Gareth Southgate and his England team's World Cup dream is over, but Croatia defeat was no disgrace

The glorious, beer-soaked Russian summer that changed English football and the England team forever is at an end, and the old story of 1966 will remain, for four more years at least, the greatest ever told, although it took one hell of a World Cup semi-final to keep it that way.

England are out of Russia 2018, beaten in extra-time by Mario Mandzukic’s goal, but not in that feeble, unreliable way that so many England teams have gone in the past.

There were times when Gareth Southgate’s young team could have won this game, a window in the first half when it felt like they could run away with it while Croatia, like all good teams hung on and waited for the wind to change. A miraculous sporting nation of just 4.1 million souls, they will play France in the World Cup final on Sunday.

It is, after all, not coming home. It is not even coming back for a brief look-around and a robust discussion about the relative merits of a back three without a natural left-sided defender.

Soon, when the Premier League season begins afresh this may feel like a dream, a dizzying tour of sun-drenched old Soviet Union strongholds watched through a mist of beer tossed over heads in box parks and conventional parks too. Only the third World Cup semi-final in 68 years for the England team and yet still cause for a nagging regret at missed opportunities.

Afterwards, Gareth Southgate seemed reluctant to draw conclusions and he will know that there was something of the old England in the way that his team were rattled, going from a team that looked like it could not lose this semi-final to one just about hanging on.

This Croatia team, 20 years on from that semi-final defeat to France, had the tournament ringcraft that every England World Cup team bar one has lacked, vulnerable for the second time in the knockout stages to a goal late in the day.

When Kieran Trippier swept in a free-kick after five minutes it soon felt like England might dominate a Croatia bent out of shape by the running of Southgate’s players who were occupying the places that Luka Modric was supposed to be.

The little maestro was enclosed by the England midfield and it would take until the second half when the Croatia captain began figuring out the route, emerging into space at last. Not just him but Ivan Perisic too, who scored the equaliser on 68 minutes and dragged his team back into the game, making the second for Mandzukic.

If he can do it against, France after three extra-time periods in the knockout stages, then Perisic could yet eclipse Modric as the leading player in this team and this tournament. Although it never looked that way in the first half with England in the ascendancy and Croatia wobbling all over pitch.

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford is consoled by England manager Gareth Southgate

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford is consoled by England manager Gareth Southgate

Credit:
PA

Their left-back Ivan Strinic was falling apart, and in attack Raheem Sterling felt just one clean strike on goal from football immortality.

Dejan Lovren benefited from the early leniency of Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir in a period of the game when the Liverpool defender was committing fouls he felt he had no option but to make. He shoved Kane and kicked Sterling in the space of six minutes but did not get the the yellow card that would have made him vulnerable.

England are out

England are out

Credit:
PA

The England captain still looks the most likely candidate to finish the World Cup as the golden boot winner but this was a strange evening for him, in which he missed one first half chance and then faded after the break. He is judicious in possession and draws the foul well, but his reputation is built on goals and when he was presented with his best chance of the game on 29 minutes it was saved by goalkeeper Danjiel Subasic.

That was not the only miss, there was one for Jesse Lingard too later in the first half when Kane drove forward with the ball and then Dele Alli laid it off to England’s little fizzing energy-drink of a midfielder. Lingard’s shot was stroked wide of Subasic’s post and again you wondered whether these players knew that, looming in the future, there would inevitably be a time when Croatia seized the initiative and had their chances too.

Mario Mandzukic of Croatia shoots past England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford

Mario Mandzukic of Croatia shoots past England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford

Credit:
Getty

England’s goal had come early, from a premium free-kick conceded by Modric of all people who clipped the heels of Dele. Even then at that stage, England had worked it well from Lingard’s tidy knockdown and suddenly there was a great chance, on the edge of the box and central. Trippier stroked the free-kick over the wall and past Subasic’s right hand like he was slotting the last ball in the garden through an inviting open garden shed door.

Kieran Trippier of England scores past Danijel Subasic of Croatia

Kieran Trippier of England scores past Danijel Subasic of Croatia

Credit:
Getty

After 28 minutes, the left-back Strinic passed the ball straight into touch on his side of the pitch and his manager Zlatko Dalic allowed his despair to show itself for a second before composing himself. By the end of the night Dalic, a former footballer who never won an international cap and coached most recently in the Gulf states, was in his red chequer-board shirt and describing how he watched the first three games in the 1998 tournament as a fan.

Ivan Perisic of Croatia scores his team's first goal past Jordan Pickford

Ivan Perisic of Croatia scores his team’s first goal past Jordan Pickford

Credit:
Getty

The game changed after the break and as the game went into the final ten minutes, England’s share of possession in the second half dropped to 30 per cent. They were being pressed much higher up the pitch by Croatia and although they found their way again in the first period of extra-time, England never rediscovered the form of the first half.

England fans watch Croatia v England - Brighton Beach

England fans watch Croatia v England – Brighton Beach

Credit:
Reuters

When Sime Vrsaljko picked the ball up on the right and whipped in a cross on 68 minutes it felt like the kind that England had dealt with all night. Kyle Walker dived for it and with the ball at shoulder height, Perisic jabbed a foot in above the head of the defender and steered it past Jordan Pickford.

Minutes later Perisic hit the post. He went close again. In extra-time there were chances that will be forgotten in time, including a John Stones header cleared off the line by Vrsaljko.

A great save from Pickford from Mandzukic’s shot. Then with six minutes of the 120 left Perisic out-jumped Trippier for a header, and Mandzukic was first off the mark, burying a shot past Pickford before England reacted. The margins are fine, but the bigger picture was clear by then, and it did not look good for England.

    That’ll do it for our blog, I think

    Hard lines, England. They tried their level best but they couldn’t get that second when they were having the best of it. Ultimately the passing, composure and experience of Croatia ground them down. Very disappointing.

    But no disgrace! England did far better in the tournament than anyone could have hoped. And, for a while, Gareth Southgate and his team allowed us all to dream. And that should not be sniffed at.

    Thanks for following with us. Goodnight.

    Here’s Jason Burt on Jordan Henderson on Luka Modric

    This was the biggest challenge of Jordan Henderson’s career. The challenge of stopping the best midfielder on the planet in a World Cup semi-final.

    The fact that Henderson was probably England’s best player and yet was pushed to the absolute limit showed just how good Luka Modric is. The fact Modric got even better when Henderson went off showed how well the Liverpool captain did.

    The legs were tired, the hamstring was tight but Henderson strained himself to try and not give in to that even if he was stretched to breaking point with the workload demanded of him.

    In the first-half time and again Henderson just got himself in front of Modric enough to stop him opening England up. Modric worked his way into the penalty area, shaped to shoot, cross, or cut the ball back but Henderson jockeyed and blocked and made the angle disappear. Then on half-time he did it again as Modric appeared to find the purchase for a shot – only for Henderson to thwart him.

    Jordan Henderson gave his all in valiant but failed bid to foil Luka Modric

      Matt on the match

      Souey not afraid of putting the boot in

      Of course he isn’t! He was on something called BeIn Sports this evening

      „You can’t win the big trophies, you can’t dominate football matches, you can’t put yourself in a position where you are not giving the ball away unless you’ve got good players in midfield who can keep the ball.

      „I come back to Lingard and Dele Alli – two players who want to get on the end of things after there has been clever play by somebody else.

      „They don’t want to get involved in keeping the ball and dominating possession.

      „And the make up of the team was all wrong tonight. All wrong tonight. When they come up against a decent team, I think it’s inevitable that they were going to struggle tonight.“

      He says that England played the worst (Panama) and the second worst (Tunisia) teams in it. Oh Souey.

      Video reaction from a fan in Russia

      All hail the Croatians

      Not bad for a little ‚un! 

      Theresa May watching the match

      She really is an extraordinary person.

      Excellent quotes from Modric

      Sticking the boot in to the English media/punditocracy.

      Boxpark!

      Loads to enjoy in this piece from Molly McElwee at the Boxpark in Croydon.

      A cacophony of noise can be heard as you get off the train at East Croydon station, the sort of atmosphere you might expect around a stadium. “Football’s coming home…” “Please don’t take me home…” “Southgate you’re the one…”

      Instead, next door is Boxpark Croydon, a warehouse venue where 1,200 England fans gathered to watch England’s first World Cup semi-final appearance in 28 years. Not a Croatia fan in sight – not a hand without a pint either (unless it was flying through the air).

      Huge screen up, DJ blasting the tunes you might expect – World in Motion, Three Lions – and perhaps some of the more surprising hits of this summer of football (namely Atomic Kitten’s Whole Again). A crowd of united England shirts, pint-stained white, the Umbro classic of 1990, and an army of Gareth Southgate inspired waistcoat-wearing fans singing along. All were the lucky few to grab tickets which sold out within 10 minutes online.

      Boxpark Croydon

      Boxpark Croydon

      Credit:
      AFP

      Well worth a read. Shame, there will be some hangovers tomorrow. Also: the manager of Boxpark in Croydon is called David Byrne! Presumably not of Talking Heads fame.

      This does not have to be the end of the road!

      Some fans are very sad and upset

      Gareth reaction piece by Matt Law

      “The reaction from the fans at the end shows you everything they’ve given,” said Southgate. “We’ve come an incredibly long way in a short space of time. The whole thing is beyond where we thought we might go. Tonight we weren’t quite there. But the team will be stronger for it.“

      Gareth Southgate: World Cup elimination will make England stronger

      For England, a match on Saturday

      A third-place play-off against Belgium.

      Not the weekend assignment they wanted, but it’ll seem better by the weekend, maybe. I hope they’re not too devastated, the players. They have done themselves, the national side, English football and perhaps even the country as a whole a lot of good these last few weeks. We got a run for our money.

      Mark Pougatch

      „It did think about coming home but it didn’t quite make it tonight. Goodnight.“

      And now a closing montage soundtracked by some woman with a voice like a six-year-old butchering ‚My Way‘ as is the current fashion.

      Alan Smith

      Jordan Pickford

      Sometimes you can go ahead too early. We needed the second goal to kill of the tie.

      Croatia have got some top quality players. Maybe a high foot for their goal.

      We’ve got to keep our heads up. I had a lump in my throat with the fans applauding us at the end. 

      Jordan Pickford


      Credit:
      ITV

      Another politics man gets involved

      Probably not the right time, like he says

      Roy Keane

      „I think this England team have a lot to do. These players need to be at top clubs, I see a lot of them week in week out in the League and they are at middling clubs.

      „I made the point a few days ago, you have to focus on one game at a time, I heard people all talk about finals, football’s coming home. You all were planning the parades.“

      Actual shouting match with Ian Wright! Wright: „We were happy! Why weren’t you happy for us being happy?!“

      Harsh

      Gareth Southgate interviewed by Gabriel Clarke

      I don’t know if we deserved better. first half we were really good and maybe could have got another.

      Second half, they got the goal their tails were up. Maybe we had a little bit of inexperience.

      He praises the reaction of the fans

      No issues with Harry Kane before the start of the game.

      We are where we are as a team. We have come an incredibly long way in a short period of time, beyond where we thought we could go.

      At the end we thought we could stem the tide but there were not clear changes that we thought that we could change things.

      There was a period of 20 minutes in the second half where we just stooped playing.

      We got so close to something that was unimaginable at the start.

      We have left everything out there. I don’t think we could have given more over the six or seven weeks.

      Slaven Bilic

      It is great for smaller countries. England were positive and excellent in the first half, especially with the shock of the earlier.

      England were hoping that we would get tired but we started to control the game, when we could control the ball in midfield. We were starting to dominate in physical and tactical ways.

      The nation turns its lonely eyes to Gary

      Here’s Dan Walker.

      Here’s a sorry stat.

      Shame

      … but…

      Nice work

      Gareth Southgate

      went around his players, consoling, lifting them up literally and metaphorically. Went over to his opposite number the Croatia coach and wished him well. Classy from a class act.

      Lee Dixon

      Sometimes a young side, you burn up more nervous energy than an experienced side. Over a long game that can tell. We just lacked a little bit of composure in critical areas.

      Gary Neville

      We wanted to play 3-5-2 but we ended up playing 5-3-2. We were pushed back. And that makes it very hard for the three in midfield. Croatia kept switching it. And it is physically impossible to cover all that ground with the three.

      Harry Kane

      It is tough. We worked so hard. It was 50-50 game. It hurts a lot and we are going to hurt for a while. It has been a fantastic journey.

      We created some good chances at 1-0, maybe we got a bit too deep at times. These big games, small margins. Until they scored we were under the cosh and once they scored we picked back up again.

      They played well, made it difficult for us.  It’s hard to out your finger on what went wrong.

      We thought we were good enough to go on and win it. The next step now is to go one further. We have build a good foundation with the gaffer and now we want to go on.

      We have to dust ourselves down and be proud of what we achieved. Then we go again.

      Sam Wallace’s match report coming up

      stay here for the live blog reaction from Gareth Southgate and the England players.

      We will have all the reaction

      Southgate


      Credit:
      ITV

      Full time: Croatia 2 England 1

      Oh England. So brave, but it is not to be.

      120+ mins: Croatia 2 England 1     

      This must be the last moment. Alli plays the ball towards the box. A blatant handball. This is going to be the last moment.

      last chance


      Credit:
      itv

      Rashford drills it in… but it is cleared.

      120 mins: Croatia 2 England 1    

      Time is up, and it looks like there are four minutes extra. England cannae get a sniff. Oop, now they have a chance after the ref blows for a foul. Rakitic and Alli tangle. England pump it into the box… easy get for the keeper.

      118 mins: Croatia 2 England 1   

      England, sorry to tell you, haven’t really had a chance to even roll the dice since the goal.

      Kramaric breaks, it is two on two, he’s got Perisic unmarked but he selfishly elects to shoot into the side netting.

      117 mins: Croatia 2 England 1  

      Modric, the little smasher, comes off and Badelj comes on.

      Trippier looks like he has tun his race. He cannot get around the pitch.

      116 mins: Croatia 2 England 1  

      Rashford has a chance to deliver a freekick in. Hangs it up there like a fly half taking a 22 drop out. Looks to me like Lovren has headed that behind but ref gives a GK.

      115 mins: Croatia 2 England 1 

      Pivaric and Rakitic look very dangerous down the left. Ball into the area and for a split second it looks like Pickford has misjudged it for once. He gathers under pressure.

      114 mins: Croatia 2 England 1

      Mandzukic still coming off for Croluka. Croatia have a corner.

      113 mins: Croatia 2 England 1

      England badly need to get the ball but cannot. Mandzukic comes off for Croluka.

      112 mins: Croatia 2 England 1

      Croatia trying all the moves now, going down with cramp, needing attention etc.

      111 mins: Croatia 2 England 1

      Rashford prominent down the left. Looking for Alli. No.

      110 mins: Croatia 2 England 1

      So England have about ten minutes to salvage something. Vardy’s on.

      GOAL! Croatia 2 England 1 (Mandzukic 109)

      Oh, England. Oh that is hard. The mental strain had been building and bulding. A ball played in, it is half cleared by Walker, who looks exhausted.

      Trippier needs to head this clear under pressure from Perisic, but the Croat has got the better of him. He heads it into the area and there is Mandzukic to pounce and slot it home. So, so hard for England but I think about fair on the balance of play.

      All a bit of a horlicks, as you can see from the graphic. 

      106 mins: Croatia 1 England 1     

      It’s Croatia who are playing it around now. Perisic has it out on the left, tries for the early cross. Behind for a corner.

      They take it early and low! Lingard has lost his man. Brozovic I think it is. Strikes it crisply from the short corner.

      Short corner 


      Credit:
      ITV

      Come on Gareth

      Southgate and his lads

      Southgate and his lads

      Credit:
      ITV

      Neville: „they are showing all the heart you could ask for as they have done all tournament.“

      Trippier and Lingard look done in.

      HT in ET: Croatia 1 England 1

      Timely whistle from the ref there as Modric was looking to tease England into a foul on the edge of the box.

      105 mins: Croatia 1 England 1     

      Alli tries his level best to gather a wayward pass from Harry Kane. Cannot. Two minutes added to this period.

      Perisic down the left. England have men back, well organised. He slips it to Kramaric, whose shot is charged down. Played back in, Modric tries the spectacular but gets it all wrong.

      Suddenly an opening! Perisic down the left, Mandzukic has got the beating of Stones, he slides in to get it… and Pickford has thrown himself in the way. He’s absolutely clattered Mandzukic, who is a big strong boy. Pickford is totally fine. Nails.

      103 mins: Croatia 1 England 1       

      England look fitter and more likely since ET started. Here is Maguire, to Rose. Lovren clears. Croatia look puffed out. They need every foul, ever whistle. Rakitic has a lie down after a mild brush with Kane.

      100 mins: Croatia 1 England 1      

      Vrsaljko with a powerful bursting run. Rashford has tracked him all the way. Fouled him. Or at least, that’s how the ref saw it. Not so sure myself.

      Headed half clear. Kramaric has come on. Modric, believe it or not, scuffs a pass and a handy move breaks down.

      98 mins: Croatia 1 England 1     

      Trippier with the corner. Stones!! Meets it perfectly. Great header… is it going in? No!

      Vrsaljko saves the day


      Credit:
      ITV 

      It’s headed off the line by Vrsaljko. Oh my days. 

      96 mins: Croatia 1 England 1    

      Rose looks whizzy! His pace threatening, cuts inside, England get the break of the ball. Dier hits it. Deflected behind for a corner.

      96 mins: Croatia 1 England 1   

      Dier on. Henderson off.

      95 mins: Croatia 1 England 1   

      Rose with an electric surge down the middle – hacked down. A freekick, central, 40 yards out.

      Eng free

      Ball aimed at Maguire. Foul goes in Croatia’s favour.

      93 mins: Croatia 1 England 1  

      Looks like they are making one now, though. Strinic is limping off. Pivaric is the man coming on.

      91 mins: Croatia 1 England 1 

      Alli and Lingard have the ball in a decent area but Croatia have loads back. Still anybody’s game but you have to say that Croatia look a bit more…. sophisticated? Experienced? No changes yet for them. But might the trade off be fatigue?

      England have not had a shot on target since the goal!

      91 mins: Croatia 1 England 1

      England have an early chance to play it around, hopefully get a handle on the situation.

      Broadway Danny Rose is on for Ashley Young.

      Gareth Southgate had plenty to think about after 90 mins

      Gareth Southgate had plenty to think about after 90 mins

      Credit:
      Getty

      Can Gareth inspire the lads?

      England are not able to stop the crosses coming in. Walker has been given a tough time.

      Gareth rallies the troops

      Gareth rallies the troops

      Credit:
      ITV

      Roy Keane: „We praised England before the game about their composure and energy but that has gone out of the window. This is the old England.“

      Analysis

      England are lucky to still be in this, in one sense. Croatia were having it away there. That said, the Croatian defence has plenty of weaknesses too. Both managers have plenty of cards left to play.

      End of normal time: Croatia 1 England 1

      Strinic, to Perisic… Walker with a timely intervention. And that is the end of 90 minutes!

      Raheem Sterling has had Dejan Lovren on toast in the first half

      Raheem Sterling had Dejan Lovren on toast in the first half but was subbed off in the second

      Credit:
      AP

      90 mins: Croatia 1 England 1              

      Lovely feet from Rashford as he gets Trippier’s throw. Chopped down by Rakitic. Freekick in an ideal spot.

      Trippier delivers on 90 mins

      Trippier delivers on 90 mins

      Credit:
      ITV

      Decent opportunity for Harry Kane! But he muffs the header. Shame. Not at his sharpest tonight. 

      89 mins: Croatia 1 England 1             

      89 on the clock and the Croats passing it around ominously. England cannot get a look in. Lucky for them, the sub-standard Lovren gets involved, and donkeys it over the bar. Row ZZ.

      3 minutes added.

      88 mins: Croatia 1 England 1            

      Mandzukic, classy touch, opens it up for Rebic, whose pass is…. appalling.

      87 mins: Croatia 1 England 1           

      You cannot fault the English heart. They are giving everything. Lingard fighting like a tiger to get the ball from Strinic.

      86 mins: Croatia 1 England 1          

      Oooh! Alli to Kane, tries to find Lingard… so close from spinning away from his man and onto the ball.

      84 mins: Croatia 1 England 1         

      Pickford fails to deal with a lofted ball. Flaps. Perisic! He cannot loft it into the vulnerable net.

      82 mins: Croatia 1 England 1        

      Mandzukic is starting to make his presence felt. Excellent control and a shot when Brozovic picks him out. Straight at Pickford.

      England look rattled and like they need someone to put their foot on the ball.

      81 mins: Croatia 1 England 1       

      Rakitic, good battling, frees Perisic. Nobody there for his cross.

      79 mins: Croatia 1 England 1      

      It is nervy stuff. My goodness. England make a huge production of clearing, Kieran Trippier tries a backpass, no look. Eeek. Maguire comes to his rescues but then himself plays Pickford into trouble. Pickford tries to clear and so nearly picks out a Croatian. Comedy of errors stuff.

      79 mins: Croatia 1 England 1     

      Better from England after a horrible period. Alli runs and tries a nice through ball, Rashford is a foot away from taking it in his stride.

      Croatia are far from convincing at the back.

      77 mins: Croatia 1 England 1    

      Lingard though can hit on the break, he shows good pace, gets to the byline, and crosses tempting across the goal.

      Rashford has made a difference. Kane and Rashford link, it’s back to Henderson, who cannot produce a decent shot.

      75 mins: Croatia 1 England 1   

      It’s frantic now, and it’s England who are on the wrong end of it. Different match now that those wingers switched. 

      74 mins: Croatia 1 England 1  

      Sterling off. Rashford comes on and is soon making fine progress down the left. He crosses but Croatia have the numbers back.

      73 mins: Croatia 1 England 1 

      England are getting pumped now. Corner. Vrsaljko crosses. Brozovic lashes it from outside the box.

      71 mins: Croatia 1 England 1

      The post comes to England’s rescue. England fail to clear, Stones shoulda whacked it. Perisic has got free again down the left side, he’s cracked a shot and Pickford is well beaten. It hits Pickford’s left hand post. It bounces quickly back to Rebic whose shot is tame and straight at the grateful Pickford. 

      GOAL! Croatia 1 England 1 (Perisic 68)

      Ah, shame. It was a quality goal. An excellent cross from the right. Perisic has got his foot up very high, head height really, and he just manages to nick the ball off Walker’s head. Pickford no chance.

      The switch of wingers did the trick. Perisic has beasted Walker there 🙁

      England have reasonable claims that could have been a free for dangerous play I guess.

      64 mins: Croatia 0 England 1                

      Modric comes deep to take it from Brosovic, one-two. Luka Modric continues his run. Into the area, and it drops for Perisic. He hits a ferocious shot that hits Walker in what football commentators like to delicately refer to as… his penis and testicles. He did not enjoy that very much. Needs the trainer on and helped to his feet.

      62mins: Croatia 0 England 1               

      England enjoying a better spell again. Henderson sends Sterling through. He’s down in the area. Dive? Push? Tackle? Slip? Really hard to tell: Vida, I think, tackled him fairly. Minimal protests.

      59 mins: Croatia 0 England 1              

      Trippier hacks clear, slices it behind for a corner. Pickford comes with a fine punch. Alli and Kane go over to back up their mate Lingard, who is pushed by Lovren. A minor miracle that Lovren has not been booked yet.

      57 mins: Croatia 0 England 1             

      Pressure, pressure. England are under it.

      55 mins: Croatia 0 England 1            

      Lingard tries his luck, there’s a deflection. Corner. Cleared. But it’s out to Trippier on the right and he hits a superb first-time cross into the area. This lad has been a REVELATION! What technique. A super clearance by Lovren just denies Sir Harry Kane.

      53 mins: Croatia 0 England 1           

      Tell you who is booked though: Walker. He stopped Croatia taking a quick throw.

      The game has become niggly, fractious. England just need to focus in here. A sense of persecution might not be to their advantage. Beat them with pace, don’t get drawn in.

      50 mins: Croatia 0 England 1          

      Rebic sends a hopeful freekick over looking for Perisic. It drifts out.

      Low on quality so far, this half. Kane gets down the left and is barged to the ground by Vrsaljko. No booking.

      49 mins: Croatia 0 England 1         

      Now it is Mandzukic’s turn to go in the book, for punching the ball away childishly. Alli plays a careful, measured, slide rule pass to… nobody.

      Gareth on his feet, clapping his hands, urging the guys on.

      49 mins: Croatia 0 England 1        

      England yet to put together much in this half. They just need a settler. I could do with one myself. 

      46 mins: Croatia 0 England 1       

      Strinic and Rebic making some good headway down the England left. A vaguely nervy start for England. The Croatia wingers Rebic and Persic have swapped sides. 

      Rebic soon settles into his new home on the left by whacking Trippier in the mush as they got up for a header. A booking.

      That foul early on

      Luka Modric with the foul on Dele Alli that gave Trippier a freekick chance

      Luka Modric with the foul on Dele Alli that gave Trippier a freekick chance

      Credit:
      Getty

      Harry’s agonising closeness

      England's Harry Kane shoots at goal

      Kane will be mortified not to have finished this, but the goalie dived back brilliantly

      Credit:
      Reuters

      I might have been harsh on Lovren

      Maybe there is a bit of contact from Maguire.

      Magiure

      Does Maguire haul down Lovren? But frankly who cares

      Credit:
      ITV

      Beer boyz

      Not for me, this. Still, if people are happy then great. 

      Analysis: England have been the better side

      They’ve been quicker, bolder and more exciting. They have had the more useful chances. Kane could have made it two apart from a fine double save. Sterling is roasting the centre backs.

      All that said, Croatia have been coming into it more and more and have very dangerous players. Modric probing, and those two powerful, strong wingers cutting inside. This is far, far from over.

      Half time: Croatia 0 England 1

      Superb from England.

      Dejan Lovren is behaving like an absolute chop. Shoved Kane in the stomach and Sterling in the throat, then had a bit of a lie down in the England box because Maguire breathed on him.

      You need a good dastardly foreigner in an England World Cup match, and the Liverpool man has stuck his hand up.

      44 mins: Croatia 0 England 1      

      But out of nowhere, England play themselves into trouble. An underhit back pass from Maguire, Pickford tries to hack clear with Walker chaperoning, finds only a Croatian, Perisic. England just about have enough to close it down…

      … England make a foul soon after, though.

      Modric freekick in. Half cleared. Modric picks it up… superb covering and tackle from Henderson. Wait. Lovren fell over during that freekick and they are going to have a quick VAR.

      VAR finds nothing and rightly so. That is half time. 

      41 mins: Croatia 0 England 1     

      Croatia now taking the sting out. Slow play. At the back. Not a bad tactic for them, I think. If this is open and quick, England can get their tails up, enthusiasm of youth and all that.

      A classy, patient move ends with Vrsaljko smashing a foolish, ugly shot a mile over from 35 yards. Idiot.

      39 mins: Croatia 0 England 1    

      Nice little spell of possession here for the Croatians. Maguire looks like he has been fouled. Young has definitely been fouled! Rebic has clanged him from behind.

      36 mins: Croatia 0 England 1   

      „Did I just see that?“ asks Glenn Hoddle. „England centre backs playing it out from the back?!“ You did indeed Glenn. You must have done something good in a previous life.

      35 mins: Croatia 0 England 1  

      Kane slips it to Alli. He shows good composure to hold it up, and wait for Lingard to arrive. Lingard has time, he picks his spot, but he never looked really likely, and it’s a bit of a lame effort wide in the end.

      33 mins: Croatia 0 England 1 

      Croatia’s best spell. A break. Young slides in, does enough to put the man (Rebic) off. Croatia handball from the corner.

      Rebic dangerous.

      Waddle on the BBC: „Normally England do come off the pace after 30 minutes, and Croatia are just starting to come into the game.“

      32 mins: Croatia 0 England 1

      Danger here for England though. Cutting, clever move from Croatia. England’s backline divided by the dribbling of Modric, who lays it off. A shot from Rebic, from outside the area. Pickford gathers comfortably enough.

      30 mins: Croatia 0 England 1

      Harry Kane! Should have score. England pressure, he’s slipped through, just the keeper to beat. Sidefoots it. Keeper manages to get something on it, rebounds to Kane. He tries to shoot from a very narrow angle, it hits the keeper’s legs and onto the post.

      Kane clean through

      Kane clean through

      Credit:
      ITV

      29 mins: Croatia 0 England 1        

      Sterling. Down the right.  Croatia doubling up. They fear his pace. The game is open, England getting a chance to use their major open play weapon: running at pace.

      None of those celeb endorsements

      Hold a candle to this

      26 mins: Croatia 0 England 1       

      Lovren shoves Raheem in the throat. Okay, enough now. He should have been booked, the Liverpool centre half.

      24 mins: Croatia 0 England 1      

      England break in numbers. Trippier, Lingard, Alli, Sterling. This team is really exciting! Go on lads. They cannot quite find the ball that would open up a backtracking, rattled Croatia.

      23 mins: Croatia 0 England 1     

      Sterling’s pace is causing big problems. Not quite located the ‚composure‘ button yet.

      Strinic shoves Trippier to the ground.

      20 mins: Croatia 0 England 1    

      Lovren has shoved Kane, hard, in the solar plexus. That could have been a booking, no? Anyway, a short freekick. The ball through to Subasic. And now the Croatian goalie has had a total episode! He gives the ball to Strinic, a proper hospital pass, the defender has lost it to Sterling, who slips it through to unmarked Kane…. he is well offside.

      19 mins: Croatia 0 England 1   

      Perisic stops Trippier with a sore tackle. Perisic cuts in from the flank and fires a low shot just wide. Croatia starting to get into this, their attackers starting to find one or two gaps in between the English lines.

      17 mins: Croatia 0 England 1  

      England fans brave enough to boo the link up and passing play of Modric and Rakitic, the latter playing the ball out as he tries to find the overlapping Vrsaljko.

      Croatia are rocking and reeling here. England look quicker, sharper, younger, hungrier. They look very dangerous from set pieces. Croatia’s classy passers not able to dictate.

      13 mins: Croatia 0 England 1 

      England with a quick, bright move, they get the break of the ball. Alli looks up, and plays it out to the right. A despairing Croatian interception, and England have another corner. This time from the right.

      Maguire! Gets up really well again, and heads it back across the goal. Wide of the post.

      Here’s the goal celebration.

      Kieran Trippier is mobbed

      Kieran Trippier is mobbed

      Credit:
      AFP

      11 mins: Croatia 0 England 1

      Young has a corner for England. Here’s the Love Train! Maguire meets it with his giant tellyheid but nods it over.

      8 mins: Croatia 0 England 1

      Croatia dust themselves down. Young, under pressure, concedes a corner. 

      And England come on the break from that. 

      A glistening factoid: „Kieran Trippier is the first number 12 to score this World Cup. This is the first time since the introduction of 23-man squads at the WC (2002) that all 23 shirt numbers have scored at least once (this includes own goals).“

      GOAL! Trippier! Croatia 0 England 1 (Trippier 5)

      It’s a glorious curling, dipping freekick, over the wall and just arcing beautifully into the goal. What a strike from Kieran Trippier!

      Kieran Trippier of England scores past Danijel Subasic of Croatia

      Kieran Trippier of England scores past Danijel Subasic of Croatia

      Credit:
      Getty

      Just a lovely strike.

      Croatia waste no time in coming back at England. Rebic plays it into the Whites‘ box.

      Trippier lines it up…

      Trippier


      Credit:
      ITV

      3 mins: Croatia 0 England 0

      Modric, that notorious chopper, has brought down Alli on the edge of the box!

      2 mins: Croatia 0 England 0 

      Pickford hits it long, looking for Young. Throw in. Henderson and Stones sandwich Mandzukic. Ref blows again.

      Have we got a fusspot ref on our hands?

      1 mins: Croatia 0 England 0

      England, all in white, kick off. But it is Croatia who are having first use of the ball after Henderson fouls Rakitic.

      Croatia play it around at the back. Lingard harasses a defender, and the ref just tells him to chill a bit.

      The teams

      Croatia: Subasic, Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic, Rakitic,  Brozovic, Rebic, Modric, Perisic, Mandzukic. Subs: Livakovic,  Corluka, Kovacic, Kramaric, Jedvaj, Bradaric, Caleta-Car,  Badelj, Pjaca, Pivaric, Lovre Kalinic.

      England: Pickford, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Trippier, Alli,  Henderson, Lingard, Young, Sterling, Kane. Subs: Butland, Rose,  Dier, Vardy, Welbeck, Cahill, Jones, Delph, Rashford,  Loftus-Cheek, Alexander-Arnold, Pope. 

      Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey) 

      England's players inspect, England's fans expect

      England’s players inspect, England’s fans expect

      Credit:
      Reuters

      Croatia

      Croatia

      Croatia XI

      Credit:
      ITV

      England team

      England vs Croatia

      England vs Croatia

      Credit:
      ITV

      Come on England!

      England belt out their anthem

      England belt out their anthem

      Credit:
      ITV

      Anthems: Croatia first

      Their lads belting it out. Wee Modric there.

      Croatia team anthem

      Croatia team anthem

      Credit:
      ITV

      Where does it rank? 

      The teams walk out

      The White Stripes plays. Jack White builds a new yacht on his yacht.

      The final will be here as well

      by the way. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

      The Duke of Cambridge has the final good luck message

      „Guys you have had an amazing tournament. Good luck tonight. It’s coming home. Come on England!“

      The Duke of Cambridge wishes the team well

      The Duke of Cambridge wishes the team well

      Credit:
      ITV

      Lightning Seeds in Hyde Park

      Playing a certain hit.

      Scenes in Hyde Park

      Scenes in Hyde Park

      „We are younger, fitter, quicker,“ says Gary Neville of England vs Croatia.

      Go’orn Harry!

      and also other Harry

      It’s true. It’s also workplace bullying. But it’s true.

      Gareth Southgate

      „Mood is no different. This is the next game. We have prepared in the same way ever time.

      „We have the same time but the options to change it from the bench.

      „They have some excellent attacking players and great spirit. We have to be mentally strong.

      „I will emphasise that we are in it. Trust ourselves. I think Bobby would tell me to enjoy it. This is a privilege to lead your team into this.“

      Gareth

      Gareth

      Credit:
      ITV

       Has he been able to block out all the expectation – Ian Wright says that he’s unable to function he‘ (Wright) is so excited.

      „Well, I can block Wrighty out!“ jokes Gareth.

      Do follow the game on our Whatsapp

      if you fancy.

      It’s a Yes from me. Hopefully.

      Cowell offering his support

      Cowell offering his support

      Credit:
      ITV

      Seema J is a-roving

      Seema Jaswal

      Seema Jaswal

      Credit:
      ITV

      Current mood: It is coming home. 

      What about where you are? Is it coming home? 

      England play in (their first-choice) white

      Croatia are in their change black strip.

      Roy Keane

      „They seem like they are a team. In the past, the England teams, always seemed like there was cliques.“

      Gary Neville: „England teams have tended to panic when behind, or sit back when in front. But this team have stuck to their approach“

      Let’s hope we see more of this later

      Gareth Southgate


      Credit:
      ITV

      Fifa seem to think it’s the 4-2-3-1 for CRO

      England have got a real job on their hands with that midfield. That said, I think Lovren has got an error in him. Who knows if the right back is fully fit. It looks a very good team, on paper.

      Oh boy I HATE that. 

      Rumsby with the sock story

      Here is how the England players got on last time out

      So true, this…

      Rio’s in

      Super Slav

      „It is a big night for us, it is a big night for you.“

      Jacqui, Giggsy, Bilicy

      Jacqui, Giggsy, Bilicy

      Credit:
      ITV

      Giggseh: „I am looking forward to seeing Manzukic coming up against Tripper and especially Walker. I don’t think he has faced a top class centre forward yet, Walker.“

      Sir Mick!

      Jagger

      Hanging around Saint Petersburg

      Credit:
      ITV

      Croatia side

      Croatia

      Croatia XI

      Credit:
      ITV

      They leave out Kramaric for Brosovic. Brosovic is a holding player. He could sit behind Modric and Rakitic, or he could partner Rakitic and allow Modric to play as a number ten.

      England expected formation

      England vs Croatia

      England vs Croatia

      Credit:
      ITV

      The teams

      John Barnes

      Doing the rap from World in Motion, spoken word stylee.

      John Barnes

      John Barnes

      Credit:
      ITV

      Mark Pougatch

      „Good evening. This is a lovely surprise, isn’t it?“

      One hour until kick-off

      And here’s ITV’s coverage from Moscow.

      Big news for Croatia: Vrsaljko is in

      Their talented right wing-back is fit to take his place.

      Croatia: Subasic, Vrsaljko, Strinic, Vida, Perisic, Lovren, Rakitic, Modric, Brozovic, Mandzukic, Rebic.

      England are unchanged

      England: Pickford, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Lingard, Henderson, Sterling, Trippier, Young, Alli, Kane. 

      Fans

      Croatia fans walk through a crowd of England supporters

      Croatia fans walk through a crowd of England supporters

      Credit:
      Reuters

      Is that a Napoleon hat?

      A fan of England inside the stadium before the FIFA World Cup, Semi Final match at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow. 

      England fan at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow. 

      Credit:
      PA

      That’s not a very good omen, is it? For a mission in Russia I mean.

      Telegraph football writer Luke Edwards

      had draped himself in a St George cross, he’s covered in facepaint, he’s literally certain that it is coming home.

      Do not be ashamed. Do not fight it. Do not be embarrassed. This is a day for being proud to be English

      What is a Croatia?

      In the capital?

      Here comes the boys

      Tactics boffin JJ Bull

      (who, it feels significant to point out, is not an English person) here looks at the hype, myth and reality of Raheem Sterling. What is it that he actually does for the England team?

      Raheem Sterling has been one of England’s key players this World Cup. Quite a lot of people (on the internet) don’t seem to think so and, as has become depressingly usual, many sections of the media haven’t really helped.

      Off-the-pitch nonsense has meshed with missed scoring chances to form a narrative in which ‚Sterling is rubbish‘

      In reality, Sterling has done a heap of work off the ball that allows others to benefit. Intelligent movement, quick running, pulling defenders all over the place – the team is much better with him in it.

      That said, there is no denying that he is not a natural finisher and despite the sweeping tides of both anti-Sterling and anti-anti-Sterling sentiment, we might do well to take a middle road.

      So, is Sterling bad or good? What does he actually do for England?

      Have you played our VAR game yet?

      Very cool. You get to watch football incidents and then work out if you could make the decisions based on Video Assistant Referee technology. 

      CONTENT ADVISORY: Features people from Yorkshire being pleased with themselves

      Nevertheless, if you have the appetite for it, here is a piece about how Yorkshire is providing the engine room for the England football team.

      Yorkshire wins the World Cup… why does God’s Own County produce so many sporting greats?

        Dressing room sneak peek

        The great Jim White writes

        Yes Clive!

        I hope Andy is watching this somewhere nice.

        This here is the Croatian president

        Croatia President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic offering a Croatia national football team jersey to US President Donald Trump at the NATO headquarters in Brussels

        Croatia President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic offering a Croatia national football team jersey to US President Donald Trump at the NATO headquarters in Brussels

        Credit:
        AFP/Getty

        If that doesn’t make you want England to win then nothing will. 

        This. Stop what you’re doing and read this

        M‚coll JJ Bull has done this tactical preview about the match: the key battlegrounds, the tactical shapes, the players to watch out for on the Croatia side. It is SO good. Have a read here, you will not be sorry.

        Gareth Southgate sings ‚Three Lions‘

        Is there nothing that he cannot do?

        Disclaimer: we had to give him a bit of  a hand…

        If you have already bunked off

        work/college/school, then hats off to you. Hope you have a brilliant evening. Where are you watching?

        Here’s how social media might have seen Italia 90

        Semi-final success: it can be done!

        But the semi most of us remember, of course, was West Germany 1p England 1 in Italia 1990. I spent most of yesterday rewatching the BBC coverage of that.

        Read:  An alarmingly deep dive into the TV coverage of England’s last World Cup semi-final here.

        How are you feeling?

        Nervous? Excited? Already loudly singing „It’s Coming Home“? England play Croatia in the World Cup semi-final at 7pm and, bizarre though it feels to type that, I have checked it thoroughly and the results are in: Gareth Southgate’s team are one match away from the World Cup final. In the next couple of hours, I will bring you all the build up and the team news: we expect we know what the England team will be. Harry Kane, Harry Maguire, Jordan Henderson and company.

        Few more problems for the Croatian side to sort out, they are sweating on the fitness of their full-back Sime Vrsaljko. He’s vital to their system and gives an injection of pace and attacking threat down the right. England’s left wing-back Ashley Young, who has had a really good tournament in many ways (not least his vital set-pieces), can be got at defensively. That feels like an important fitness test, to me.

        In the centre of their midfield, Croatia have their two aces: Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic. They’re both as good as anything in Russia: Modric with his darting raids, Rakitic with his vision and passing. England have their work cut out for them in the middle of the pitch.

        Where England are strong is at set plays, and with pacy runners coming from deep. Raheem Sterling, Jesse Lingard, Dele Alli could unsettle the Croatians. There has been a lot of speculation as to whether Croatia will be fatigued from having to play two 120-mins + penalties. England have had one, when they finally broke their shootout hoodoo against Colombia, and then a relatively easy passage against Sweden in 90 minutes.

        I personally fancy England to win, but Croatia represent a step up from anything they have faced so far. Let me know what you reckon at the bottom of the blog, or do a tweet at me @alantyers, because we would love to hear how everyone else reckons this could go.

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