After each matchday of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Sportsnet.ca’s World Cup Daily blog will recap the day’s events, and look ahead to the next day’s slate of games.
Here’s what happened on Wednesday, in case you missed it…
Croatia 2, England 1 in Moscow: Match report || match stats
MAIN TALKING POINT
Resilience, thy name is Croatia
Just seven years after becoming an independent nation, Croatia stunned the field at the 1998 World Cup by reaching the semifinals, thanks to a glorious Golden Generation of players that included Davor Suker, Zvonimir Boban and Robert Prosinecki. Competing in their first World Cup, the Croatians made it all the way to the semifinals, and even took the lead against France in Saint-Denis, only to be undone by a pair of Lilian Thuram goals – the only two goals, it would turn out, that the defender would score in his 142 appearances for Les Bleus.
Twenty years on from that heartbreaking loss, a new Golden Generation of Croatian players – most notably Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic – have done one better by leading the country to its first ever World Cup final. It’s poetic that the last time a team came from behind to win a World Cup semifinal match was that French side that beat Suker and his Croatian cohorts. It took them two decades, but they redeemed themselves. Mandzukic served as the hero as it was his goal that capped off a magical night for Croatia in Moscow, and extended England’s World Cup drought for at least another four years.
There’s a lot to like about this Croatia side. It’s a skilled team, with Modric and Rakitic ranking amongst the best midfielders in the world. Their patience in possession is something to behold – like the Spanish, they don’t try to force the issue, and instead play the long game by slowly pecking away at their opponents, before finding an opening and sticking the dagger in.
But more than anything else, you have to admire Croatia’s resilience. In three consecutive knockout games at this World Cup they have trailed. Three times they have clawed back to win. Back-to-back victories in penalty shootouts over Denmark and hosts Russia was followed by an epic performance on Wednesday against the English, who took the lead in the fifth minute off Kevin Trippier’s marvellous free kick.
England was at the races after that, carrying the play for the opening 45 minutes and going into the break with all the momentum, while Croatia looked spent and haggard. But then, a brilliant equalizer by Perisic in the 68th minute turned the game on its head. Suddenly, it was England who was just hanging on, while there was a new spring in Croatia’s step.
Moments after tying things up, Perisic blew a golden opportunity to put his team ahead, somehow hitting the woodwork from in close. Then in extra time, Perisic delivered a tantalizing ball deep into the English box for Mandzukic, …read more