Mario Mandzukic was the hero in extra time as Croatia came back from behind to earn a first spot in a major final, at England’s expense.
Right-back Kieran Trippier rocketed in a fifth-minute free-kick in the World Cup semi-final, with Tottenham team-mate Harry Kane soon failing to double the lead. These misses – in the Three Lions’ first last-four clash in the global event since 1990 – came back to hurt them in the second half at Luzhniki Stadium.
Winger Ivan Perisic volleyed in the 68th-minute leveller, via a potential high foot. Then in extra-time, veteran striker Mandzukic took advantage of centre-back John Stones’ woeful marking to see Croatia go one better than their ‘Golden Generation’ twenty years ago in France.
Danijel Subasic – 8: An excellent tournament for the Monaco goalkeeper continued. Highlight was the first-half save and remarkable recovery to deny Kane.
Sime Vrsaljko – 8: Croatia were grateful that he recovered, miraculously, from injury. Teed up Perisic’s equaliser and headed off the line from Stones.
Dejan Lovren – 6: Lucky not to get booked and appeared a ticking time bomb. But did superbly to deny nemesis Kane a close-range header.
Domagoj Vida – 6: Booed relentlessly by the Russians in the crowds after his pro-Ukraine remarks. Initially troubled by Raheem Sterling’s pace, then recovered.
Ivan Strinic – 5: Pegged back by the endeavour of England’s goal scorer, Trippier. Did not look assured in, or out, of possession. Injured late on.
Marcelo Brozovic – 7: Early influence on proceedings was negated by England’s route-one tactics. But the Internazionale anchor’s ability would tell past 60 minutes.
Ante Rebic – 5: Fired in several wild shots and could do nothing with the rebound when Perisic’s second-half shot hit the woodwork.
Luka Modric – 8: Grew in authority at the Luzhniki Stadium. Had the third-highest pass accuracy for Croatia. This was a telling statistic as Croatia rebounded.
Ivan Rakitic – 7: Produced a surprising number of loose balls in the first half. Emerged a different, more authoritative figure after the break. A fine player.
Ivan Perisic – 8: Anticipation for volley was fantastic, soon after struck the post and then supplied the perfect cross for Mandzukic which should have led to another.
Mario Mandzukic – 8: Laudable energy levels. A third-successive extra-time period saw him only just denied by Pickford and then, decisively, smash in from close range.
Josip Pivaric – 6: Like-for-like replacement for the lame Strinic. Missed in shootout against Denmark and would have been relieved not to go again.
Andrej Kramaric – 5: Leicester City flop could not punish the country in which he did so little. Made shocking decision to shoot.
Vedran Corluka – N/A: Experience made sure Croatia held firm in the final throes.
Milan Badelj – N/A: Last-gasp handball was not punished by England.
England suffered World Cup semi-final heartbreak as Croatia came from behind to win 2-1.
Right-back Kieran Trippier rocketed in a fifth-minute free-kick, with Tottenham team-mate Harry Kane soon failing to double the lead. These misses – in England’s first last-four clash in the global event since 1990 – came back to hurt the Three Lions in the second half at Luzhniki Stadium.
Winger Ivan Perisic volleyed in the 68th-minute leveller, via a potential high foot. Then in extra-time, veteran striker Mario Mandzukic took advantage of centre-back John Stones’ woeful marking to lash Croatia into their first major final.
Jordan Pickford – 6: Performance mirrored that of the team. Dominated in first half and skittish after break. Redeemed himself with tremendous Mandzukic stop.
Kyle Walker – 5: Silly yellow card for time wasting and then his defensive instincts were questionable for leveller. A recurring theme in Russia.
John Stones – 5: Almost gifted Perisic his second goal. Punishment soon followed when he critically lost Mandzukic. Earlier header was cleared off the line.
Harry Maguire – 6: Can count himself very lucky that neither VAR or the on-field officials punished his first-half injury-time tug on Dejan Lovren.
Jordan Henderson – 5: A nagging hamstring complaint saw Henderson’s influence diminish. Did not have physicality to try and put his foot on the ball after break.
Kieran Trippier – 6: Should have been the hero after beautiful fifth-minute free-kick. Errors soon crept in, however, especially when ignoring Perisic’s run.
Jesse Lingard – 5: Was in the team to create and did not do this. Further tasked with using energy to disrupt Croatia and also failed.
Dele Alli – 5: Contributed to second-half surrender, despite earlier winning free-kick for goal. Deep role, like at Euro 2016, did not suit him.
Ashley Young – 5: A fifth start of the tournament proved a bridge too far for the Three Lions veteran. Removed for Danny Rose.
Harry Kane – 5: Unbelievably spurned two golden quick-fire efforts in first half. Then dropped far too deep in a harmful and misguided attempt to dominate proceedings.
Raheem Sterling – 7: Was liveliest player for England and it was a surprise when he was hooked. Still, however, goalless in Russia.
18 - Only one of the previous 18 teams to be ahead at half-time in a World Cup semi-final have failed to go on and win (Italy in 1990 v Argentina, who lost on penalties). Resolve. #ENGCRO #ENG #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/CkO7T5Q3sl— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 11, 2018
Marcus Rashford – 6: Showed willingness, yet the big chance didn’t come his way.
Danny Rose – 7: Made several driving runs and probably should have started this match.
Eric Dier – 6: The penalty hero from Colombia didn’t get chance to make history repeat itself.
Jamie Vardy – N/A: Leicester City man barely touched the ball and came on after Trippier’s injury, leaving England with 10 men.
Wednesday evening’s World Cup semi-final at Luzhniki Stadium will be the most high profile. But the seven past clashes – four England wins, two Croatia wins and a draw – have seen superstars rise to the challenge and several figures painfully flop.
Here, we picks out a hero and villain from each side:
MLADEN PETRIC (CROATIA)
It is a game mired in infamy for England, and glory for the Croats.
The two sides met at a sodden Wembley – more on that later – with qualification to Euro 2008 on the line.
A sensational game followed in November 2007, from which Croatia decisively won 3-2 thanks to Mladen Petric’s strike. In the process, English hearts were broken as they failed to make a major tournament for the first time since World Cup 1994.
The hosts needed just a draw from the final qualifier to proceed, but went 2-0 down as Niko Kranjcar’s shot from distance slipped through Scott Carson’s grasp and Ivica Olic slipped in a second. Frank Lampard’s penalty and Peter Crouch’s sharp finish put England back in dream land.
Then, Petric’s moment arrived. The striker was thrown on with 13 minutes left and soon responded with a rasping, low shot from 25 yards.
This shattered English dreams of advancement and ensured Croatia’s spot in the finals.
For a multitude of reasons, Three Lions manager Steve McClaren would never live this moment down.
WAYNE ROONEY (ENGLAND)
A teenage superstar’s name was written in lights during Euro 2004 at Estadio da Luz.
An 18-year-old Wayne Rooney’s process of transforming youthful promise into a fearsome reality continued at pace against Croatia. The then Everton forward struck twice in a 4-2 defeat of Croatia that confirmed entry into the knockouts.
Manager Sven-Goran Eriksson led the chorus of praise.
“I don’t remember anyone making such an impact on a tournament since Pele in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden,” he said.
Rooney had notched twice in the preceding 3-0 triumph against Switzerland. His emerging legend would be added to.
He first set-up future Manchester United team-mate Paul Scholes to level up from Niko Kovac’s early opener. A piledriver then followed from Rooney in first-half stoppage time, prior to a superb run and finish on the break.
Goals at either end from Igor Tudor and Frank Lampard rounded out a 4-2 win for England.
ROBERT KOVAC (CROATIA)
Sweet revenge was served on a platter by defender Robert Kovac’s misdemeanour.
Less than a year since their Wembley humiliation, Croatia and England met in qualifying for World Cup 2010. Italian icon Fabio Capello was now in charge of the Three Lions and his influence told.
Arsenal’s Theo Walcott struck a brace before the hour mark to put the visitors on course for victory. Kovac’s violent elbow during an aerial challenge with Joe Cole would turn the loss into a rout.
Rooney struck an accomplished third goal, before Mario Mandzukic’s consolation and Walcott’s hat-trick strike made it 4-1.
STEVE MCCLAREN (ENGLAND)
Headline writers were handed a gift on one of English football’s worst nights.
McClaren took over from Eriksson and promised a fresh era, yet erratic decisions – switching formations before a critical loss in Croatia, dropping iconic midfielder David Beckham plus goalkeeper Paul Robinson for the return – and cliched discourse put his nation on track for disaster.
An image to sum up the former No2’s bumbling image was provided on a damp Wembley night, that reflected the country’s mood as entry to Euro 2008 slipped away. As the rain poured down in November 2007 and Petric earned Croatia a devastating 3-2 victory, McClaren’s choice to open up his umbrella would provide the defining image of a bungled era.
“Wally with a Brolly” was the infamous headline produced by the Daily Mail to sum up a pitiful period for the Three Lions.
“If I think about it, I’ve got no regrets about anything I did, any decisions I made throughout,” said McClaren, self-justifying and deluded until the end.