Mandzukic sends steely Croatia into first World Cup final

As for England, their challenge faded badly after taking the lead in the semi-final and in the end, they simply could not compete against a hungrier Croatia team.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic has echoed the claims made by Dejan Lovren and Luka Modric that his side had "extra motivation" to beat England on Wednesday because of disrespect from the English media.

Croatia have now played the equivalent of a whole match more than Didier Deschamps' team ahead of Sunday's final in the Russian capital but must gird themselves for one final push for glory.

Having gone into extra time and penalties in their previous two games ahead of Wednesday's semi-final, Modric said there was an assumption that the Croatian team would be exhausted, giving England the advantage.

He said: "It's nice to be appreciated but it's about the team".

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. Croatia will be coming off its third straight extra-time match.

It was no surprise that Croatia cavorted on the pitch in celebration with fans and family long after beating England in the semi-finals of the World Cup on Wednesday night, but a wiser head might have ushered them quietly to ice bath and bed.

They served the first game of the ban in a behind-closed-doors clash against Bulgaria back in October 2015.

"I can´t ask for more from the players".

Croatia was supposed to be a exhausted team coming into the match.

England scored just five minutes into the match when defender Kieran Trippier beautifully arced a free kick over the wall of Croatian players that nestled into the upper right corner of the Croatian goal.

Perisic should have added another three minutes later when ragged defending presented him with a great shooting chance but he cannoned the ball against a post.

"We're gutted. It hurts, it hurts a lot", Kane said after the match at the Luzhniki Stadium. Before this, Croatia's best finish was third place in France 1998, its first-ever World Cup appearance. The ball bounced twice, Mandzukic ran onto it and one-timed a low, left-footed shot to Pickford's left. The whole thing is beyond where we thought we might go. When you have spells, you have to make them count. Back home as well, so we can hold our heads up high.

But Southgate is convinced England can become even stronger if they take a leaf out of the book of Germany.

  • Julie Sanders