England dominated the start of the game, with Kieran Trippier hitting home a stunning free kick to give Gareth Southgate’s men the lead just 5 minutes in. Yet despite continued pressure, a second goal could not be found for England, and Croatia’s persistence and tenacious defending proved too strong. Croatia’s Ivan Perisic scored the equaliser amidst a second half that saw England suffocated by the superb midfield play of Luka Modric and Marcelo Brozovic.
Extra time ensued after the game was tied after the regulation 90 minutes, but penalties were prevented by none other than Mario Manduzkic, who snuck behind England’s defence late on to fire home the winner. It is the third straight game that Croatia have progressed via extra time, the most ever in World Cup history.
|(Source: NBC Sports)
Prior to the Russia World Cup, England fans did not have a huge amount of faith in their youthful and highly inexperienced side. But now there is hope. A lot of work has been done over the past few years to set English football up for the future, to make sure the next crop is better equipped to avoid the trophy-less fate the last "golden generation" endured.
Most of that work had been quiet and understated, but this past month of surprisingly thrilling England progress has revealed the immense headway that has been made. It has undoubtedly accelerated both the development of and expectations on a young England group that have successfully done the seemingly impossible: recapturing the hearts of a nation traumatised by agonizing past international performances.