Thursday, 19 July, 2018

Zagreb erupts into wild celebrations after Croatia reaches World Cup final

Steve McClaren's England failed to reach Euro 2008 with defeat to Croatia Steve McClaren's England failed to reach Euro 2008 with defeat to Croatia
Cassandra Gardner | 13 July, 2018, 04:55

It was no surprise that Croatia cavorted on the pitch in celebration with fans and family long after beating England in the semi-finals of the World Cup on Wednesday night, but a wiser head might have ushered them quietly to ice bath and bed.

Indeed, after getting to the tournament's final four, after reversing a awful penalty shootout history, in its round-of-16 win over Colombia, there's a sense of optimism in England about this young, talented and appealing team.

Kyle Walker believes England "brought the nation together" by reaching the World Cup semi-finals and proved their critics wrong in the process, with the Manchester City defender singling out Gareth Southgate as the man who deserves the credit for transforming the fortunes of a team that had been pilloried after losing against Iceland two years earlier.

"I can't ask any more of them than what the players and staff have given".

"We deserved the victory", said match-winner Mandzukic.

Trippier's curling fifth-minute free-kick was his first worldwide goal, a prominent example of the quality of his delivery that has given rise to the "Bury Beckham" moniker, because he was born in Bury near Manchester.

Croatia were a different team after the break, dominating play and looking the better side.

But Croatia, in their first semi since 1998, levelled through Ivan Perisic after 68 minutes and then looked the more unsafe side.

After Croatia jumped ahead in extra time, the entire Croatian outfield squad left the field to celebrate.

It begins at the start of next season with England and Croatia finding themselves in the same group, alongside Spain.

Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic scored the victor in the 109th minute, sweeping home a left-foot shot after England had allowed him too much space in the penalty box.

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"By the end several players were out on their feet and we were down to 10".

"We were planning to leave, but now we have to stay until Monday", said Sinisa Pavlek, a Croatian living in Germany as he emerged from the stadium with a broad smile on his face.

"It hurts, it hurts a lot".

Croatia have been taken to penalties twice in the knockout stages and again had to endure extra time against England. It's been a fantastic journey. I thought they played well and made it hard for us.

"It's been great to get to this stage and we know we've done everyone proud but we wanted to go on and win it".

"The more of these tests we can come through, the better, not just for now, but moving forward". "We can mix our sadness that they fell short with a genuine hope that this summer of love under a manager who has surpassed all expectations was more than just a quick fling".

France, who boast a powerful mix of youth and experience, will start favourites when they play the third World Cup final in their history after they beat Belgium 1-0 in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday, sparking jubilant scenes in Paris.

Harry Kane looks set to claim the Golden Boot as the World Cup´s leading scorer, but the Tottenham star rarely looked like adding to his six goals against Croatia.

In delirious scenes in Paris, fans let off fire crackers and released smoke flares.

On Sunday they will play the biggest match of their lives against a France side bursting with youth and vigour.

"We are deservedly in the final", Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said.

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