Thursday, 15 November, 2018

Croatian footballers mobbed the photographers' pit after beating England last night

Peter Crouch celebrates after pulling England level Peter Crouch celebrates after pulling England level
Shannon Reynolds | 13 July, 2018, 02:55

After a goalless first 15 minutes of extra-time, and penalties looking like a big possibility, it was Croatia that ended England's dream of World Cup glory when Mario Mandzukic crept it at the far post to fire home what would ultimately be the victor.

Mario Mandzukic scored in the 109th minute to give the Croats a 2-1 victory over England on Wednesday.

Mario Mandzukic wheels away after scoring the winning goal in Wednesday's semifinal between Croatia and England.

England manager Gareth Southgate insists his side will face their toughest challenge of the World Cup to date when they lock horns with Croatia in the semi-final. "They have to use this experience for benefit and I know that what´s happened over the last few weeks will make them a stronger team".

"But we handled it well, but unfortunately we conceded at the wrong time, after that I thought we again picked it up again and done well".

In the 1998 semi-final, two Lilian Thuram goals won the match for France and that was the furthest the Vatreni had gone in the World Cup. "We've all grown up watching England and to represent your country at a semi-final of a World Cup, there's no better feeling".

Hard to believe at the time, but that would be England's only score.

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But just when it looked as if they would become the first team to appear in three shootouts at a single World Cup, Mandzukic struck with a well-taken low shot.

For Croatia, it's on the brink of arguably the most shocking World Cup title run in modern history.

"We had hoped (for this) and we believed in our team, but the feeling when we finally entered the finals can not be compared to anything", said Ivan Kecerin, 41.

"I think in the first half, we were really good and we maybe could've got another and in periods throughout the game we had chances".

At one point you can even see Croatia defender Domagoj Vida pull one of the piled-on photographers up and kiss his forehead while goal-scorer Mandzukic pats him on the back. The 2018 vintage will get their chance to avenge that loss but they had been pushed to the limit with all three of their knockout games going into extra-time.

He added: "Let me tell you, whether we win or lose the game, my life will not change", he said.

The Croats will play France for the title on Sunday in its biggest sporting moment since becoming an independent nation in 1991.

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