Mario Mandzukic scored an extra time winner as Croatia came from behind to beat England and set up a 2018 World Cup final clash against France.
Endlang took the lead in the fourth minute and looked like they were going to roll past Croatia as they created chance after chance.
— The Ringer (@ringer) July 11, 2018
Captain Harry Kane had the biggest miss of the half after failing to score from two yards.
But Croatia battled back in the second half and deservedly equalised through Perisic who kept probing the English defence.
England – in their first World Cup semi-final since they were beaten on penalties by West Germany at Italia ’90 – were given the perfect start through Kieran Trippier’s 20-yard free-kick after only five minutes, but Perisic’s 68th-minute equaliser sent the match into extra time.
England’s players were inconsolable at the final whistle as the dream was snatched away and the pain was etched on their faces as well as that of manager Gareth Southgate – but they can take great pride and credit from this tournament.
Croatia, in sharp contrast, were jubilant and will now face France in the final in Moscow on Sunday.
Unfancied before the competition, England defied expectations by reaching the semi-finals, but were undone by an experienced Croatia side.
Harry Kane’s golden touch deserted him when he missed a great chance to double their lead, and Jesse Lingard also wasted a chance by shooting wide.
As England allowed their opportunity to slip from their grasp, Croatia grew in confidence.
England lost momentum after the break and were punished when Perisic stole in ahead of Kyle Walker for an athletic finish.
Croatia, with Luka Modric the orchestrator, took control as England faded, with Perisic hitting the post and Jordan Pickford saving magnificently from Mandzukic, before the striker made the decisive contribution with 11 minutes of extra time left.
The 32-year-old reacted quicker than John Stones in the area to beat Pickford – and England had nothing left to give.
England will now play Belgium in Saturday’s third/fourth place play-off in St Petersburg.
– England’s pride and pain –
England’s disappointment at seeing their hopes come crashing down when they were so close to a place they have not inhabited for 52 years will be made more acute by the sense of missed opportunity.
They controlled the first half and, with Croatia initially looking out of sorts after going through the physical demands of extra time and penalties in their two previous games, England will know they could have settled this game in that crucial phase.
Instead, Croatia grew in stature and by the end it was Zlatko Dalic’s side who carried the greater energy and threat while England ran out of steam.
England’s expectation had reached fever pitch and they will regret their failure to take advantage of that spell when they were in control.
There was nothing that could offer solace to Southgate and England’s players as they stood saluting their supporters at the end – but the reaction from the travelling fans was an indicator of what they achieved in Russia.
England’s fans rose as one to give them a standing ovation in a show of appreciation for their best run at a major competition since Euro ’96 – and a far cry from the humiliation of failing to get out of the group stage in Brazil four years ago and the Euro 2016 elimination by minnows Iceland in the last 16.
Southgate and his players have conducted themselves superbly and offered enough to take renewed optimism into the next phase of England’s development.