Croatia become smallest nation to reach World Cup final since 1950

World Cup- Belgium Training- Sochi Russia- Jun 16 2018 Belgium's assistant coach Thierry Henry with coach Roberto Martinez during training. Reuters

But Zlatko Dalić's side equalised in the 68th minute through Ivan Perisic and bossed the game from then on, before Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic popped up with the victor in the second half of extra time to send Croatia into their first ever World Cup final. Southgate asked after the game.

"We were motivated and what I told these players before the game was "there's no pressure, no nerves, don't lose your head - you've reached the semi-final, be proud and enjoy your football". See more of the fun in the video player above.

The Croatians went into Russian Federation as the 20th-ranked team in the world, but in particular their midfield talents of Real Madrid's Luka Modric and Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic meant they were fancied by many as dark horses for a decent run. (Luka) Modric and (Ivan) Rakitic pressed their backline and we had the ball possession.

But despite the heartbreak, they and manager Gareth Southgate have reconnected many people with the national team.

The Croatia defender Domagoj Vida added to the long-standing tensions with a video that was released of him shouting "Glory to Ukraine", after his team had put Russian Federation out on penalties in the quarter-final.

Look, this England team will be around for a while.

England can take much from these momentous last few weeks in Russian Federation, where bonds have been forged behind the gates of their base in Repino, and Southgate's squad have won many admirers with their modest and down-to-earth approach.


Croatia have now played in three straight matches that went to extra time.

Ivana Falak watched the game at the Canadian Croatian Cultural Centre in Calgary and said celebrating with her community was unforgettable. We're taking it step by step.

"We had a little less composure with the ball in the second half, and maybe that was a effect of being ahead with the least experienced team in the finals, with an opportunity to get to a World Cup final".

Gareth Southgate, his entire squad and support staff, looked in a daze as they stood just 20 yards from the banks of England supporters who had flooded into Russian Federation fuelled by hope and the desire to witness history.

Southgate has rebuilt the England team since their abject failure at Euro 2016, when Roy Hodgson's side were humiliated by Iceland in the round of 16. It's a more vibrant team, one with greater self-belief. "Another one picked up my lens and another player [Domagoj Vida] gave me a kiss".

But Croatia found energy after the break when the game opened up, making England's missed first-half opportunities seem all-the-more significant.

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