120+3 — Pivaric with a head scratcher
Rather than kill time in the left corner, Pivaric tries a cross Pickford catches easily. England push forward. Alli has one cross blocked by Badelj, but a second one is whistled for a hand ball. The ball is 35 yards out just to the left of the D. Rashford is over it as Croatia has all but one player in the penalty area.
His chip is successfully intercepted, Rakitic clears it out and Cakir blows his whistle! Croatia is through to its first final!
120+1 — Croatia burn some time and Rakitic and Alli get into it
Now it’s all out there. Rakitic fouls Alli and the two come nose-to-nose when England try a quick restart. A long belter of a forward pass is caught comfortably by Subasic. The ball gets pinged around and Vardy fells Rakitic as the pair go up on a 50/50 ball in midfield.
120+1 — Four minutes of injury time!
120 — Kramaric goes wide
Oh and there was a chance for Croatia as Kramaric had a chance, but he put it into the side netting on the irght. He also had Perisic all by his lonesome on the left.
118 — Croatia sub — Badelj for Modric
Dalic burns his last sub as he brings in Badelj to reinforce the midfield as the talisman Modric makes way. England is still with 10 men as Trippier is finally at the England bench.
117 — England free kick
England have a free kick from 30 yards on the left, and it looks like Rashford is going to take it as both Trippier and Young are unavailable. Everyone save Modric is in the penalty box, and as Maguire gets slightly undercut by Corluka, the ball goes out of bounds. Goal kick Croatia despite the protestations of the Three Lions.
116 — Trippier also hurt
With no substitutions, Trippier looks like he cannot go on due to a groin injury. England is down to 10 men. Pivaric curled a 25-yard shot right at Pickford, but it’s clear Trippier is done as England’s training staff are helping him to the bench.
114 — Croatia win a corner
Croatia is trying to kill off the match and Kramaric carries the ball forward. His shot is deflected and spins over the line for a corner, and Mandzukic drops to the pitch again. Dalic makes his third switch, pulling off the potential hero of a nation for defender Verdan Corluka as the Vatreni are now in bunker mode.
113 — England pour forward
Rashford had a cross from the left snuffed out by Lovren and cleared only as far as Kane at the top of the penalty area. Modric, though, appears to have found his second wind and spirited it away from Kane before clearing it down the field. Mandzukic went down and no one cared since it was not a head injury as England again tried to find something but to no avail.
112 — Vardy the last roll of the dice
It’s already squeaky bum time as Southgate’s final roll of the dice is Jamie Vardy for Kyle Walker. It’s all or nothing for England.
110 — What does England have left
It’s a huge gut punch for the young Three Lions, who have 10 minutes to find an equalizer. Stones had a brief lapse in letting Mandzukic get behind him, and it could prove fatal.
109 — MANDZUKIC SCORES FOR CROATIA!
It may have been coming, but Croatia is ahead through Mandzukic. A clearance by Walker gets popped into the air, and Perisic nods it forward on the left. Mandzukic flies in behind Stones and he rifles a left-footed shot from the six-yard box across Pickford and into the right side of the net. 2-1 Croatia!
106 — Pickford slices a clearance
It’s the little things sometimes. Croatia gets a throw-in when Pickford slices a back pass over the right sideline. The Vatreni have possession, calmly looking for a lane, and Perisic’s pass for Pivaric is deflected over for a corner.
Rakitic played it quick and rolled it for Brozovic, but he’s unable to get it across his body and goes wide of the left post from 10 yards. Cunning play with no result by Croatia.
106 — Fifteen minutes to settle it
Will it go to penalties (again)?
AET 2 — Croatia has two subs left, England has one
105+2 — What a save by Pickford!
Pickford has come up with a monstrous save at an absolute vital moment. Croatia again poured forward from the left with Perisic whipping in a dangerous cross. Mandzukic got his right foot onto it, but Pickford made enough contact with his right thigh to send it over the bar before flattening the Croatia striker.
Modric plays a short corner, but it fails to amount to anything as Cakir blows his whistle to end the first 15 minutes.
105+1 — Dier with a vital block
Croatia launches a counter that sees Perisic take off down the left flank. He carries into the penalty area and has the patience to wait for Kramaric, but his first-timed shot from the top of the box on the left is blocked by Dier.
105 — Kane gets too ambitious
Rose does well to clear the ball off the right sideline, and the ball gets to Kane. He has both Rashford and Alli going forward, but his attempt to pick out Alli is too ambitious and sails over his Spurs teammates head.
104 — England more calm
Compares to the last half-hour of regulation, England has been far more composed and has controlled the action in this first extra period. Rose has been a threat on the left side, but the Vatreni have been able to get their defense back in numbers to prevent anyone from England latching on to those crosses.
101 — Croatia wins a free kick
The far linesman misses a second ball that should have gone England’s way as Vida was adjudged to have kept it from going out. The Vatreni play it forward, and a reverse-pitch pass goes to Vrsajlko, who has space to pour forward. He’s cut down by Rashford, leading to a free kick. Modric tries a short pass to Rakitic, whose cross is blocked by Rose, who drops from the impact. Modric, though, ends the movement when he’s caught in two minds and accidentally touches it to England’s defense.
98 — England win corner, Vrsajlko saves the day for Croatia!
Alli does well to maintain possession at midfield and plays it left to Rose. The ball works its way back into the midfield, where a shot is deflected over the bar for a corner on the right. Trippier sends it in, and Stones has a beautiful 10-yard header cleared away in equally excellent fashion by Vrsajlko, who denied a sure go-ahead goal for the Three Lions.
96 — Rebic gets a yellow, Dier enters for Henderson
Rebic goes into the book with a tacitcal foul on Rose as a poor giveaway in midfield nearly sent England tearing into the Croatia half. England’s free kick is almost exactly in the middle between the midfield line and goal. Trippier tried to pick out Maguire, who was well-covered as he sent his header over the bar.
Dier is now England’s third sub, replenishing the central midfield as Henderson makes way. The Three Lions have one sub left. Croatia has yet to have any substantial possession in the first extra period.
93 — Alli with a half-chance, Croatia sub — Pivaric in, Strinic out
Alli may have done himself a disservice trying to pick out Lingard with a lateral pass rather than have a go from 20 yards as it’s cleared away by Croatia. The Vatreni are going to make their first switch as left back Strinic appears to have strained a groin muscle and will be replaced by Pivaric.
Pivaric, as you may recall, committed the handball infraction that led to Russia’s equalizer in the 115th minute in the quarterfinals.
AET1 — England sub 1 (Rose in, Young out)
Southgate burns his first sub right before the restart as Danny Rose enters for Ashley Young. Cakir has blown his whistle to start the first 15-minute period. The linesman missed a corner for England, giving the Three Lions a throw-in. They had possession for the first 60 seconds before losing the ball. Croatia looks like it’s trying to recoup some energy at the moment and is ceding possession to England in non-threatening areas.
How does England cope? Croatia bossed most of the match over the final half-hour but has been susceptible on the counter through the middle. Much to ponder in the break before the restart.
So for the third straight match, the Vatreni are playing extra time, while England is doing so for the second time in three matches. Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic did not use any substitutes in the first 90 minutes, so he has four at his disposal, while England counterpart Gareth Southgate has three after bringing on Rashford for Sterling.
90+3 — Only three minutes of stoppage time
It may go to a fourth after that free kick. Croatia kicks it about, and Perisic has it on the left, but Walker does well to shut it down with a clearance, Cakir blows his whistle, and it’s another half-hour of football!
90+1 — England wins a free kick!
Oh now we have drama! Rakitic fouls Rashford in a dangerous spot, about 30 yards from goal in the right channel. Trippier the goal-scorer bends it in, and Kane gets to it, but his downward header is more down than forward and it goes wide of the left post.
90 — Why Lovren why?
Croatia had England hemmed in its own third, working the ball patiently, and Lovren ruined it by needlessly firing over the bar from 30 yards. Hero football at its finest.
88 — Croatia sloppy in possession
Rebic should have done better after being played forward on a nice backheel by Perisic on the left, but his cross is severely overcooked and goes out for an England throw-in.
87 — Kane the playmaker
England are creating nervous moments with its passing, but no one is getting in position to shoot. Kane was the most recent one as he sent in a cross that Lingard pulled up on before Vida let it roll over for a Croatia goal kick.
86 — Perisic is everywhere
The Croatian midfielder is bustling all over the pitch, carrying the ball, breaking up passes. He’s unable to get to a reverse-pitch pass from Strinic, however, as the ball goes out for an England throw-in.
82 — Croatia coming in waves
Croatia is showing its tacitcal nous now as Rakitic, Perisic and Modric are influencing this match. Mandzukic was able to get a shot on target Pickford parried. The ball quickly was recycled back into England’s end, and now it’s Pickford with a nervy moment as his punch only goes as far as Perisic, whose chip had too much pace and sailed over the bar from the left.
81 — Walker again creates anxiety
Walker makes a second nervy backpass as Perisic bears down on Pickford before he belts it upfield. The first bad pass was by Tripper, and Perisic was thisclose to getting a touch to it.
80 — Rashford has a moment of naivete
Rashford should have done better latching onto a through ball by Alli on the right side of the penalty area, but his half-second pause was enough to let it skid over the end line for a Croatia kick. England is trying to wrest control back, but Croatia is still showing plenry of fight, but more importantly, getting wide to create chaos.
78 — England cross goes begging
The Three Lions nearly create something from thin air as Lingard carries into the penalty area but fizzes a cross unanswered. England regain possession and cycle the ball to Henderson. His initial pass is headed right back at him and the Liverpool man fires over the bar. Crackling stuff.
77 — Croatia’s comeback kids
It’s the third straight match Croatia has rallied to pull even, though this time the Vatreni took a little longer in finding it. They needed three minutes versus Denmark, eight minutes versus Russia and 63 versus England.
75 — England trying to regroup
After about three minutes of hyperventilating, England is kicking it about right now trying to get some composure, but the ball goes out for a Croatia throw-in. The Vatreni cycle possession and work it wide to Vrsajlko, who sends it into Rebic in the penalty area. His cross for Rakitic gets snuffed out. Croatia is in the ascendancy right now.
74 — ENGLAND SUB 1 — Rashford in, Sterling out
Southgate makes his a like-for-like switch as Rashford enters for Sterling, who did yeoman’s work stretching Croatia’s defense.
72 — CROATIA NEARLY TAKE THE LEAD
England is discombobulated at the moment as Croatia nearly take the lead through Perisic. Rebic’s hustle created a moment of confusion as a deflected ball found its way to Perisic. He carried into the penalty area and fired a left-footed shot across goal that rings the far post. The rebound comes to Rebic, who can only hit a soft 12-yard shot right at Pickford.
71 — GAME ON
England is trying to re-accelerate through its gears, and Kane’s forward cross trying to pick out Trippier at the right post is a bit too ambitious as Croatia gets a goal kick.
68 — CROATIA LEVEL THROUGH PERISIC!!
And there is the Vatreni equalizer! Rakitic sends a reverse-field pass to Vrsajlko, who curls a cross in from the right side. Perisic ghosted in behind Walker and got his right foot to it above Walker, who stooped for a header but went too low. Pickford didn’t have a chance, and it’s game on at 1-1!
67 — Kane has a tough angle
Kane has a go from a near-impossible angle as he touches it from his chest on the right side. He lets fly with a right-footed effort that rouses the side netting.
65 — Croatia has its best chance!
Croatia has its best chance to draw level in the match!! Modric sends a cross in from the right that Stones clears, but only as far as Rakitic at the top of the penalty area. Rakitic loads up a fierce right-footed blast that Walker sacrifices his body for and takes it right in the stomach. The Vatreni have their tails up.
63 — England trying to get forward
Sterling has backtracked into his own half on a few occasions to help the cause as England win a throw-in on the right. After a failed clearance, Henderson wins the ball on the sideline and sends Sterling through on the right. The Man City speedster gets around Vida, who recovers to make a timely challenge to help Subasic clear the ball away.
61 — Rakitic gets ambitious
Rakitic tries a speculative volley on Walker’s attempted clearance, but his left-footed effort is nowhere near target as England gets a goal kick.
59 — Croatia turing the screws
Croatia gets another corner as Walker miscues his clearance and sends it backward. Modric sends a dangerous ball into the mixer, but Pickford emphatically punches it clear. You also get the point Lovren is going to be given a yellow card because he’s riding a fine line between physical and thug-like with his shoves and fouls.
58 — Might be time for Dalic to ponder a switch
Mandzukic has been largely anonymous through the first hour of the match, and after a chipped pass leads to a Croatia turnover, it may be time for a switch.
56 — Lingard wins corner
Some quick Route One work wins England a corner as Kane plays it off to Sterling, who plays it off to Lingard. His 20-yard shot is deflected by Lovren over the bar for a corner. Trippier’s in-swinger from the right is cleared but not far enough as it gets cycled in for another cross by Trippier that is again cleared by Lovren as he gets a boot to it before Kane gets his head on it.
54 — Walker into the book
Now it’s time for Cakir to assert himself. Walker gets a yellow card for time-wasting, holding onto the ball after another slide tackle as Croatia tries for a quick restart. The Vatreni win a corner on the left, but Lovren is called for a foul in the penalty area. Goal kick England.
53 — Rebic overcooks cross for Perisic
Croatia has a good build-up that earns a throw-in from the left sideline after a good tackle by Walker. The ball finds its way to Rebic, but his cross for the far post trying to pick out Perisic goes well over the end line. Perisic, though, appreciates the gesture.
51 — Walker does well to wall off Rebic
England get a goal kick after Walker does well to shield Rebic from the ball as he tried chasing down a long pass from Croatia’s back line.
49 — Rebic is getting agitated
Rebic is desperate to make an impact on this match as he’s been Croatia’s best player so far. But after a pass from Strinic goes out on the left sideline, the frustration is palpable from the attacking winger.
48 — Mandzukic gets a yellow card
Cakir fishes into his pocket to finally brandish a yellow card, but it’s to Mandzukic for his dissent of a foul called on Rebic as he went up with Walker on a 50/50 ball. Little bit of ref show there.
46 — No subs
The same 11 are out for both sides. Of course, since Croatia has played 120 minutes in both its knockout victories, will fatigue be a factor for the Vatreni?
46 — Back to action
Cakir blows his whistle and we’re back to action in Moscow? Does Croatia has an equalizer? Does England find a second? Let’s find out!
HT — Croatia 0, England 1
Trippier’s moment of magic is the difference thus far, but England has definitely been the better team thus far. Sterling has been a pest to Vida with his pace, and the Three Lions were close on a pair of occasions to doubling their lead. Croatia has not found much success through its build-up as England has done well to keep the Vatreni narrow in attack.
Rebic has been Croatia’s best player thus far offensively, and that needs to change if Croatia is to find a way back into this contest.
45 — Walker nearly creates a disaster
Walker had a moment of indecision and it nearly cost England dearly as he played it back to Pickford under pressure. While Pickford cleared it, it went right to a Croatian player who got it ahead to Rakitic, who did a superb chest trap and tried to get into a better position to shoot, but Walker was able to snuff it out.
Croatia earned a free kick on the left, and while the danger was cleared, a late VAR consultation for a potential penalty on Maguire for holding Lovren does not warrant a chance from the spot. Cakir blows his whistle and it’s 1-0 England after 45 minutes.
43 — Vrsaljko goes into Row Z
Croatia is getting frustrated and starting to realize it must pour down the sides since crosses for Mandzukic from the middle are being cleared out with ease by Stones and Maguire. Vrasaljko tried a speculative effort from 30 yards that turned into a souvenire for someone at Luzhniki Stadium.
41 — Rebic cuts down Young
At some point, Cakir has to show a yellow card to prevent this match from getting really chippy. Rebic should have gone into the book for a cynical challenge from behind on Young as he carried up the left sideline. It was a senseless foul, and hopefully, it will be the last such foul Cakir lets go unpunished.
39 — Croatia being forced narrow
England is doing very well limiting both Strinic and Vrsajlko from getting into threatening positions out wide. While Rebic has shown the industry to create some opportunities on the right, the axis of Perisic, Rakitic and Modric really have not put their stamp on this match yet.
37 — Spurned chances
You get the sense England is more likely to add a second before Croatia can equalize, but as the spurned chances mount, you also get a sense the Vatreni could swing this match if they find a breakthrough.
36 — Ooohhh Lingard
Lingard is going to want that attempt back after Alli did well to find him wide open just above the penalty area. Sterling did well to go forward to keep that space open as Croatia’s defenders tried to shut down Alli, but Lingard snated at his shot, and his right-footed effort went wide of the right post.
34 — Croatia earns corner
The Vatreni are playing more direct, and this may be the way they get back into the match. A long ball that seemed too far was just far enough for Rebic, but Young tipped it away before the Croatia winger could tee up a shot from six yards on the right. Croatia played a short corner that failed to threaten.
32 — Rebic gets stoned
Modric has a spell on the ball, dancing into the penalty area and spinning out on the right. Rebic instinctively cuts towards goal and Modric finds him. A cross is blocked, but Rebic is able to get to the rebound and rip a left-footed shot Pickford stopped comfortably.
30 — Croatia 0, England 1, but Kane foiled on bid to add to the lead
It has been a better second 15 minutes for Croatia, but as soon as those words are typed, Kane has two glorious chances to double England’s lead. Lingard did well to control a pass and play Kane in one-on-one on the left, but Subasic got down quickly on the six-yard attempt. The Spurs forward got to the rebound, but banged it off both Subasic and the post as it then spun out over the end line.
28 — Pickford feeling it
England’s keeper has yet to be severely tested, but Pickford has continued his stellar distribution. After a back pass, he shows some footwork skills as Mandzukic draws near before belting it upfield.
27 — Sterling draws a foul
Sterling’s speed continues to cause problems, this time drawing a foul on Lovren as he chased a lost cause on the left sideline. Young’s free kick is from about 35 yards out. He curls it to the back post, but Subasic calmly gets a fist to it and sends it out for an England throw-in.
24 — Sterling continues to showcase speed
Sterling continues to make life miserable for Vida, twisting and turning the Croatia central defender as he tries to find that half-space with the ball to get around him. Nothing materializes as Subasic collects the ball, but still, Sterling is working hard enough you expect him to be rewarded at some point.
21 — Lovren flattens Kane
Croatia is starting to become more ambitious going forward, but England has had the answers so far as Stones blocks a shot and a low cross goes begging. Lovren should have been booked for a tactical foul on Kane, flattening him with both hands on his chest, but Cakir simply calls a foul. The Vatreni then had a ghastly giveaway, gifting Sterling the ball, but he played it ahead to Kane, who was clearly offsides.
20 — Trippier tries to shake off knock
Trippier was a little slow to get up from a challenge as he lost the ball on the right sideline. He’s up and back, but you can see the accumulation of nips and challenges take their toll here in match six.
18 — Croatia looking for answers
The Vatreni have yet to find space in the channels as both Young and Walker have done well to close off those routes. Croatia tried a reverse-pitch pass but Rakitic’s effort had too much pace for Vrsaljko. Modric was able to find Perisic, who was able to shuffle into a dangerous area and try a 20-yard shot on the left that skids wide of the near post.
16 — First quarter-hour, advantage England (1-0)
The first quarter-hour is in the book, and England has clearly been the better side. The Three Lions have been lively and also controlled possession with smart passes and attacking play. Full marks thus far.
14 — Another England corner
England performa a swift movement that starts with Young on the left. Alli carries it to the right and sends ahead to Trippier, whose cross is deflected by Perisic for another Three Lions corner. Trippier’s outswinger finds Maguire deep in the penalty area, but his diagonal header from 15 yards bounces wide of the right post.
12 — England corner
Another set piece for England, this time a corner on the left conceded by Brozovic. Young hits it well, but it’s rising when Maguire meets it at the far post, but old “Slab-head” sends it well over the bar.
11– Sterling continues to aggravate
While that statement can be taken for both teams, England is doing a good job letting Sterling unnerve Croatia’s back line with his pace, sending him through at every opportunity to try and stretch the Vatreni back line and then hoping to pounce on a poor pass or clearance.
8 – England concedes corner
Rakitic puts in a dangerous ball into the England mixer, and Young, covering the far post, traps it and lets it go over the end line for a corner that fails to threaten.
7 — England’s set piece magic continues
It’s the ninth goal England has scored off a set piece in Russia, accounting for 75 percent of its 12 goals. A truly wonderful strike by Trippier. Croatia tried to attack straightaway, but Pickford came out to corral a looping cross and fired a sidewinder to a streaking Sterling on the right. Vida hooked it to safety, but the throw-in gave Sterling another chance to hare in from the right, but Subasic came out to smother it.
4 – England with a free kick! AND A GOAL!
The first scoring chance of the match belongs to England after a foul by Modric on Alli gives a free kick just above the D staight on from 25 yards. Young, Maguire and Trippier are all line up, and now Maguire goes into the wall.
And it’s a dream start as Trippier hammers it into the upper right corner as Subasic has no clue about it until it’s way too late. Trippier put it right over Lovren’s head, curling it inside the right post. 1-0 ENGLAND!
3 – WORKING THE NERVES OUT
Both teams are getting the adrenaline rush out, kicking the ball about. Cakir has called a pair of fouls, one in each direction, though he did have a word with Lingard over a robust challenge.
1 — Cuneyt Cakir blows his whistle and we are underway in Moscow? Croatia, wearing black, is going from left to right on your TV screen while England, in its traditional all-whites, going from right to left.
WILL FATIGUE MATTER?
Much has been made of Croatia winning back-to-back shootouts, becoming the first team to accomplish the feat since Argentina in 1990, and the fatigue of playing consecutive 120-minute matches. It makes the first half-hour of the match important since England should have the legs to unleash a high press.
That said, I’ve always felt Croatia is like playing that annoying team on your lunch hour at the Y since it’s fundamentally sound and quick passing.
With England not changing anything (Ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?), Dalic bringing back Brozovic means he expects Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic to push forward and stretch the midfield. While England rightfully believes it can strike on the counter, Modric is not prone to sloppy passes that create such opportunities. But Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli will be influential players for England since they must help Jordan Henderson shut down those passing lanes.
I’m still amazed Croatia turned professional fouling into an art form after 12 different players picked up the team’s 12 yellow cards. That is some hard damn work right there.
ODDS AND ENDS
Something I learned over various pre-match reading was that Slaven Bilic, a member of that 1998 Croatia squad that finished third in France, played through a stress fracture in his hip. That is ridiculous. As someone who writes Premier League previews, I’ve appreciated the fact Bilic never ducked a question in his news conferences before failing to get West Ham United out of the spiral that led to his sacking.
I’ve also always felt he would be a better coach of a national team than a club team, and selfishly, I’d love to see USMNT at least place a feeler out to him.
It’s that time again! I’m going to crank up the blog as England plays Croatia for the right to play France in the World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday. So grab yourself a drink of choice, some munchies and read along while I have some fun with wry observations and witty repartee.
So without further ado, here are the lineups to mull over:
Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire; Lingard, Henderson, Alli, Young, Trippier; Kane and Sterling.
Subasic; Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic; Brozovic; Perisic, Modric, Rakitic, Rebic; Mandzukic.
England has retained its starting XI from its quarterfinal win over Sweden, while Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic has made one change with Brozovic replacing Kramaric.