It was just not to be for England. It was their first World Cup semi-final since they were beaten on penalties by West Germany at Italia 1990, and while they exceeded expectations to get here, Croatia overcame a dogged Three Lions to cement their legacy and play in their first-ever final.
Southgate’s men were on the frontfoot from the get-go – dominating possession and constantly posing a threat in the final third. Trippier was a key man for England’s attacks with his marauding runs down the right flank and his quality hit a new high when he struck a stunning free-kick in the fifth minute.
Thereafter, it was a tale of wasted opportunities. Kane, Lingard, Sterling and Alli had several chances to double or even triple their lead, but they failed miserably. This came back to haunt them as Croatia got into the game and hit back with an equaliser.
With Dalic side’s increased confidence, they peppered Pickford’s goal, but the Everton custodian, backed by Stones and Maguire, was equal to every single one – up until the second half of extra-time. With this being their third outing with extra-time, Croatia stayed poise and eventually booked their place in the final with a clinical Mandzukic strike.
While it would have great to have England play in the World Cup final for the first time in over 50 years, the results in the semi-finals have set up a battle between two unbeaten sides in the tournament. The Three Lions will also get a rematch against Belgium, in what will be a showcase of talent from one of the biggest leagues in Europe – the English Premier Leauge. The countdown to the final begins.