Date: 11th July 2018 at 9:25pm
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England have failed to reach their first FIFA World Cup final since 1966 after Croatia defeated the Three Lions 2-1 in extra-time in Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday night.

Gareth Southgate’s side crashed out at the penultimate hurdle after Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic slotted home the winner in the 109th minute, meaning they will face France in the World Cup final on Sunday (16:00).

Tottenham Hotspur full-back Kieran Trippier gave England the dream start inside just five minutes, curling a wonderful free-kick into the top corner, meaning the 27-year-old became the first player to score a direct free-kick for England at a World Cup since David Beckham back in 2006 (versus Ecuador).

But Inter Milan winger Ivan Perisic equalised for Croatia in the 68th minute with a neat volley, as the Three Lions began to fall apart and lose control of the occasion in the second-half.

England’s Kieran Trippier celebrates opening the scoring.

Mandzukic, 32, had the last laugh in the second-half of extra-time, finishing expertly past goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in the England net from Perisic’s flick-on in the penalty area.

Southgate’s men will now face Belgium in Saturday’s third/fourth place play-off in St Petersburg (15:00).

Wednesday’s woes means England have now been eliminated in four of their five semi-finals at major tournaments, losing each of the last four they have reached.

Plus, Mandzukic’s winner is the latest goal ever conceded by England in a World Cup match (108 minutes, three seconds).

But, overall, everyone associated with the England national team can hold their head high. Very high.

Croatia’s Ivan Perisic celebrates his second-half equaliser.

No one expected the Three Lions to reach the final four. Many had hoped for the team to progress from the group stage, and perhaps win one knockout fixture to banish that hoodoo.

But to come within touching distance of the World Cup final in Russia, boss Southgate has assembled and managed an exciting group of players who played with determination, passion and pride.

That rubbed off on all England supporters, too, whether they were in Russia, or back home. The country is united, and has huge optimism for the future.

The nation has come together thanks to England’s impressive run at the major tournament, and there is no reason why they can’t go one better at the 2020 UEFA European Championships.

Written by Dan Church

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