Fifa World Cup: England’s Harry Kane ‘gutted’ after Mario Mandzukic hits extra time winner to earn Croatia final with France

Three Lions took early lead through Kieran Trippier but Ivan Perisic plays decisive role in guiding France ‘98 semi-finalists to rematch

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 July, 2018, 5:34am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 July, 2018, 12:10pm

England captain Harry Kane could not hide his desperate disappointment after his side’s 2-1 extra-time defeat against Croatia in the semi-finals of the Fifa World Cup in Moscow on Wednesday.

“We’re gutted. It hurts, it hurts a lot,” Kane said after the match at the Luzhniki Stadium.

“It’s going to hurt for a while of course. We can hold our heads up high. It’s been a fantastic journey, we got further than anyone else thought we would have,” he added.

Playing in their first World Cup semi-final since 1990, England took a fifth-minute lead through Kieran Trippier’s superb free-kick.

But Croatia summoned the strength to come back in the second half, equalising through Ivan Perisic before Mario Mandzukic got the winner in the 109th minute.

“It’s been great to get to this stage and we know we’ve done everyone proud but we wanted to go on and win it,” Kane added.

Fifa World Cup: England fans in Hong Kong plunged into darkness as Croatia turn the lights out on Russia 2018

“We thought we were just good enough, we thought we could have done that. But we’ve fallen just a bit short. It hurts. I don’t know what else to say.”

The biggest winners of the night could well be France, who have had an extra day’s rest for Sunday’s final after edging out Belgium 1-0 on Tuesday.

That will not matter too much right now for Croatia, who are the smallest nation to make it to the final since Uruguay back in 1950.

England had been the ones hoping to make history, in what was their first appearance in the semi-finals in 28 years.

World Cup chance meeting leads Russian woman to her childhood Chinese pen pal, 56 years on

Then they were beaten on penalties by West Germany. Having ended their famous penalty curse by beating Colombia in a shoot-out in the last 16, they might have fancied repeating here.

But Croatia, having won on penalties against Denmark and Russia in the last two rounds, saw the game out, dousing the World Cup dream of Gareth Southgate’s side that had gone from the improbable to the possible over the last month in Russia.

Southgate stuck with the same starting line-up as that which eased past Sweden in the quarter-finals, while Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozovic replaced Andrej Kramaric in the Croatian line-up.

They were looking to the inspirational Luke Modric to control the game, but instead it was he who gave away the early free-kick from which Trippier put England ahead.

Fifa World Cup: England have potential for much more, says proud Gareth Southgate

It was a fantastic curling effort from 25 yards from the Tottenham Hotspur full-back, and England’s first goal direct from a free-kick at the World Cup since David Beckham against Ecuador in 2006.

England could not have imagined a better start.

Croatia were stunned, and Ivan Rakitic, usually so accomplished, was especially off his game.

Zlatko Dalic’s side did gradually grow into the contest, but they could still be relieved to go in at half-time only one goal down, especially as Harry Kane was denied by a combination of goalkeeper Danijel Subasic and the woodwork on the half-hour mark.

Croatia hung on and it was to their immense credit that they turned the tide after the break in what developed into an epic encounter.

China’s sports suits use Fifa World Cup focus to propose Marcello Lippi’s national team join the Chinese Super League

Shooting towards the end of the Luzhniki Stadium where most of their fans were gathered, they equalised in the 68th minute, as Sime Vrsaljko crossed from the right and Perisic stole in front of the stooping Kyle Walker to score with his left foot.

Having looked so comfortable earlier, England’s young side were rattled, and they were lucky not to go behind soon after as Perisic sent a low shot across Jordan Pickford and off the far post.

Unable to get the second goal while they were on top, Croatia were forced into extra time again.

Vrsaljko cleared a John Stones header away from in front of the line, but England had Pickford to thank for a brilliant save as Mandzukic connected with a devilish Perisic cross.

Fifa World Cup: the man who taught Gareth Southgate all he knows, England’s most successful manager predicts win against Croatia

It was a wonder the Juventus forward did not break a limb as Pickford crunched into him.

He managed to carry on after treatment, and he was on hand to sweep the ball low past Pickford after Perisic’s header back into the area caught the England defence on the hop to finally decide a brilliant contest.