Croatia reach first World Cup final as England pain goes on

“We thought we were just good enough, we thought we could have done that. But we’ve fallen just a bit short. It hurts. I don’t know what else to say.”

In London, an initial wave of elation turned to heartbreak as 30,000 beer-soaked fans in Hyde Park watched Southgate’s team come up short.

Trippier gave England a dream start, curling in a free-kick from 25 yards past the despairing dive of Danijel Subasic after Dele Alli was brought down in a central position.

The goal continued the side’s astonishing success from set-pieces at the World Cup — they scored nine goals from set-pieces — the most by any team in a single tournament since 1966.

Croatia started to find their range in the second half and Perisic levelled for Croatia in the 68th minute, nipping ahead of Kyle Walker to steer home Sime Vrsaljko’s cross past a diving Jordan Pickford.

The threat from Croatia continued to grow towards the end of normal time but England held on to take the match into extra-time.

As time ticked towards penalties, Mandzukic scored the winning goal in the 109th minute, sweeping the ball low past Pickford after Perisic’s header back into the area caught the England defence on the hop.

– Solid French defence –

France reached the final for the third time in their history on Tuesday when a second-half header from Samuel Umtiti gave the 1998 champions a 1-0 victory against Belgium in Saint Petersburg.

The win sent tens of thousands of French people pouring onto the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris in scenes of joy last seen when France won the World Cup on home soil in 1998.

Despite the much-vaunted attack of teenager Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann, France’s defence proved the difference as they shut down Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku and they showed they will be hard to beat on Sunday.

It was a painful defeat for Belgium, foiled at the semi-final for the second time in their history, as the clock ticks on their so-called “golden generation” of players.

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