Following France’s victory over Belgium on Tuesday, it was a question of Croatia or England, who will make it to the finals. Last night, after 90 minutes and extra time’s play later, we finally got the answer. Croatia got the better of England as scores read 2-1 at the end of the day. They will battle it out with France on Sunday.
Trippier draws first blood, Perisic levels the game
A compact English team had the higher ground when Kieran Trippier scored one to the nets off a free-kick, his first goal in the world cup. For a moment it looked like England were set to meet France on Sunday. But Croatia eventually picked things up. They maintained good control in the middle, thanks to the likes of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic.
The match had quite a few fires and misses throughout. England made 11 shots, with 6 off target and 4 blocked. Croatia shot 7 on the nets, out of their 22 attempts. But by the 68th minute, Ivan Perisic leveled the playing field with a finish off a cross. Croatia wasn’t done yet.
Mario Mandzukic scores the winning goal
Trippier did make another attempt with a late free kick. Unfortunately, Kane Young failed to direct the ball on to target. Minutes later, the game moved on to extra time.
Extra time saw a few changes being made in both camps. Danny Rose made way for Young and Jordan Henderson came in for Eric Dier as England pushed hard to grab the upper hand. Croatia too made a change of their own, replacing an injured Strinic with Josip Pivaric.
But the moment of glory came for Croatia in the 109th minute. Mario Mandzukic capitalized on a flick-on from Perisic and pushed one through to the nets. Once the final whistle blew, the Croatians emerged victorious. They were going to meet France in Moscow on Sunday.
Fifth time’s the charm?
This is only Croatia’s 5th world cup appearance. Their previous best was coming in third in France, 1998. Their path to a spot in this year’s finals has been a hard-fought one. Extra time and penalties, was how they won their battles against the likes of Denmark and Russia.
But that’s not to say England’s defeat rendered them a failure. Fans can take a lot of heart from how the team performed at the World Cup. Coming into the tournament as a young team, there weren’t many who expected the English to make it to the semi-finals. Though defeated, the team can take a lot of positives from their run.
Sri Lanka has a lot to learn from Croatia
In 1994, Croatia’s FIFA ranking stood at 125th. By around 1996, Sri Lanka was ranked 126th. Fast forward to 2018, Croatia is in the FIFA World Cup finals, and Sri Lanka stands at the 200th spot. Clearly, there’s something wrong with how we’ve progressed.
Now, it’s no secret that football isn’t exactly the most popular sport in the country, despite the passionate following by a certain niche. But on the bright side of things, it does look like steps are being taken to revitalize the sport in Sri Lanka. The Lankan team recently had a friendly encounter with Lithuania, which is a part of the “Football Vision 2030” plan.
Obviously, we’re a long way off from being a competitive team in the Asian region, let alone even come close to Croatia. But if a country with only a 4.171 million population can make it to the World Cup finals, surely an island nation can thrive to do better too?
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