So very close: after making it all the way to the last four, England couldn’t progress to their first World Cup final since 1966. Gareth Southgate and his team ended their remarkable campaign with a 2-1 loss to Croatia, thanks to an extra-time strike by Mario Mandzukic.
This means Croatia will now play France (who won their semi-final against Belgium 1-0) in the final.
Defenders: Vedran Corluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Domagoj Vida (Besiktas), Ivan Strinic (Sampdoria), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool), Sime Vrsaljko (Atletico Madrid), Josip Pivaric (Dynamo Kiev), Tin Jedvaj (Bayer Leverkusen), Duje Caleta-Car (Red Bull Salzburg).
Midfielders: Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona), Mateo Kovacic (Real Madrid), Milan Badelj (Fiorentina), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter), Filip Bradaric (Rijeka).
Forwards: Mario Mandzukic (Juventus), Ivan Perisic (Inter), Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim), Marko Pjaca (Schalke), Ante Rebic (Eintracht).
How did France and Croatia get to the final?
France didn’t have the most explosive start to the tournament, scraping wins against Australia and Peru and registering a 0-0 draw with Denmark in their final group game. However, France burst into life with a dynamic and creative performance in their Last 16 tie with Argentina, seeing them come out top in a 4-3 thriller. Finally, they earned their way into the semis with a 2-0 victory over Uruguay in a (very scrappy) quarter-final.
Finally, they edged past European neighbours Belgium with a 1-0 victory in the semis, thanks to a second-half header from defender Samuel Umtiti.
Croatia were always dubbed ‘the ones to watch’. Their liquid football during the group stage was a lesson in how the sport should be played. The Croats barely broke a sweat against Nigeria and Iceland, while their 3-0 dismantling of Argentina was so brutal it probably shouldn’t have aired before the 9pm watershed.
Their form hasn’t transferred to the knockout stages, however. A tepid performance against Denmark required penalties to get them through, with Croatia also requiring a shootout against Russia to see them through the quarters.
However, the side still found it in them to force a 2-1 victory over England at the semi-final stage.
Has France ever won a World Cup before?
Once, 20 years ago. The country won the tournament – which they also hosted – by beating Brazil in 3-0 in the final. It was a match memorable for two goals from Zinedine Zidane and the appearance of Ronaldo (not that one), who suffered convulsive fit before the game.
France haven’t won a World Cup since, but the squad did appear in the 2006 final, where they lost to Italy on penalties.
Has Croatia ever won a World Cup before?
No. Before 2018, the side has never played in a major final. Croatia’s previous best World Cup came in 1998, where they were knocked out in the semi-finals by – you guessed it – France.
What happened in 2014?
Lionel Messi’s hopes of carrying his team to a third World Cup triumph were dashed by Germany and Mario Gotze, who put a beautiful controlled volley beyond Sergio Romero in the second half of extra time. It was the only goal in a tightly contested game – but the Germans were worthy winners.
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