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England are coming home! Croatia to play France in the 2018 World Cup final

Croatia are the smallest nation to reach a World Cup Final since Uruguay in 1950, as well as the lowest ranked ever (20th). With a population of just 4,000,000 people, it's an incredible achievement

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Croatia beats England in Semi-finals
Croatia beats England in Semi-finals

Croatia is the second finalist of the They will play for the first time a final in the World Cup history. They will battle for the ultimate final glory on 15th July in Luzhniki stadium against France in Moscow. And sadly, it's not coming home to England. 
England and Belgium will fight for the third spot on Saturday. There had been so much of contrasting emotions for the fans in the second semi-final of the

Mandzukic sealed the deal for Croatia in the 19th minute of the extra time. Mandzukic had an unstoppable low shot across Pickford into the bottom right on Perisic's header from the left side of the box. 

The first half of extra time had nothing to offer. Pickford made an outstanding save to deny Mandzukic a lead in the extra time of first extra time. 

The match went into extra-time. This was Croatia third test in the knockout round into additional periods. 

Croatia was, undoubtedly, the better team in the second half as they pressed better. Croatia were deservedly rewarded in the 61st minute when Perisic found the back of the net to dent England's hope.  He had one more chance just minutes after his first goal to put his side ahead, but was denied by the post. Croatia were on top towards the end of the match, but their energy levels could be key at this stage.

England had dominated the game for the initial for first 30 minutes. England had the lead till the first half-half whistle over Croatia. And the only difference between England and Croatia was Kieran Trippier's gem of a goal in the fourth minute.

England had two more chances but  and Jesse Lingard missed opportunities. For Croatia, had a couple of chances, but Croatia has not looked a substantial threat other brief flirtations around the box. 

Match highlights: Croatia vs England

ET 22: replaces Walker with Vardy.

Mandzukic doubles the leadET 19: GOOOOAAAALLLLL. Mandzukic scores and Cro leads. Perisic beats Trippier to a header to the left of the box. Mandzukic had the dropping ball, and strikes an unstoppable low shot across Pickford and into the bottom right. 

Now, the second part of the extra time. Off again.

ET 15+2: 
Perisic curls low a low ball for Mandzukic from the edge of the six-yard box. Pickford comes out bravely to put striker off.  The ball is deflected wide and high.

ET 15: There is lack of energy in the match. Exhaustion has taken over the players and they are walking. 

ET 13: 
Rose has been very dangerous since he has been brought to the field. He made some good run down the left flank. England are back into the game with much vigor.

ET 7: Trippier had the ball into the box for the run of Maguire, the referee awards a free-kick to Croatia for a foul against Mandzukic.

ET 1: Rose has replaced Young. This was England's second change after Sterling was replaced by Rashford. Rashford is making his presence felt.

We are off again

Min 90+3: The match has gone for an extra time.  

Min 71:
And the match is back to where it all started.  Perisic had the chance of putting Croatia ahead. The England defence has become shaky and they are all over the place. Perisic pulled the trigger on a left-footed strike, only to be denied by the post.

Perisic equalisesMin 68: GOOOOAAAALLLLLLLL. Perisic scores to give Croatia an equaliser.  Vrsaljko curls towards the far post from the right and Perisic nips in from behind while Walker stooped to head clear. The ball touches the left-hand portion of the net. What a finish by Perisic.England's Football homecoming has been delayed by Croatia through their constant pressure. Croatia got the reward they deserved. 

Min 55:
Croatia force a corner. From which Lovren is penalised for challenging Maguire. 

Min 51: Mandzukic has been given yellow card for angrily punching the ball away after a decision went against his team. Croatia is losing the winning temperament. 

And here we go again. Croatia gets the ball rolling.

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Half-time analysis:

England holds a 1-0 lead at the break over Croatia in this World Cup semi-final in Moscow. And the only difference between England and Croatia is Kieran Trippier in the fourth minute.

England had two more chances but  and Jesse Lingard missed opportunities. For Croatia, had a couple of chances, but Croatia has not looked a substantial threat other brief flirtations around the box.

England is just 45 minutes away from their second It surely is coming home. 

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45 Mins:
Rakitic almost punishes the Three Lions after they lost the composure in the back. Walker manages to get back to make the covering challenge.

Min 32: Modric is finally in the final third. He confuses England defenders for a while, and then the ball passes to Rebic. Rebic sends it towards the top left. Pickford has his gloves warmed for the first time today.

Min 19: Perisic wins himself space and time to cut in from the right flank. His strike narrowly escapes the post. The ball deflection off Walker, but the referee is not interested in giving a corner to Croatia.

Min 16: Kane win England a free-kick on the left flank courtesy of a bad tackle from Vrsaljko. England are doing all of the pressing at the moment.

Min 10: England is oozing confidence. They have come with a game plan and everything is working in their favour till yet. 

Min 6: The Croatian game plan is in shambles. All they are doing is reacting to England's attack. 

Trippier scores!Min 4: GOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLLLL. Trippier takes the free-kick and what a strike. Trippier scores to give England lead. That was absolutely stunning. Trippier joins Bobby Charlton and as an English semi-final scorer. This is his first goal for England national team and comes at a crucial and decisive moment. Trippier deserves nothing but respect. 

Min 3: Modric brings down Delli Alli. England gets the free-kick just outside the penalty box. 

Min 1: England get the ball rolling. The atmosphere in the stand is infectious. Totally electric atmosphere.  

And peeeeeeeeeeeep. We are offffff

Players are out of the tunnel and anthems are being played. Croatia's anthem first and then English anthem. England in white tops and Croatia in black and blue tees. 

Confirmed teams: Croatia vs England

Teams in plain text:

Croatia: Subasic, Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic, Rakitic, Brozovic, Rebic, Modric, Perisic, Mandzukic.
Substitute: Livakovic, Corluka, Kovacic, Kramaric, Jedvaj, Bradaric, Caleta-Car, Badelj, Pjaca, Pivaric, Lovre Kalinic.

England: Pickford, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Trippier, Alli, Henderson, Lingard, Young, Sterling, Kane.
Substitute: Butland, Rose, Dier, Vardy, Welbeck, Cahill, Jones, Delph, Rashford, Loftus-Cheek, Alexander-Arnold, Pope.

Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey).

Line-ups out: 
Croatia vs England line-up

Build up to the game: Croatia vs England

Great news for English football fans in London: Justin Timberlake to screen FIFA at his concert

Justin Timberlake has announced that he will screening the England vs Croatia FIFA at his London concert.

The "Suit and Tie" hitmaker's concert at London's O2 Arena is scheduled only a few hours after the match.

"So here's what we're going to do. I spoke to the O2 and for the first time ever doors will open at 6:30pm and we're going to play this England vs Croatia match up on my big screens so come here and we'll watch it together. We're going to watch this together, and you know what? It's coming home," Timberlake added.

One more feather in the cap: If the Three Lions run out winners tonight, they will become the third team in the last four FIFA World Cups to contest the final with a entirely domestically-based starting XI. And they can take comfort from the fact that the last two nations to do this - Italy in 2006 and Spain in 2010 - won the event!

Expect a return tonight: Exactly 20 years ago today, Croatia achieved their greatest footballing success so far. Vatreni defeated the Netherlands to finish third at France 1998. Today, Zlatko Dalic's team has a chance to better that result with this day surely one of the biggest in the history of the Croatian national team.

is backing the England for their semi-final encounter against Croatia. Click to read more

Convicted Croatia team official keeps World Cup VIP status

A Croatian soccer official will be allowed to watch the team's match from a VIP section on Wednesday despite being convicted last month in a corruption case linked to the transfer of captain Luka Modric.

When Croatia beat Russia in the quarterfinals on Saturday, the director general of the country's soccer federation sat in the same row of seats as Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Damir Vrbanovic has stayed in office since being sentenced in June to a three-year jail term even though FIFA's disciplinary code bars officials "convicted of a criminal offense in the past five years."

However, FIFA says the sentence is not final because the former Dinamo Zagreb director general is appealing to a higher court.

"The evaluation of the position of the person concerned, then, is made only by its national association according to the applicable national law," FIFA said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The Croatian federation said any other interpretation would be "unconstitutional and serious violation of his human rights." "In accordance to the Croatian and general law, Mr. Vrbanovic is innocent because the relevant judgment is not final and binding," the soccer body said in a statement to the AP.

Match Preview: Croatia vs England

Croatia's compact side will combat England's fast and direct football when they meet in the second semi-final of the FIFA World Cup with both teams aiming to recreate their own history by progressing to the title decider.

England’s last appearance at this stage was in 1990 when they lost in a penalty shootout to West Germany in Turin while eight years later, in their first World Cup as an independent nation, Croatia lost to hosts and eventual winners France.

The Croats, basking in the afterglow of their golden generation of footballers, have reached the semi-finals for the second time in their brief history. They will aim to better the third-place finish achieved by the star-studded squad spearheaded by the legendary Davor Suker at the 1998 edition in France.

England too left Italy 28 years ago feeling that the team featuring and Paul Gascoigne could have gone all the way.

But neither side are in a mood for nostalgia or using the past as motivation.

For England, it is a chance to reach the final for the first time since their World Cup winning campaign at home in 1966, more than a generation ago. They reached the last four stage for the last time in Italy back in 1990.

While Croats are in the semi-finals on the back of two knockout victories over Denmark and Russia via penalty shootouts, England got past Colombia and Sweden in the last two elimination matches.

"It's the best opportunity that England's ever had, and probably might ever have," England defender was quoted as saying by the FIFA's official website.

"We have shown character, we've shown belief and I think that's what is going to get us over the line in this game. I have to dream. I have to dream big," he said ahead of the game at the Luzhniki Stadium.

Croatia have had an impressive campaign at this World Cup. They topped an extremely difficult group that included perennial title contenders Argentina, Iceland and Nigeria.

On the other hand, England's progression to the knockout rounds was far more easy -- they defeated inexperienced sides like Tunisia and minnows Panama before losing to an impressive Belgium.

In Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, Croatia have arguably the best midfield in Russia and the presence of star strikers and add some added force upfront.

Modric and Rakitic have also been protecting central defenders and Domagoj Vida, who stand in front of experienced keeper Danijel Subasic.

While left-back Ivan Strinic is certain to start, Croatia's preferred right-back Sime Vrsaljko is yet to fully recover from a knee injury suffered during the game against Russia. His absence would likely hand a start to Vedran Corluka in the center of defense alongside Lovren, shifting Vida to right-back.

Rebic, along with and may feature ahead of the midfield duo of Modric and Rakitic. Mandzukic will lead Croatia's attack. In case, Croatia go with three-man midfield, one of and Marcelo Brozovic may get a place.

Croatia have an experienced squad and will go into the match with the belief of going the distance.

"I agree Croatia has several more experienced players," Juventus forward Mandzukic said.

"That will help us, but the chances are 50-50, I believe, because everybody deserves to be at the semi-final."

Mandzukic helps out Zlatko Dalic-coached Croatia as their first defender and they will need his tireless running and his aerial positioning to beat an English team which relies a lot on set-pieces and attacking football.

Playing in a 3-5-2 formation, England are the third youngest team in the tournament and head coach has done his utmost to lower the expectations.

England does not boast of big names this time but there is a sense of bonhomie among the players and in Southgate, they have a coach who understands them.

is the leading goal-scorer in the tournament with six goals to his name and like his tally, most of England's goals have come from corners and crosses from the wings.

Kane will be England's main danger with the support of Raheem Sterling, while attacking midfielders like Ali and Jesse Lingard are good enough to trouble any opposition.

Much of England's attacking prowess has depended on Sterling's sizzling pace, which has also helped them to pose considerable threat on the counter.

There have been a lot of debate about whether Southgate should drop Sterling in favour of as the Manchester City forward is yet to score a goal in Russia. But despite his lean numbers, Sterling remains an important part of Gareth Southgate's team with his clever runs from deep that open up rival defences and the chemistry he shares with his fellow forwards.

Jordan Henderson has been operating well in shielding the defence. With the Liverpool defensive midfielder also having improved his passing game, England are creating a lot of chances.

Harry Maguire, John Stones and will feature in a three-man defence ahead of fast-rising keeper Jordan Pickford, while Kieran Trippier has adjusted his role well as a wing-back, putting in a good shift in defending and joining the attack build-up.

Time: 11:30 PM (IST), 7:00 AM (UK Time), 8:00 AM (Croatia Time)

In the today's 2nd semifinal match, England vs Croatia will take place in Moscow on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 at 11:30 PM (IST).

England vs Croatia match will be broadcast on Sony Ten 2, Sony Ten 2 HD in English Commentary and Sony Ten 3 and Sony 3 HD in Hindi Commentary.

England vs Croatia match will be available for live streaming on Sony Liv also. And Both Airtel and Jio would broadcast the matches for free to their respective subscribers. Tatasky subscribers can also live stream 2nd Semifinal on the Tatasky app.

First Published: Wed, July 11 2018. 13:17 IST