Monday, 24 September, 2018

Croatia become smallest nation to reach World Cup final since 1950

British Airways pilot Neil Rowe poses with fans at the England Sweden quarter-final match in Samara British Airways pilot Neil Rowe poses with fans at the England Sweden quarter-final match in Samara Credit Alex Morton Getty
Cary Erickson | 12 July, 2018, 10:43

A packed stadium provided an intense World Cup atmosphere for the game, after thousands of England and Croatia fans had flown into the Russian capital. He returned Wednesday to cheer on Croatia with almost 500 of his closest friends. The Croats were out-sung for the first 70 minutes, after Kieran Trippier's early goal, but found their voice after their equaliser, and were sent into delirium by the extra-time victor.

Not after they conquered their shootout demons against Colombia in the Round of 16, and not after Southgate and his staff went to great lengths to ensure his players would embrace the tiebreaker if England got the opportunity to change its luck.

England's 1-0 advantage did not reflect their superiority and Croatia, looking jaded in mind and body after knockout wins on penalties against Denmark and hosts Russian Federation, were off the pace.

After France beat Belgium 1-0 in Saint-Petersburg on Tuesday night to book their place in the World Cup final, the attention now turns to the other semi-final as England take on Croatia. When player Kieran Trippier scored an early goal against Croatia in the first quarter, in fact, crowds of England fans erupted in raucous joy.

"We've got to keep getting over those hurdles and I know we talked about the success of the younger teams but this is a much harder, much bigger level for the players and the belief is building as things are happening".

But when Mario Mandzukic caught Stones sleeping with just over 10 minutes to play, burying a left-footed shot under Pickford, England's World Cup dream was over.

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Next up for Anderson is a semi-final on Friday against either John Isner, the ninth seeded American. Kevin Anderson (8) narrowly defeated Gael Monfis in four sets to reach the quarterfinals.

Gareth Southgate, his entire squad and support staff, looked in a daze as they stood just 20 yards from the banks of England supporters who had flooded into Russian Federation fuelled by hope and the desire to witness history.

The national football team of hosts Russian Federation managed to make it to the quarterfinals stage of this world championship, where Croatia edged them out in a 4-2 penalty shootout on July 7 at the Fisht Arena in Sochi.

"But when you get to this point and play as well as we did in the first half, you want to take those opportunities in life, so the dressing room is a very hard place at the moment".

"We deserved to reach the final". They have personality as players and as a team. They won their first World Cup penalty shoot-out. Nobody wanted to give in.

He added: "You should hold you heads up high".