet of Vida. Trippier has picked up an injury and can't continue. He is carried off the pitch. England have used all their substitution. They will have to finish this game with 10.

114' Pivaric plays the ball to Perisic, but he mistimes his kick. The shot still deflects off and England player for a corner kick. Mandzukic is down once again. Corluka comes on for him as he comes off a Croatian hero.

113' Croatia have a player down, but England play on. Rashford plays an early cross into the box, but Subasic is first to it and collects.

112' England take a defender off for more attack. Walker makes way for Jaime Vardy. Rashford plays a cross, but Lovren clears.

109' GOOOOOOOOAL!!! CROATIA!!!! England fail to clear the ball, and Perisic heads the second chance ball into the box. Mandzukic gets in front of his defender and beats Pickford from close range to take the lead. England just switched off and got punished for it. 2-1 Croatia

108' Rakitic takes the corner quick for a marauding Perisic. He takes the shot at the near post, but fires high.

107' Perisic plays a one-two with Pivaric before crossing into the box. The ball doesn't get past the first defender, and goes behind for a corner.

2ET: Croatia kickoff and we are underway for the final 15 minutes. If neither team can find a goal, we'll be heading to a penalty shootout. 

ET HT: Croatia take their corner kick, but can't create a chance as the referee blows the whistle for the break. The players are taking a quick water break and talking with the managers. Second half of extra time is coming up shortly.

105+2' Perisic plays a great ball in that beats Stones to the feet of Mandzukic. Pickford reacts well and makes the save from six yards out. What an incredible save! Mandzukic has to come off for medical treatment after colliding with Pickford.

105+1' Perisic has a go from the top of the box, but it is right into an English defender.

105' Both sides struggling to get their offenses going. There's a lot of tired legs out there. The board shows two minutes of stoppage time.

103' Rose tries to play an early cross for Kane, but Lovren intercepts to clear the ball. England have calmed down since conceding late in the second half and look far more composed.

101' Vrsaljko makes his way up the right flank. He pulls the ball back, and Rashford takes him out for a free kick. Kramaric enters the match for Rebic, who had an incredible game tonight.

99' Stones wins the corner and nearly scores. His headed effort was hard and on target, but Vrsaljko was there on the line to clear.

98' England pick out Rose of the left side and he surges into the box. He holds play up well before playing back to Lingard. He sets up Dier for a shot that deflect back for a corner kick.

97' The free kick is poor, but the referee whistles for a foul anyways. Henderson's night is over and Tottenham's Eric Died comes on. 

95' Rose makes a good run forward down the middle, but Rebic takes him down to stop the run. He earns a yellow card for his trouble. Rose and Trippier stand over the free kick.

94' Strinic is down for a bit here, holding his groin area behind the leg. They bring the stretcher on, but he gets up and walks off on his own. Josip Pivaric hops off the bench and comes on for the injured full back. Strinic wasn't even expected to play today, and it's amazing he lasted this long. 

92' England passing around here to start the period off. Alli gets the ball towards the top of the box, but his pass for Rashford is nowhere near him as Croatia clear.

1ET: Young makes way for Danny Rose. England kick off the first period of extra time.

Eric Dier would offer England some much needed cover as they are being dominated by Croatia. His defensive work would do wonders for the Three Lions as they try to gain back control of this game.

Croatia still have all their substitutions, and England have only used one of their options off the bench in Rashford. Dalic should be looking to bring in some fresh legs. Kramaric offers a goalscoring threat, and could be what they need to find the winner.

FT: Croatia have one last attack, but they can't create a chance as the whistle blows for full time. This massive semi-final just got bigger. We're heading to extra time! 30 more minutes to decide who goes on to face France this Sunday.

90+2' England earn a free kick on the right side of the box. Trippier whips the ball to the back post and finds Kane, but he can't turn the ball on net. The ball goes out wide for a goal kick. Lovren is slow to get up, but is good to continue.

90' Croatia can't find their way into the English box, and try to switch the play to the right side. Lovren decides to take a shot instead, and it flies high. That was a poor choice from Lovren. Three minutes of stoppage time.

87' Kane tries to play a pass for Lingard, but its behind him and the ball rolls across the box. Not enough white shirts attacking the box right now. England have been pushed back by Croatia since the equalizer.

86' Strinic makes a great run forward, exploiting space between the English midfield and defense. He tries to switch the play to Perisic on the right side, but the pass is behind him.

83' Mandzukic tries a volley in the box, but Pickford saves. He tires a quick long pass to Rashford, but it is too long and ends up in the hands of Subasic.

82' Rakitic does well to hold the play up, and lays the ball off to Perisic. He tries to curl a cross to Rebic, but Pickford is alert to the danger and catches the ball.

81' A ball back to Pickford is poor, and he barely gets his pass off before Perisic arrives. It was a risky pass option by Walker, putting unnecessary pressure on his goalkeeper.

79' Alli slides in a perfect pass for Rashford, but he can't figure his first touch out before the ball crosses the line for a goal kick. England looking more positive, just can't seem to get solid shooting opportunity.

78' Rashford plays the ball to Kane in the box, but he kicks the ball out for Henderson. He tries to play Lingard in, but Vida sends the ball back to Henderson who attempts a volley. He can't get enough dip on the shot, and it's over the bar for a goal kick.

76' Croatia nearly find Perisic on a cross field ball in the box, but Pickford barely beats him to the ball. 

75' Perisic plays a long throw to Mandzukic, but he doesn't have enough in his legs to beat Walker who clears. Croatia work the ball to the opposite side and Rebic plays a low cross into the box. He nearly finds Perisic, but England clear. Suddenly this match has become all Croatia.

73' Croatia plays a short corner before crossing into the box. Its in a dangerous area, but Pickford punches upfield. Brozovic comes running onto the ball to strike a volley, but sails high above the bar. Before the corner, Sterling made way for Rashford.

72' SO CLOSE! The England defense miscommunicate as they fail to clear the ball uncontested and Perisic gets a shot off, but he hits the far post. The second chance shot is right at Pickford who catches it to his chest.

70' England have Lingard clear on goal, but Sterling's pass in is too heavy for him and Subasic clears. Three Lions nearly strike back immediately. Kane plays a long cross for Trippier, but the ball sails out for a Croatia goal kick.

68' GOOOOOOAL!!! CROATIA!!!! Vrsaljko plays a long cross to the back post, and Walker gets caught flat footed as Perisic jumps in front of him to flick the ball past Pickford. We're all level with under half an hour to go.

67' Walker is slow to get up after blocking the shot in his groin area. He comes off for some water before coming back on. VAR also review for a potential penalty, but find no such thing.

65' Modric's cross deflects to Perisic to the top of the box. He gathers his feet and fires, but the shot is blocked by Walker. The blocked shot falls back to the feet of Perisic, but he can't get another shot off before England clears.

63' Henderson rolls the ball in for Sterling into the box. He nearly beats Vida, but the defender does well to make the tackle in front of goal.

62' Vrsaljko plays a one-two with Rebic, but the return pass is too heavy and goes out for an England goal kick.

60' Rakitic runs onto a loose ball at the top of the box and tries a volley, but can't get the shot right and fire high over the frame.

58' Ivan Strinic ventures forward and finds the ball in the box. He tries to square the ball for Mandzukic, but the ball is cleared up field by England.

57' A low ball into the box by Trippier beats Vida, but Lovren dows well to make a last ditch tackle to deny Kane the goal. Croatia have done well to deny the goal scoring threat of Kane, who has had a fairly quiet night.

56' Sterling flicks the ball over to Lingard at the top of the box. He tries the volley, but his shot deflects off of Vida for a corner. 

55' Croatia earn a corner, but a foul is called on the play as a mass of players fall to the ground. England free kick.

54' Its getting chippy here as Perisic gets in the face of Walker as he holds onto the ball, slowing down a Croatia throw. The referee is quick to break it up, and awards Walker with a yellow card.

53' Rebic tries a long cross to the back post for Perisic, but it sails out for a goal kick. Kane makes a run down the right side and gets past Lovren, but Vrasljko comes flying in an shoulder tackles Kane off the ball. Somehow that isn't whistled for a foul.

51' The press by England gives Croatia little time to make decisions. After being forced back, Vrsaljko plays a long ball forward, but it's too long for Perisic.

49' Vida shrugs Kane off the ball, and the Englishmen calls for a foul. Instead, its a throw in for Croatia.

48' Trippier goes to clear a loose ball, and Rebic catches his in the midsection with his boot. Moments later Rebic is called for another foul for hitting Walker in the back of the head. Mandzukic gets a yellow card for hitting the ball away.

2H: Croatia gets us underway as they look to come from behind for the third time this tournament. 

Trippier's goal was England's first direct free-kick goal at the World Cup since David Beckham's goal against Ecuador in 2006.

While Sterling hasn't had any clear cut chances, his pace and runs down the side have been crucial in breaking the Croatian defense down. The play between Alli, Lingard, and Sterling has been brilliant as the pass through the Croatian defense and midfield with ease.

Its been an excellent start for England, and what a beauty of a goal by Trippier. The England defense have held resolute, but mistakes like Pickford's at the end of the half is concerning. England look the more dangerous side, but Croatia have been inching closer and closer. It feels like its a matter of time before they find the equalizer.

HT: Croatia have one last attack, but England deals with the danger and the halftime whistle blows. The referee checks VAR for a potential penalty, but finds nothing as the players head down the tunnel.

45' Young gets warned by the referee for time wasting on a throw in. The ball is cleared and England play the ball back to Pickford who turns it over. Croatia go forward with Rakitic who nearly holds off Walker for the shot, but can't get past the defender. That turn over by Pickford was almost costly.

43' Vrsaljko finds the ball in space and takes a shot from distance, but his shot is poor and far off target. That's frustration showing through there as Croatia are struggling to break the opposition down.

40' Croatia slowing the pace of the game, trying to get back in control. Modric tries to play a low cross, but Maguire deflects it. Walker beats Rakitic to the second chance ball and clears.

37' Henderson nearly finds Sterling on the right, but Vida does well to clear. Sterling and Lingard connect in the box, but the play is cleared. Trippier clears the ball, but his cross is too high as the ball flies out of bounds.

36' Lingard has space at the top of the box and lets loose a shot, but it's nowhere near target. A really poor take by Lingard there.

34' So far it has been mostly England, but Croatia has been threatening and has caused plenty of problems for the England defense. The back three for England have done an excellent job so far, but look vulnerable.

33' A long ball nearly finds the feet of Rebic, but Young makes a last ditch tackle to deny chance at the far post.

32' Pickford comes out to punch, and gets undercut by Rebic. A free kick is rewarded as Pickford gets up fine after falling in a heap.

30' Lingard plays Kane through with a brilliant pass, but Subasic denies him at the near post. Kane keeps the ball in and tries to sneak it in, but hits the post. How did Kane not score there?

28' Jordan Henderson tries to start the England attack through Alli, but accidentally handles the ball for a Croatia free kick in the middle of the pitch.

27' Lovren with another rough tackle on the sideline to concede a free kick. Somehow he escapes without a booking once more. The set piece looks good, but is too close to Subasic who punches clear.

25' Jesse Lingard makes a sensational run deep into Croatia territory and has options, but his pass for Alli is behind him and Modric clears.

24' Sterling skips past Brozovic and nearly gets past Vida as well, but he loses his footing and falls to ground. Subasic comes out to collect the loose ball.

22' Kane is past Dejan Lovren who then drags him down. England is arguing for a yellow card, but Lovren just gets off with a warning. Croatia turns the ball over in the back, and Sterling plays Kane through. But he is clearly offside and the whistle sounds.

20' Maguire's weak clearance falls to the feet of Rebic who skips past him and tries to get a shot off, but John Stones does well to block the shot.

19' Modric kicks the ball out wide to Perisic, who cuts inside and fires from distance. The shot is wide and Perisic argues there was a deflection, but the referee wasn't interested.

18' The play is building up for Croatia as they work their way towards the England box, but Perisic plays a poor cross field pass for Rebic who can't get on the end of it.

17' A bit of possession for Croatia here as they pass around the back, trying to work their way back into this match.

16' Kane turns past Vrsaljko and the Croatian drags him down for a free kick on the sideline. 

14' The corner finds Maguire in the middle of the box, but his effort off the head is weak and off target. He'll continue to be a menace on set pieces all game.

13' The way that England is playing side to side has been impressive and is running the Croatia backline ragged. Trippier finds himself in space after Alli moves the ball from left to right. His cross deflects back for a corner.

12' England with a promising corner, but the cross is just a bit too high for anyone to head home as the ball deflects back for a goal kick.

11' More pressure on the Croatia backline as England are firmly on the front foot. The pace of Alli and Sterling are proving difficult for Domagoj Vida, but Brozovic has done well to provide cover.

9' England nearly break on the counter after dealing with the Croatia corner. A long ball over the top nearly finds Sterling once again, but Vrsaljko does well to intercept.

8' Croatia with a nice bit of possession around the English box. Perisic plays a cross to the far corner, and earn a corner as England clears.

7' A long ball forward nearly find Sterling in the box, but it is too long for the pacy forward as Subasic comes out to collect.

5' GOOOOOOAL!!! ENGLAND!!! What a beauty by Trippier who bends the free kick over the top of the wall and into the corner. That's his first goal for country and what a vital goal it could be! Chants of "It's Coming Home" are ringing here in Luznhiki Stadium. 1-0 England!

4' Free kick for England coming up. Kieran Trippier finds Alli at the top of the box, and Luka Modric brings him down.

2' Steady going so far. Ivan Perisic makes a bright run down the left side, but can't shake the three English shirts off him when trying to cut back. Both sides still trying to get going.

The national anthems have been sung, and the captains exchange handshakes. This crowd is roaring as we are moments away from kickoff.

England have gone unchanged in the lineup with everyone from the Sweden match retaining their spot. Sterling gets the start despite backlash from fans. Probably wise of Southgate to put his faith in the young forward, why change what's working?

Vrsaljko and Subasic have won their race for fitness and will both start today for Croatia. Only change from their starting lineup is Marcelo Brozovic who comes in for Andrej Kramaric.

England Substitutes: Rose, Dier, Vardy, Butland, Welbeck, Cahill, Jones, Delph, Rashford, Loftus-Cheek, Alexander-Arnold, Pope

England Starting XI: Pickford; Stones, Maguire, Walker; Henderson, Alli, Lingard, Young, Trippier; Kane, Sterling

Croatia Substitutes: Livakovic, Corlunka, Kovacic, Kramaric, Kalinic, Jedvaj, Bradaric, Caleta-car, Badelj, Pjaca, Pivaric

Croatia Starting XI: Subasic; Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic; Brozovic, Rebic, Rakitic, Modric, Perisic; Mandzukic

The team news is coming in....

Plenty of humorous superstition stories on Twitter from England fans. Stories of delivery men wearing full kits, jerseys reeking of weeks old body odor, and lucky haircuts are making the rounds right now. The English fans are doing everything they can to help bring it home!

We're less than two hours away from kickoff, but we should have team news here shortly. Make sure to check back for all of the prematch coverage and minute-to-minute updates of today's semi-final matchup, all here on VAVEL UK.

Subasic has been superb for Croatia so far this tournament and his absence would be a huge blow. In the two penalty shootouts he's been in, he has a 50% save rate and would be sorely missed if tonight's match went to a shootout.

Croatia's lineup will most likely go unchanged, sticking to the 4-2-3-1 that has worked so well for them. ​Sime Vrsaljko might miss out today due to a knee injury sustained against Russia. Zlatko Dalic has a decision to make on who could take his spot. He could use veteran defender Vedran Corluka, but his lack of pace could be a concern. Subasic is also a doubt with a hamstring injury.

Gareth Southgate main decision will be who will play up front with Harry Kane. His partner to this point, Raheem Sterling, has failed to impress so far in this tournament, and drew plenty of criticism for his performance against Sweden. While I expect Southgate to keep his trust in Sterling, don't be surprised if Marcus Rashford gets the start.

Both sides avoided suspension on yellow cards in the quarter-final. And since yellow cards reset in the semi-finals, the only way someone is missing the final is if they pick up a red card or find themselves on the losing side tonight.

While the Three Lions scored at will against Croatia in the past, this is arguably the best Croatia side to ever wear the jersey, and this is a new look England that still has much to prove. Today's match is a clean slate for both sides to write their own history.

The only other time these sides have met in a major tournament was back in 2004 where England won 4-2 to advance out of the group and eliminate Croatia in the process. Unsurprisingly, no players from that match will be playing today, but Croatia can get their payback by knocking off England en route to the final.

Interesting note from that 5-1 thrashing: Both Mario Mandzukic and Rakitic featured in that match from nine years ago. ​Danijel Subasic was an unused substitute on the day. Not a single player from that England side will feature in today's match. 

Croatia and England have only faced each other seven times prior. England has the all-time advantage,  winning four, losing twice, and drawing once. The last time these sides played was in 2009 where England dismissed Croatia 5-1 in a victory that confirmed their place at the 2010 World Cup. Croatia would not qualify that year.

This is Croatia's second time reaching the semi-final. The last time they reached this stage was in 1998 when they were eliminated by France but defeated the Netherlands in the third place game. 

It was the second penalty shootout of the tournament for Croatia after failing to put away Denmark in regulation time in the round-of-16. Both Fyodor Smolov and Mateo Kocavic had their attempts saved, but it was Fernandes' wide spot kick that gave Croatia the advantage. It was Ivan Rakitic who scored the final penalty to send Croatia to the semi-finals.

Croatia had a tougher task in the quarter-finals where Russia proved to be more trouble than expected. Croatia took the lead with 10 minutes left in extra time, but the hosts forced the game to penalties after Mario Fernandes equalized late in extra time. 

Goals by Harry Maguire and Dele Alli in each half brought home the win for the Three Lions and sent them to their third semi-final appearance, their first since the 1990 World Cup in Italy where they finished fourth.

England come in to this semi-final matchup following a fairly comfortable victory over Sweden. The defense was resolute and Jordan Pickford was unbeatable on the day, highlighted by his incredible save on Marcus Berg's header from six yards out.

Good evening and welcome to today’s minute-by-minute commentary of this World Cup semi-final between England and Croatia. Today’s match kicks off at 19:00 BST, but until then we’ll have plenty of pre-match analysis and team news provided by me, Maxwell Hogg. Make sure to follow along with VAVEL UK.