Football is coming home… if we consider Croatia or France to be the sport’s adopted residence.
Croatia defeated England in the second World Cup semi-final this morning by a margin of 2-1, confirming the tiny nation’s first-ever appearance in a World Cup final.
The match was brilliant at times, but tense throughout. England struck first with a pinpoint free kick from Kieran Tripper, who powered his shot into the top corner from the edges of the box.
England held on to that lead for as long as they could, entering the second half the clear leaders.
That all changed in the 68th minute. A slick cross from Šime Vrsaljko found the head of Ivan Perišić, who nodded the ball past the glove of English keeper Jordan Pickford. 1-1.
With scores tied after 90 minutes, the match ground into extra time.
Both teams, clearly goddamn exhausted after that gruelling ordeal, threw what was left at their opponent’s goal.
Croatia fielded attack after attack, but an English corner kick bounced off the head of John Stones was nearly the decider.
Just minutes later, a fortuitous header from Croatia looped over England’s defenders and into the space between Pickford and striker Mario Mandžukić. A dash to the ball and a powerful shot to the right sent the ball running into the net. 2-1.
That scoreline held at the end of extra time, meaning Croatia will face the behemoth of France in the final on Monday.
England will play Belgium to decide who takes third place. It’s hardly the end either of those teams would have asked for, but goddamn. What a tournament.