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LIVE FROM MOSCOW: Croatia book first final appearance at England's expense

Croatia have defeated England 2-1 to book their place in the World Cup 2018 final.

Ivan Perisic's second half volley cancelled out Kieran Trippier's terrific early free-kick. 32-year-old Mario Mandzukic then popped up to score the winner in the second period of extra-time.

With thousand of fans from both countries flying into Moscow over the past two days, the atmosphere inside Luzhniki Stadium was palpable before kick-off.

Trippier gave the England end something to cheer about just five minutes after the first whistle. The Tottenham fullback nonchalantly curling his 25-yard free-kick over the Croatian wall and into the top corner.

England were buoyed by their surprising start but failed to capitalise on their dominance by adding a second goal. The rest of the first-half saw both teams play openly, with Croatia's Ante Rebic looking especially dangerous on the right wing.

The Vatreni became more settled toward the end of the opening stanza and then took over the game completely in the second-half.

Croatia continued to build pressure after the restart but failed to deliver a quality pass in the final third. That was until Sime Vrsaljko's superb cross was met by Ivan Perisic, who managed to get himself in front of Kyle Walker to steer his volley past Jordan Pickford.

The Inter Milan winger nearly had his second shortly after his shot whistled across Pickford and crashed off the post.

With no experienced head on the pitch, England turned to water and it was a miracle they didn't concede again before the final whistle.

The game was destined for penalties until some lax defending from England allowed Mario Mandzukic to drive home the winner.

John Stones failed to read Perisic's flick on, but the veteran Mandzukic didn't make the same mistake, ghosting behind the Manchester City stopper and unleashing a sublime strike past Pickford.

Croatia, a country of just 4 million people, will now play in their first ever World Cup final, which will be played against France in Moscow on Sunday.


Croatia - 2 (Perisic 65', Mandzukic 109')

England - 1 (Trippier 5')

Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow - 78,011

Andrew Maclean
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Andrew Maclean

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