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England’s plan falls right into Croatia’s lap in instant-classic semifinal.

The World Cup is not coming home. Despite England slowly building up hope over the past couple of weeks after decades of disappointment, it is tiny Croatia who is through to the World Cup final after coming from behind for the third game in a row to win 2-1 in an instant classic. It was...
Time: 18:16     Date: 11.07.2018
Last US Sport News: England’s plan falls right into Croatia’s lap in instant-classic semifinal. NY Post 24 - US News

It was England, however, who set the tone early on. In the fifth minute, England’s Dele Alli was fouled 25 yards from Croatia’s goal. England’s player of the tournament, Kieran Trippier, took charge of the free kick and, with a single setup step, slammed the ball into the top corner. David Beckham would have been proud, but unlike England teams of yore, this young generation of Three Lions didn’t tense up. They continued to play fast, relaxed soccer and in the 30th minute they should have made it 2-0. Jesse Lingard poked the ball through to Captain England, Harry Kane, who somehow managed not to score from 8 yards out and then smashed his rebound into the goal post from an impossible angle.

Croatia couldn’t keep up with the English in the first 45 minutes. Coming off a grueling 120-minute war of attrition with Russia in the quarterfinals, the Croats just didn’t have the legs, and it showed, especially when England’s star goalie, Jordan Pickford, pinged quarterback-esque punts down the center of the field toward England’s streaking strikers. Croatia’s center backs couldn’t hang and were forced to shoulder-charge any England players who got even close to daylight. Referee Cuneyt Cakir, for reasons only he knows, decided not to hand out any yellow cards.

Twenty minutes to go with the score tied 1-1, the game was most assuredly on. Running on heretofore untapped reserves of adrenaline, Croatia huffed and puffed but couldn’t blow by England, who, after conceding the goal, became a team desperate just to get the game to stoppage time.

Momentum somehow swung back in England’s favor in the first half of stoppage time. Substitutes Danny Rose and Eric Dier gave England a semblance of control, but they couldn’t take advantage. In fact, it was Croatia who had the best chance when Perisic played in a cross to Mandzukic on the edge of the 6-yard box. Pickford, criticized for being too small, made a game-saving stop by making himself huge.

In hindsight, it was an auspicious moment because four minutes into the second half of extra time, a completely defensible ball looped into England’s box, but their defenders switched off for just a moment, and Mandzukic stole in to score the game-winning goal.

Now, Croatia, a 26-year-old country with just five million citizens, is into the final to face mighty France. Having survived another 120-minute long slugfest, the Croats will be huge underdogs. But at this point, anything is possible.

Goal of the Game

DREAM START FOR ENGLAND!

Trippier beats Subašić on the free kick to put the Three Lions up 1-0 early against Croatia! pic.twitter.com/em1IQ9SRml

— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 11, 2018

For the entire tournament, England’s best player has been Tottenham’s Kieran Trippier. Both a set-piece taker and marauding attacking force, Trippier scored his first-ever international goal in a World Cup semifinal. Not bad, even if his team went on to bottle it.

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