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Croatia’s players squeezed every last drop out of their bodies on Wednesday night and no one wrung out more than the match-winning Ivan Perisic.
After a sluggish first-half – with the Croats undoubtedly feeling the effects of two bouts of extra-time – Perisic was one of the men to find a second wind and scored the equalising goal before setting Mario Mandzukic through for the winner in the 109th minute.
Below, we take a closer look at the Inter Milan attacker’s all-action display.
Croatia put a knife through the heart of England’s hopes at the Luzhniki Stadium and the blade was sharpened by Ivan Perisic. The 29-year-old looked frazzled early on, like many of his team-mates, and took a succession of wayward shots that were greeted by England supporters with glee.
That glee soon turned to gloom. Perisic had been having a low-key World Cup – subbed on the hour against Russia – but his Zlatan-esque high-boot finish, beating Kyle Walker to the punch, put Croatia back on track.
He then caught John Stones napping by sending the ball sailing over English heads and laying it on for Mandzukic to smash past Jordan Pickford in the second-half of extra time.
Big-game player – Croatia lack for true striking options outside Mario Mandzukic, meaning Perisic is so key coming off his wing. Not only did he supply a cute finish but picked the lock that the likes of Luka Modric couldn’t for the winner. Where has this Perisic been all tournament?
Movement – With England’s three centre-backs sharing various heart-in-mouth moments in the second half and beyond, and Kieran Trippier visibly tiring, Perisic used his incessant harrying and sheer will to crack what was looking like a fragile nut. He evaded Trippier and then caught Walker unawares for his goal.
Wastefulness – Croatia were visibly panicked by England’s direct start and that immediacy seem to manifest in themselves as a lack of patience. Perisic was arguably the most guilty party early on, hitting hopeful shots that in truth did not have a chance at all. It comes with the territory in Perisic’s case, though.
Perisic finally showed what a nuisance he can be – it only took him until the second half of a World Cup semi-final. Benjamin Pavard in particular looks like a weakness for France down their right flank and, if Croatia stand a chance beating Les Bleus on Sunday, the Inter veteran must not revert to his early tournament form. Winner against Iceland aside, his all-round game had not been up to scratch.
RATING – 8/10
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