The eastern Europeans made an impressive comeback against the Three Lions in the semi-final of the World Cup.
Croatia made it to their first ever FIFA World Cup final by beating England 2-1 in the second semi-final on Wednesday. After going behind in the fifth minute, thanks to Kieran Trippier‘s goal, efforts from Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic were enough to help them win the match in extra-time and setup a clash against France on Sunday. Here are the talking points.
Watch: Croatia 2-1 England highlights
5. Croatia’s incredible work-rate is inspiring
Many felt that Croatia would not be able to play to their fullest against England as they had played two 120 minute matches in the knockout rounds and looked a tired side in the first half.
But, it seemed like every player received an adrenaline rush in the second half and the way they dominated the game thereafter was amazing to see. Every player gave their all and helped keep Croatia on top, with the tireless work-rate giving its rewards with a stunning win in the end.
4. Harry Kane fails to shine on the biggest occasion
Heading into the match, Harry Kane was the bookies’ favourite to do something special and lead the Three Lions to the World Cup final. But, with Dejan Lovren at his heels throughout, the striker struggled to impose his will and missed a goal he should have easily scored in the first half.
After that, he was rarely seen and couldn’t motivate his team either. The England captain’s performance proved that he still has much to learn, with him failing to rise up to the occasion when his team needed him the most.
3. Super Mario and Ivan The Great continue incredible work
While Luka Modric might have (quite deservedly) been winning all the plaudits for his fantastic, tireless work in helping Croatia win the game, it was their attack which ran the show against England. While Modric reverted to a deeper role, that allowed Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic to terrorize the English defense, who struggled against their pace and strength.
Perisic scored a fantastic, karate-like goal to put things level, before playing a clever flick which the opportunistic Mandzukic grabbed onto perfectly. These two have risen to become heroes in their country and could transcend into god-like status if they continue their incredible work on Sunday.
2. It might not be coming home, but England have made themselves proud
The ‘It’s Coming Home’ slogan and England’s clinical performances in the World Cup seemed like they will sneak another victory against Croatia, in their quest to ‘bring it back home.’ While they were given a rude awakening, the Three Lions actually played brilliantly in the World Cup and made themselves proud.
With a rock-solid defense, fantastic set-piece threat and exciting ability going forward, Gareth Southgate has really done a stunning job in turning England into a solid unit. This young squad have made their country proud and given a sense of optimism to the fans, who can be confident that they’ll see England perform much better at future major tournaments.
1. Can Croatia pull off a Greece like fairy-tale ending?
Croatia might’ve given the best performance in their history against England, but they’ll need to step it up further if they want to stop mighty France. Les Bleus look unstoppable and are packed with world-class in all departments, so Croatia will need to be at their absolute best against them.
They need to produce a similarly tireless performance and need to be clinical enough to edge past France. Greece were the last nation to pull off a ‘real’ big upset in the Euro 2004 final. If Croatia can emulate them and produce another perfect performance, then we might see the most incredible fairy-tale ending in World Cup history unfold on Sunday.