Croatia knocks off England to reach World Cup final

Croatia beat England 2-1 in extra time on Wednesday to reach the country’s first-ever World Cup final.

With the semifinal match at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium tied 1-1 after normal time and the first 15-minute period of extra time, Mario Mandzukic scored what proved to be the winning goal in the 109th minute off a headed pass from Ivan Perisic.

England, which was seeking to return to the World Cup final for the first time since winning on home soil in 1966, played the last few minutes of the match down a man after Kieran Trippier went down with an injury.

England controlled much of the match from the very beginning, taking a 1-0 lead early on Trippier’s free kick in the 5th minute.

Harry Kane came close to adding to England’s lead in the 13th minute, but was stopped one-on-one by goalkeeper Danijel Subasic from about five yards out and then hit the post from close range on a rebound. He was ultimately flagged for being offside on the play.

Croatia, which also had to play through extra time before beating Russia on penalty kicks in the quarters on Saturday, finally broke through with an equalizer from Perisic in the 68th minute.

They kept up the pressure from there on out with Perisic hitting the post about 3 minutes after his goal only to see Ante Rebic’s shot off the rebound saved by England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

Waiting for Croatia in Sunday’s final in Moscow will be France, which beat Belgium in the other semifinal match on Tuesday.

This year marks only the second time Croatia has advanced from the group stage at the World Cup, with the previous time coming in the country’s first appearance in 1998.

In that 1998 tournament, they lost 2-1 to host France in the semifinals but won the third-place match against the Netherlands.

Four years ago, Croatia failed to make it out of the group stage in Brazil, finishing with one win and two losses.

For England, the wait continues to bring the World Cup title home. The country won its only World Cup title in 1966 when it beat West Germany 4-2 in extra time on home soil at London’s Wembley Stadium.

This year marks only the third time England has advanced as far as the semifinals, with other time coming in 1990 when the country lost to West Germany on penalty kicks.

England failed to make it out of the group stage in Brazil in 2014, finishing with two losses and one draw.