Goals from Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic saw Croatia defeat England 2-1 in a World Cup semi-final. Both teams tried to take control of the match through the midfield, and ultimately Croatia proved to be more effective than England. Still, players from both sides gave strong performances.
Croatia Defeat England
Prior to the match, pundits and fans alike questioned how England would cope with the threats of Croatia’s Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic. In the first half, England seemed to have the answer. That is, Jesse Lingard, Dele Alli and Jordan Henderson all looked sharp and made excellent decisions. Crucially, players such as Ashley Young, Kieran Trippier, and Harry Maguire all made themselves available to give and receive passes from the midfield three. The Croatian players simply couldn’t gain a foothold in the match and often looked tired from their previous two matches which both went to extra-time. As a result, simple passes were misplaced and frustration crept in.
However, in the second half, Croatia turned the game on its head. Perisic showed immense desire to stretch across Kyle Walker and connect with a ball into the box from Sime Vrsaljko. This goal cancelled out Trippier’s magical free-kick earlier in the match. The Croatians looked like a side running on adrenaline. Modric played triangles with ease alongside Vrsaljko and Marcelo Brozovic down England’s left side. Additionally, wingers Ivan Perisic and Ante Rebic interchanged positions beautifully.
Mario Mandzukic Stays Alert
Despite the fact that Croatia put together excellent passages of play, Mario Mandzukic had to wait until extra-time for a clear-cut chance. He broke free from John Stones and volleyed the ball into the net. His alertness and clinical finishing ultimately proved to be the difference in separating the two teams. Of course, Mandzukic did more than score the winner. He sprinted like a man possessed to close down England’s players while they were in possession.
Leader, Legend Luka Modric
Modric also gives everything in terms of effort, but it’s his composure across the pitch that makes him an elite player. The Real Madrid star picked out his compatriots with some delightfully chipped passes. He seems to make the right decisions at the right times. At one point, instead of crossing the ball immediately, he turned sharply and played the ball between two England defenders so that Rebic could shoot. Perhaps most importantly, Modric is a leader who demands the ball and brings a calmness to the entire team.
Kieran Trippier Delivers
While perhaps not quite a leader, Trippier’s contributions from set pieces throughout the tournament have been sensational. His precise free-kick gave England the lead early on in this match. Additionally, he found Harry Maguire from corner kicks on multiple occasions. During open play, some players are fearful of crossing the ball and prefer to pass the ball to a teammate, despite being in a prime position. Trippier refuses to be one of these players.
The Bigger Picture
Given that England reached the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time since 1990, these players will be welcomed home as heroes. On the other hand, Croatia will try to defeat France to claim their first ever World Cup trophy. Both of these teams should feel proud of their efforts at this tournament.