Croatia reach World Cup final as England pain goes on

Mandzukic scored the winning goal in the 109th minute. (Reuters)
Updated 12 July 2018
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Croatia reach World Cup final as England pain goes on

  • “We deserved the victory,” said match-winner Mandzukic

MOSCOW: Croatia reached the first World Cup final in their young history on Wednesday, prolonging England’s decades of pain as they set up a decider against France with a 2-1 win.
Luka Modric’s team fell behind in just the fifth minute but hit back through Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic to win a tense contest in front of 78,000 fans in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.
In beating Gareth Southgate’s young team, Croatia — taken to extra-time for a third consecutive match — have surpassed the achievements of the heroes of 1998, who reached the semifinals in France.
The defeat will be difficult to digest for England, who have won many admirers for their run to the semifinals and must have felt they were on the verge of the final when they were in front.
“We deserved the victory,” said match-winner Mandzukic.
Trippier gave England a dream start, curling in a free-kick from 25 yards past the despairing dive of Danijel Subasic after Dele Alli was brought down in a central position.
The goal continued the side’s astonishing success from set-pieces at the World Cup — they scored nine goals from set-pieces — the most by any team in a single tournament since 1966.
England, playing with zip and purpose, looked sharp going forward as a rattled Croatia side tried to regroup, with Raheem Sterling proving a real handful but the score remained 1-0 at the break.
Croatia started the find their range as the second half wore on and Perisic levelled for Croatia in the 68th minute, nipping ahead of Kyle Walker to steer home Sime Vrsaljko’s cross past a diving Jordan Pickford.
Suddenly the massed ranks of red-and-white-clad Croatia fans behind Pickford’s goal started to believe and shortly afterwards Perisic hit the post but England somehow clung on to take the game into extra-time.
As the extra period started Croatia struggled to maintain their intense pressure but continued to threaten the England defense.
But Mandzukic scored the winning goal in the 109th minute, sweeping the ball low past Pickford after Perisic’s header back into the area caught the England defense on the hop.
England players collapsed on the pitch, distraught as the Croatians and their fans celebrated wildly, .
“We’re gutted,” said Harry Kane, still on course to finish as the tournament’s top goalscorer with six strikes in Russia.
“It hurts, it hurts a lot. 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 could thought we would have.”
“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. 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. It hurts.”
France reached the final for the third time in their history on Tuesday when a second-half header from Samuel Umtiti gave the 1998 champions a 1-0 victory against Belgium in Saint Petersburg.
The win sent tens of thousands of French people pouring onto the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris in scenes of joy last seen when France won the World Cup two decades ago.
In delirious scenes in Paris, fans let off fire crackers and released smoke flares.
Despite the much-vaunted attack of teenager Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann, France’s defense proved the difference as they shut down Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku and they showed they will be hard to beat on Sunday.
France coach Didier Deschamps said he was delighted to have the chance to bury the pain of the Euro 2016 final, which his side lost on home soil to Portugal.
“Finals have to be won because we have still not got over the one we lost two years ago,” he said.
It was a painful defeat for Belgium, foiled at the semifinal for the second time in their history, as the clock ticks on their so-called “golden generation” of players.
Hazard shone at times but Kevin De Bruyne was quiet and Manchester United striker Lukaku was a shadow of the player he had been earlier in the tournament, even though Belgium enjoyed most of the possession.


Ronaldo ‘committed to Juve despite Champions League flop’

Updated 19 April 2019
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Ronaldo ‘committed to Juve despite Champions League flop’

  • Cristiano is the future of Juventus. says Juve coach

MILAN: Cristiano Ronaldo is committed to Juventus next season despite his bitter disappointment at the Italian giants Champions League flop, coach Massimiliano Allegri revealed on Friday.

Allegri’s injury-hit side hosts Fiorentina on Saturday needing just a point to lift their eighth straight Serie A title, days after a shock home 2-1 defeat to the Dutch side that saw them eliminated 3-2 on aggregate.

“Cristiano is the future of Juventus. He has done very well this year and will do so next season, of course he is disappointed like all of us but he’s calm about it,” said Allegri.

“Cristiano has had an extraordinary season and will play tomorrow.”

Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo had been bidding for a sixth Champions League title to add to his four won with Real Madrid and one with Manchester United.

The 34-year-old joined Juventus from Real last summer in a 100 million-euro ($117 million) deal which runs until 2022, with a reported annual salary of 31 million euros.

He scored six of his teams’ 14 Champions League goals this season and has 19 so far in Serie A, four behind leading scorer Fabio Quagliarella.

“Ronaldo’s arrival did not give us any certainty of winning the Champions League,” continued Allegri.

“Barcelona play a semifinal this year for the first time after four years and they have (Lionel) Messi. Football is not just about individuals.

“We have to put the disappointment of the elimination in the Champions League behind us.”

Injuries have hit Juve hard ahead of the weekend’s clash, with Sami Khedira announcing that he is set to have season-ending knee surgery, while Allegri revealed that key attacker Mario Mandzukic could also miss the rest of the season.

“(Goalkeeper) Mattia Perin is out until the end of the season, as is Sami Khedira and maybe Mario Mandzukic.” he said.

Meanwhile striker Paulo Dybala will be out for three weeks and Douglas Costa and Jose Caceres for 10 days each, while defender Giorgio Chiellini could be back for next week’s trip to Inter Milan.

However with a 17-point lead over Napoli Allegri’s side are almost certainties to lift their 35th league title as they cement their domestic dominance despite continental disappointment.

“The eighth consecutive Scudetto is a source of pride for everyone. Once it’s sealed we all have to enjoy it, it wouldn’t make sense not to celebrate it.”