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Dublin: 17°C Saturday 8 May 2021


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Good evening and welcome along to our live coverage of tonight’s World Cup semi-final between England and Croatia from the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

It is England’s first last-four appearance since 1990 as Gareth Southgate’s side bid to book their place in Sunday’s final and a shot at World Cup glory some 52 years after they last reigned supreme.

Is football really coming home?

England saw off Sweden in the quarter-finals on Saturday and certainly as the tournament has progressed, they have built up momentum with our neighbours across the water daring to dream ahead of this evening’s game.

The draw, of course, has been kind to the Three Lions and Croatia should provide a stern appraisal of their title credentials this evening, who themselves are featuring in the last four for the first time since 1998 while also bidding to reach a maiden final.

The atmosphere has been building in Moscow all afternoon and we’re now just an hour away from the second semi-final of the 2018 World Cup. It has all the ingredients to be a cracker, and we’re following all the action as it happens.

The teams are in the house.

England v Croatia: Semi Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Source: Clive Rose

England v Croatia: Semi Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Source: Dan Mullan

England v Croatia: Semi Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Source: Dan Mullan

England v Croatia: Semi Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Source: Alexander Hassenstein

TEAM NEWS: As expected, Gareth Southgate has named an unchanged side from the one which strolled past Sweden in the quarter-finals.

TEAM NEWS: As for Croatia, the big news is that Sime Vrsaljko is fit to start at right wing-back despite picking up a knock last time out, with manager Zlatko Dalic making just one change from the quarter-final defeat of Russia.

Hoffenheim’s Andrej Kramaric drops out with Marcelo Brozovic of Inter coming in.

Okay, which way do you see this one going? Who will be going through to Sunday’s final to face France?

Poll Results:

Croatia (333)
England (286)

Gareth Southgate’s calm and measured approach has rubbed off on his young team, and these were his words in yesterday’s press conference:

“We came here to enjoy our football and we’ve made several pieces of history already: our biggest win in the tournament, our first knockout win for 12 years, our first quarter‑final win for even longer. We keep looking to break the barriers down. It’s been an enjoyable journey. We want to keep it going.”

England v Croatia: Semi Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Source: Alexander Hassenstein

Roy Keane is on ITV’s four-man panel alongside Gary Neville, Ian Wright and Lee Dixon, with the Ireland assistant boss expecting England’s defence to be firmly tested by Luka Modric and co this evening.

“It’s a World Cup semi-final. They should expect to be tested,” he said, before adding that this England team seemed to have forged their own identity under Southgate.

“They seem like they are a team. In the past, the England teams, always seemed like there was cliques.”

In Galway, RTÉ’s Tony O’Donoghue has caught up with some of Harry Kane’s extended family.

Gareth Southgate, who looks and sounds understandably nervous, has been speaking to ITV pre-match.

“It’s the next game. We’ve prepared the same way we have every match. We know the opportunity that presents itself. Our preparation and mentality will be the same. The team have played well, and performed in the matches that matter.

“We have great options to change the game, whichever course it’s taking, but these guys deserve the chance to go again and physically they’re in good condition. Croatia have got some outstanding individuals, they are very strong at attacking crosses, they have great spirit and togetherness and we have to match everything they throw at us.

“Our mentality tonight is key: we have to have self-belief, but also mental strength in the moments when we are challenged and tested. We can feel the energy and support, but we have to disconnect ourselves from that because we have a game to play. We don’t want it to end here.”

The teams are in the tunnel and a sold-out crowd of 60,000 inside the Luzhniki Stadium awaits. We’ll have the anthems and then we’ll be set for kick-off. Here we go!


1 mins – As you would expect, the atmosphere inside the stadium is electric, with approximately 10,000 England fans making themselves heard. They certainly have more of the support.


1 mins – Jordan Henderson gets involved early by fouling Ivan Rakitic inside the opening minutes. England knocking the ball around at the back, looking to ease into this semi-final.


2 mins – England have started brightly. Jesse Lingard delightfully controls and finds Dele Alli between the lines, who has space to run at the Croatian defence. The Tottenham forward is tripped on the edge of the area and this is a perfect position for Ashley Young or Kieran Trippier to strike.


4 mins — GOAL! England 1-0 Croatia (Trippier)

Oh my word, what a strike, and what a moment for Kieran Trippier. He lifts the ball over the wall and curls it into the top corner, leaving Subasic with no chance. England lead after four minutes!


5 mins – A dream start for England and they’re on the front foot, pressing Croatia and stamping their authority all over this semi-final tie.


9 mins – Regardless of your persuasion, that goal gets better and better with every replay. The technique was sublime, Trippier lifting it up and down with pace and precision from 25 yards out for his first international goal.

Croatia are stunned but win a corner off Ashley Young as they look to hit back. England do just enough to get it clear but it wasn’t entirely convincing.


12 mins – England look so dangerous at set-piece time. Young arrows a corner in towards Harry Maguire, who gets a good run at it but is unable to keep his header down.

England have now scored nine goals from set-pieces at this tournament, the most by any team since the 1966 World Cup — and we all know who won it that year!


13 mins – And again Maguire gets up highest to head back across goal from a corner. Croatia escape that time but they’re really struggling to contain the threat of the Leicester centre-back in the air.


16 mins – After that breathless start, the game has settled down in the last few minutes with Croatia attempting to get their foot on the ball and ease themselves back into the contest. England, for their part, are playing with an impressive tempo and look dangerous every time they venture forward.


18 mins — Close! But Croatia carry a lethal threat of their own, with Perisic cutting in from the left and trying his luck for range. His low effort appears to clip off Kyle Walker and into the side-netting but the referee doesn’t agree and awards England the goal-kick. Pickford appeared to have it covered, in any case.



21 mins — Maguire’s loose pass puts England under pressure, allowing Rebic to cut inside but Stones saves his defensive partner by throwing himself in front of the ball to block. Then Vrsaljko gets to the byline on the right and pulls back a low cross, but there’s no sign of a black shirt to finish.


23 mins – That’s awful goalkeeping from Subasic, as he puts Strinic under all sorts of pressure close to his own box with a poor kick out and England look to capitalise. Sterling nicks possession and sends it through to Kane, but the England captain drags his effort wide of the far post, although he was flagged offside anyway.


27 mins – It’s quite an open game with the early goal forcing Croatia to instantly change their approach. England are looking to get Sterling in behind Lovren at every opportunity, and the Man City forward is using his pace to good advantage, winning a free-kick on this near touchline.

Young curls in an in-swinger but the ‘keeper does well to punch clear after coming through heavy traffic in the six-yard box. Nearly half an hour gone in Moscow, and England lead.


28 mins – It has been a very enjoyable first half of football so far.

996382754 Source: Shaun Botterill


29 mins — Chance! Lingard finds a pocket of space and threads it through for Kane, who sees his first attempt saved by the ‘keeper and then the Tottenham striker is denied a second time from the rebound with the goal at his mercy. The ball ricochets off Subasic, hits the woodwork, loops up and then goes narrowly wide of the far post. How on earth did that not go in!?


33 mins – Nervous moments for England at the other end. Modric gets on the ball in the final third for the first time and the ball eventually comes back to Rebic, who strikes it very sweetly but his rasping effort is straight at Pickford, who deals with it comfortably. Breathless stuff.


34 mins – Pickford is then wiped out by Rebic as the Croatian burst through after a ball over the top. The referee gives a free out, but nothing more. Correct call by the official.


35 mins — Close! England are probing and pushing for a second before the break, and Lingard should have done better on that occasion. More silky interchange creates the space on the edge of the box for the Manchester United forward, but he starts his curling effort too far wide of the post and can’t bring it back in.


37 mins — England are doing really well to nullify the threat of Croatia’s danger men, with Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic hardly involved in the opening 37 minutes. Croatia look tired having played extra-time in their two knockout games.


42 minutes — Trippier has been one of the stars of this campaign for England and he has acres of space to bomb down the right side, before whipping in an inviting cross — but his team-mates struggled to keep up with him. Three minutes until the break.


43 mins – Croatia have been limited to long-range efforts by an England defence which has looked relatively comfortable so far. Vrsaljko is the latest to try his luck but his effort was never going to trouble Pickford.


45 mins – We’ll have a minute of added time at the end of this half.

Flag 47Mins

Half-time! England 1-0 Croatia

England give away a cheap free-kick on the left right on the strike of half-time, but Walker gets up to head clear and the referee blows his whistle as Henderson brings it clear.

But the referee has been alerted to a potential foul on Lovren in the box as that ball was whipped in, but the lads in the VAR room have said there was nothing doing and England breathe a sigh of relief.


A brilliantly entertaining 45 minutes of football sees England head into the break in the driving seat thanks to Kieran Trippier’s superb free-kick.

Gareth Southgate’s side have showed no sign of nerves and have carried a menacing threat in possession, with Kane and Lingard spurning glorious chances to double their lead.

At the other end, Croatia have struggled to really test Jordan Pickford and have been limited to a couple of long-range efforts, with Modric yet to make a major impression on the game.

England are full value for their lead and are just 45 minutes away from the World Cup final.


What did you think of that first half? And can England see the job out and advance to Sunday’s final?

England v Croatia: Semi Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Source: Dan Mullan


Flag 4546Mins

KICK OFF! The teams are back out and we’re underway again in Moscow.


47 mins — Maguire has had a few shaky moments this evening as he misses what looked like a straightforward header on the edge of the England box. Fortunately for him, there was enough cover to ensure it didn’t prove overly costly.

Rebic then clatters Kyle Walker in the air and the referee brandishes yellow for the first time.


50 mins – Roy Keane on ITV: “If England don’t do this they’ll never forgive themselves,” and he has a point. Meanwhile, Kane collides with the advertising hoardings after a challenge with Vida, but the referee waves play on.


55 mins — Bit of a stop-start opening to this second half, with both sides sloppy in possession. Croatia look to hit England in behind but Walker uses his pace to get there ahead of Rebic and slide in to avert the initial danger. The Man City defender then stops Croatia taking the quick throw and is needlessly booked.


56 mins – That’s nice from England. Sterling links with Lingard, creating the space for the latter who looks to curl it past the ‘keeper but it comes off a Croatian shirt and out for a corner.

Croatia clear the initial set-piece but Trippier sends another cross in towards Kane, who tries to glance it home at the near post but just couldn’t connect and Lovren’s left boot gets it out of danger.


58 mins – Rebic has been dangerous all evening and he combines with Strinic down this left touchline, forcing England to concede the corner, which comes to nothing. You can feel the tension inside the stadium as we near the hour mark in Moscow.


60 mins – Croatia are beginning to come to life, and are causing England a few problems. Rakitic’s effort is way off target at the end of it but Dalic’s side are enjoying more of the possession now.


62 mins — Henderson steps in to nick possession and slips a neat ball down the right channel for Sterling to get in behind. He stumbles after a challenge by Vida and can’t quite get the ball out of his feet, allowing the ‘keeper to clear. There were half-hearted appeals for a penalty there but not a lot doing.


65 mins — Close! Kyle Walker puts his body on the line to get in the way of Perisic’s powerful hit from just inside the area, before England scramble to clear and get it out of play. Walker requires treatment after taking it in the, eh, lower region but he’s back up and ready to play on. Stoic defending!

Flag 70Mins

68 mins — GOAL! England 1-1 Croatia (Perisic)

Out of nothing, Croatia are level! Vrsaljko whips in a delightful ball from the right and Perisic steals a march on Walker to conjure a brilliant first-time finish past Pickford. Game on!


70 mins – That was coming, to be fair. Croatia had been turning up the pressure and England were dropping deeper, allowing the wing-backs plenty of space and Vrsaljko and Perisic made them pay.


71 mins — Off the post! Oh, how has that not gone in? England are rocking at the back, with Perisic striking a low effort past Pickford and onto the post, before the ball falls to Rebic, who can only fire into the grateful arms of the England ‘keeper.


73 mins – England need to settle down and Southgate has made his first change of the game with Marcus Rashford replacing Sterling. Brozovic has just fired a drive from 20 yards out just over the bar. Croatia are in the ascendancy now.


76 mins – England are on the ropes, and hanging on. 14 minutes left in Moscow.


77 mins – Croatia are really sensing blood now and England look so vulnerable at the back. Vrsaljko is causing huge problems down the right and his latest cross very nearly finds Perisic, but Stones does just enough. At the other end, Lingard flashes a cross-cum-shot across the face of goal. It’s tense!


80 mins – Edge-of-your-seat stuff now. Which way do you see this one going with just 10 minutes of regular time remaining?


80 mins – England very nearly shoot themselves in the foot as Trippier’s back pass forces Stones to stretch to get it back to Pickford, and then the ‘keeper snatches at his attempted clearance and it doesn’t get off the ground, narrowly avoiding a black shirt. A lucky escape.


82 mins – Croatia getting closer. Mandzukic has a sight of goal from a tight angle but tests the handling of Pickford with a stinging half-volley and then the England ‘keeper makes a mess of an attempted punch.

It falls for Perisic but his effort sails agonisingly over the bar with nobody home for England.


87 mins – This must be agony to watch if you’re rooting for England. Strinic embarks on a mazy run down the left and shapes to shoot, before instead squaring it for Perisic. It was the wrong choice as his pass is poor and England can breathe a sigh of relief. Croatia look the more likely.


89 mins – England praying for full-time now. They’re the ones who look tired as Croatia push for a late winner, although Lovren has just unleashed an ambitious effort from all of 35 yards. Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty.


90 mins – Three minutes of added time. Tense.


90 mins – England win a free-kick in a dangerous position as Rashford shows good footwork to draw the foul. Is this the moment? Trippier stands over it.


90 + 1 mins – Trippier whips it in….it’s towards Kane and the England captain gets up but, under pressure, can’t get enough purchase on it and heads it down and wide.


90 + 2 mins – Into the final minute. We’re heading for extra-time.

Flag 90Mins

Full-time! England 1-1 Croatia

And that’s it. England hold on to see the game into extra-time and we’ll have another 30 minutes (and perhaps penalties) to decide who’ll face France in Sunday’s World Cup final.

Kieran Trippier’s superb fifth-minute free-kick was cancelled out by Perisic’s delightful flick at the back-post.


Gareth Southgate is down there trying to rally his troops again as we prepare for extra-time. The England boss is bringing Danny Rose on for Ashley Young, who looks to be carrying a knock.


ET: 1 mins – We’re back underway.


ET: 2 mins – Roy Keane has had his say on ITV: ”We praised England before the game for their composure and energy but that’s gone out the window and it’s back to the old England.”


ET: 5 mins – England have re-grouped and have been a lot brighter in the opening minutes of extra-time. This is the third game in a row Croatia have gone the distance in, so you’d imagine they will begin to tire as proceedings progress.


ET: 6 mins – Rose’s fresh legs sees him power through the midfield, leaving a number of Croatian defenders in his wake, before he’s cynically scythed down by Rebic. A stonewall booking.


ET: 8 mins – England make their third change with Henderson making way for Eric Dier in the middle of the park. The sub looks to make an instant impact as he links with Rose before his effort is deflected behind for a corner.


ET: 9 mins — Off the line! Stones gets up to meet the corner and guides his header towards the far corner, but Vrsaljko does his job brilliantly and heads it away from under his own bar. England have rebounded well.


ET: 11 mins – Rebic, who just picked up that booking, is hauled off to be replaced by Kramaric.


ET: 15 mins – Two minutes are added on at the end of the first period of extra-time. The game has slowed down considerably as we approach the change of ends.


ET: 15 + 1 mins – Pickford to England’s rescue as he is quickly off his line to thwart Mandzukic from close range after Perisic’s whipped cross from the left.

The ‘keeper did brilliantly to read it, close down the angle and make the save with his foot right on the stroke of half-time. It’s a Croatia corner…


ET: Half-time! England 1-1 Croatia

Nothing comes of the set-piece as Modric plays it short. What a huge stop that was from Pickford, and England change ends on level terms. It’s tight, tense and gripping.


ET: 16 mins – We’re up and running again. 15 minutes to go before another penalty shoot-out.


ET: 16 mins – England have come back into it and although Pickford was forced to make a fine save from Mandzukic, they are still very much in with a shout of snatching a winner in extra-time.


ET: 17 mins — Having said that, England fall asleep from a corner and Croatia catch them out with a short one, with Brozovic left completely unmarked on the edge of the area. He strikes it first-time but fails to hit the target.

Flag 111Mins

ET: 18 mins — GOAL! England 1-2 Croatia (Mandzukic)

Croatia hit the front, and it’s such a cheap goal to concede from an England point of view. The English defence is snoozing again, they fail to clear and then Perisic beats Trippier in the air. Mandzukic is onto the dropping ball and lashes it home across Pickford with his left foot.


ET: 21 mins – England have just nine minutes to respond and they’re bringing Jamie Vardy on in search of an equaliser. Walker the man to make way.


ET: 24 mins – England are on the brink and they’re struggling to find a response, with Croatia taking the sting out of any potential fightback. Mandzukic is struggling and after collapsing on the ground, trudges off to be replaced by Corluka. Five minutes remaining.


ET: 27 mins – Kieran Trippier’s game is over as he’s helped off with what looks like a groin injury. England are down to 10 men for the final few minutes.


ET: 27 mins – England win a free on the left, Rashford floats it in towards Maguire but the big centre-back gets underneath it and the ball trickles out for a goal-kick.


ET: 28 mins – Croatia wasting more time, and who could blame them? Modric slowly walks to the touchline to be replaced by Badelj.


ET: 29 mins – Kramarica streaks clear and has the chance to finish England off but can only hit the side-netting.


ET: 30 mins – Four minutes have been added on! Not sure where that came from in a 15-minute half, but it’s now or never for England!


ET: 30 + 2 mins: England’s World Cup dreams are all but over. They lob it into the box but it’s straight at the ‘keeper and Subasic easily gathers.


ET: 30 + 3 mins – Last chance saloon for England…

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ET: Full-time! England 1-2 Croatia


England’s World Cup dreams have been torn apart by Croatia, who advance through to a first-ever final thanks to Mario Mandžukić’s extra-time winner.

Gareth Southgate’s side come up short in the semi-final having taken an early lead through Kieran Trippier’s superb fifth-minute free-kick. A brilliant campaign comes to a heartbreaking end for the Three Lions, whose 52-year wait for World Cup glory goes on.

England v Croatia: Semi Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Source: Matthias Hangst

About the author:

Ryan Bailey


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