Finally, England and Croatia have chance to banish semi blues

England vs Croatia World Cup 2018 semi final

England are dreaming of a first World Cup final since 1966 but first they must come through Wednesday's semi-final at the Luzhniki Stadium against Croatia in what looks like their toughest test yet in Russian Federation.

England had got off to a flying start when Trippier curled a superb free kick into the top corner in the opening minutes. The Croatia forward latched onto Ivan Perisic's header and rifled the ball past England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in the 109th minute.

Striker Mario Mandzukic scored 19 minutes into extra-time to complete the Croatian comeback and end England's dream tournament run.

They have since defeated Denmark and hosts Russian Federation on penalties to make it to the last four.

When the World Cup began, most believed that the semi-finals would be composed of the following four teams: Spain, Germany, France and Brazil.

If the game goes to penalties, Croatia becomes the first team to play three shootouts at a single World Cup.

"Someone mentioned it the other day to us", Henderson said with a smile.

"What the lads played tonight is fantasy, they've made history".

"They of course have a very strong midfield so, (it is about) denying them space and making sure awareness of distances and coverage of the pitch is correct and (knowing) the right moments to press", he said.

While familiar faces in the world of football shared their immediate thoughts, Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton declared himself "inspired" by the team's effort.

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Bournemouth South Police said there will be three main road closures in the town centre at the end of the game. Stan Chattersley, who has lived in Bournemouth for 15 years, admitted he would not be supporting England.

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Given Croatia had extra time and penalties to recover from, England should come into the game fresher and they also have the edge in previous meetings, winning four of the seven encounters, including a 5-1 victory in their most recent match - a World Cup qualifier in 2009.

Earlier, England had a 1-0 halftime lead over Croatia 1-0 in the World Cup semifinals after Kieran Trippier scored from a free kick. "We probably needed that second goal [in the first half]".

England continued to look strong at the start of the second half and Kane almost got on the end of a terrific cross on the volley by Trippier. Luka Modric, who looked exhausted for much of the game, still ended up as the conductor for Croatia.

England paid the price for those early misses when Perisic showed great determination to get in front of Kyle Walker to meet a curling Sime Vrsaljko cross and though his boot was arguably high, Walker was stooping and there were few complaints.

As well as scoring, Perisic also hit the post for the second straight game and set up Mandzukic's victor, heading a poor clearance toward the Juventus striker to score.

John Stones was slow to pick up Mandzukic's run onto a Perisic header, and Pickford was beaten by a left-foot shot that sealed England's fate and sent Croatia into dreamland.

"This is a miracle".

"Having an identity and playing in a way that we felt comfortable as a team, the manager has implemented that brilliantly", Henderson said while sitting next to Southgate at the pre-match press conference at Luzhniki Stadium.

"We were like lions out there tonight and we will be the same in the final".

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