Moscow, England’s bid to reach a first World

Cup final since 1966 came to an agonising end as they lost in extra

time to Croatia in Moscow.

Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic scored the winning goal in the

109th minute of the semi-final, slotting in from Ivan Perisic’s flick-on

into the area.

England – in their first World Cup semi-final since they were

beaten on penalties by West Germany at Italia ’90 – were given the

perfect start through Kieran Trippier’s 20-yard free-kick after only five

minutes, but Perisic’s 68th-minute equaliser sent the match into extra

time.

England’s players were inconsolable at the final whistle as the

dream was snatched away and the pain was etched on their faces, as

well as that of manager Gareth Southgate – but they can take great

pride and credit from this tournament.

Croatia, in sharp contrast, were jubilant and will now face France

in the final in Moscow on Sunday.

Unfancied before the competition, England defied

expectations by reaching the semi-finals, but were undone by an

experienced Croatia side.

Harry Kane’s golden touch deserted him when he missed a

great chance to double their lead, and Jesse Lingard also wasted a

chance by shooting wide.

As England allowed their opportunity to slip from their grasp,

Croatia grew in confidence.

England lost momentum after the break and were punished

when Perisic stole in ahead of Kyle Walker for an athletic finish.

Croatia, with Luka Modric the orchestrator, took control as

England faded, with Perisic hitting the post and Jordan Pickford saving

magnificently from Mandzukic, before the striker made the decisive

contribution with 11 minutes of extra time left.

The 32-year-old reacted quicker than John Stones in the area to

beat Pickford – and England had nothing left to give.

England will now play Belgium in Saturday’s third/fourth place

play-off in St Petersburg, the BBC reported.

Source: Oman News Agency