World Cup 2018 semi-final: Croatia 2-1 England (aet) – as it happened

England took the lead and dared to dream … but experienced opponents eventually won the day

The morning after the night before. . .means more reading

Paul Doyle on Roy Keane and Ian Wright’s spat post-match on ITV

Louise Taylor on Sunderland being able to believe again

Whatever happens, just keep snapping

And beer!

A night of high drama has come to an end. England are out, Croatia will face France in Sunday’s World Cup final. Thanks for joining us tonight, here’s Barney Ronay to see you out …

… Dominic Fifield to make you a cup of cocoa

and Football Weekly to tuck you in.


England woe …

Croatian joy.

Ivan Perisic: 8/10

Harry Kane: 6/10

More from Stuart James, right here.

As the dust begins to settle, Luka Modric has his say. Ouch.

Despite England’s exit, Sunday’s final is all set to be a cracker. Here’s David Hytner’s lowdown on what is means for Paul Pogba and France.

And with that, it’s time my time on this MBM comes to a close. It’s been emotional. For a while back there, England looked in complete control, and a first World Cup final since 1966 seemed their destiny, theirs for the taking. But experienced opponents ground them down, and in the end Croatia were deserved victors. England will pick themselves up again after a heroic campaign that totally outstripped expectation; they’ll play Belgium in the third-place play-off on Saturday. Croatia meanwhile wearily move on to a meeting in the final with France. Can they become the smallest country to win the World Cup since Uruguay in 1950? It’s going to be fun finding out on Sunday.

Stay tuned on this liveblog for more reaction from Barney Ronay, Martha Kelner and Dominic Fifield, plus player ratings from Stuart James, and the latest quotes from Gareth Southgate and the players. Thanks for reading, wherever you are in the world: nighty night and sweet dreams!

England players look around the stadium as their World Cup hopes end.
England players look around the stadium as their World Cup hopes end. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian


Despite the disappointing scoreline, there will be plenty of England fans who wouldn’t have missed the game for the world. Here’s the story of their last-minute race to Russia.

So on Saturday afternoon, England now face Belgium in the one match no footballer wants to play in: the third-place play-off at the World Cup. There’s plenty to play for: should England win, it’ll be their second-best finish at international football’s premier tournament: they were beaten by Italy in 1990 and ended up fourth.

Also, there’s the small matter of the Golden Boot. It won’t be uppermost in his mind right now, but the captain wants that shiny shoe! He’s on six goals, two ahead of Romelu Lukaku. If the Belgian doesn’t notch at least a couple, Kane will almost certainly have the Boot to himself ... unless Kylian Mbappe or Antoine Griezmann become only the second player in history to score a World Cup final hat-trick, after Geoff Hurst.

It’s not what any England fan wanted at the start of the day ... but it’s something. It’ll feel better come Saturday, promise.

The mightily impressive Jordan Pickford talks. “It was an experience. Maybe we went ahead to early. But we needed that next goal to kill off the tie. We had some good chances, but didn’t put them away. They have some top-quality players, which showed in the second half. Maybe it was a high kick on Kyle Walker for their first goal? But you can’t look back, we showed pride and passion. The fans were great. As a nation we’ve come far, and hopefully it’s the start of a good future.”

Jordan Pickford receives commiserations after heading up into the stands to see his family.
Jordan Pickford receives commiserations after heading up into the stands to see his family. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian


Daniel Taylor’s verdict is in!

It was like watching a beautiful painting being ripped up in front of your eyes. England’s dream of making it to their first World Cup final for more than a quarter of a century was over and in those desolate moments after the final whistle, as the losing players wandered aimlessly around the pitch, almost zombie-like in their trance, it was impossible not to wonder whether there will be a lifetime of regret.

A solemn but proud Gareth Southgate speaks! “In the first half we were really good, and could have had another. We had chances. There was a spell in the second half when they got the goal and their tails were up, we had to weather the storm. Possibly at that moment, we were hanging on a bit. Great credit, in extra time we got back into the game and showed some more composure. The biggest thing is our supporters at the end, and their reaction. That tells you what the players have given, not just tonight but over the period. I can’t ask any more. Knockout football is fine margins. When you have spells, you have to make them count; we probably needed that second goal. We’ve come an incredible long way in a short space of time. We are probably beyond where we thought we might be able to go. So tonight we weren’t quite there, but the team will be stronger for that.”

Gareth Southgate applauds the England fans.
Gareth Southgate applauds the England fans. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian


The England fans are still in the Luzhniki. They’re in buoyant mood, despite their disappointment, and are currently belting out a fine karaoke rendition of Don’t Look Back In Anger by Oasis. Will that chase Three Lions up the charts this weekend too? It’ll be 1996 on feedback loop. This has to stop if there’s a Kula Shaker revival, though.

England fans in the stadium show the team some love.
England fans in the stadium show the team some love. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian


Post-match chat: “We dared to dream,” begins Kyle Green. “Maybe we can dream again in the future. It doesn’t hurt any less though. This is my tenth tournament with England. I’m very proud still but it’s going to be a rough rest of the night.”

“For being in the supposed easy half of the draw, Croatia had to work their unmentionables off to get to the final,” writes Kári Tulinius. “Three very intense games, all going to extra time. France will be happy to face exhausted opponents, but Croatia have shown that they never give up and have always found a way.”

“Watching on Dutch TV, they were quite unequivocal that Croatia deserved the victory and were several gears above the English,” reports Ali Houston. “That’s the polite version anyway. They were most, uh, constructive, in their criticism.”

“Got to give Croatia props for attacking to the final second,” says Zafar Sobhan. “None of this dribbling the ball to the corner flag rubbish.”

And a defiant word from Hubert O’Hearn: “It’s coming home ... soon.”


And now a full-time dispatch from Kevin Rawlinson at the Hyde Park shindig.

“It’s like the Olympics again.” There was a feeling of high optimism in Hyde Park, where new fans mixed with the more established, as kick-off approached. By the time the night was over, that was replaced by silent resignation.

As Hyde Park filled up early on Wednesday evening, the Lightning Seeds had got the crowd going with a live rendition of Three Lions on the main stage. At that point, “it was coming home”.

Will Prior, one of the tens of thousands of fans who had made his way to central London for the match, didn’t think England would get the job done in normal time. After a 0-0 draw, he saw them doing it on penalties.

“I can’t handle penalties,” says Charlotte Garside, 29. She didn’t have to. That was almost crueler.

Neither was really old enough to remember England’s last World Cup semi-final appearance. Each admitted they wouldn’t have been interested if they were. They were some of those people in the country who had been energised by England’s performance so far.

“I just think everybody is here for the atmosphere. People normally have no hope … we’ve got fresh blood this year,” said Garside. Her prediction had been: 3-2 after extra time, following a 2-2 draw.

Max Kennedy, 21, was not even old enough to remember England’s more recent semi-final appearance - in the 1996 European Championship - the first time it was said to be coming home. He believes the festival-like atmosphere was far better than watching the match in a packed pub. “You can tell everyone is just on it.”

Eamonn Power and his friends could remember 1990. They said they did not see much optimism on the streets pre-match. “You don’t see so many England flags,” said David Dickson. That was, they said, until they got into Hyde Park, where they watched the match with 50,000 similarly optimistic fans.

The fact Kennedy had never seen England get this far perhaps his pre-match optimism more surprising: 3-1 England, he said just before kick-off. Kane to score two. Within 10 minutes, England would be one up and thousands of plastic pint glasses would be emptied into the evening air – quite a feat at £6-a-pint.

Everything seemed to looking up at that point. The sun was shining and England were heading into the World Cup final to play France. Soon after half-time, however, the smiling faces were creased with worry. Croatia had equalised and the sun had sunk behind the trees. Soon, it would be gone altogether.

A deflated Harry Kane speaks. “It’s tough. We’re gutted, you know. We worked so hard. The fans were amazing. It was a tough game, a 50-50 game. I’m sure there was stuff we could have done better, but we worked as hard as we could. It hurts, it’ll hurt for a while, but we can hold our heads up high. It was a fantastic journey, we got further than anyone thought we could, we’ve just got to learn from it. We created some good chances, being 1-0 up. Maybe we dropped too deep at times. In big games, it’s small margins. There’s a lot we could have done better, but they played well. It’s been great to get to this stage, but we wanted to go on and win it. But we’ve fallen a bit short. It just hurts. It shows we can win knockout games; the next stage is to go one further. We’ve got to dust ourselves down and go again in a couple of years.”

The greatest thing about this England campaign? There can be no scapegoats. Because every single player has been magnificent in their own way. And so it’s that time to give the players your ratings. Tens all round? C’mon, spread the love!

Player ratings.

Sorry, I’ve been wittering ... here’s our on-the-whistle match report.


Gareth Southgate is a class act. Ever the gentleman, he congratulates Zlatko Dalic, a hug and a hand clasp, and consoles his players. An arm around Kane, and a word in his ear. A gentle hand to lift Young from the floor. He’s obviously coping with feelings of crushing disappointment himself, but as ever, retains the demeanour of a statesman. He’s done England proud.

Ashley Young looks absolutely dejected
Ashley Young looks absolutely dejected Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian
... and so do the England fans
... and so do the England fans Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian


England’s players collapse to the floor. You know exactly how they feel. Rashford sobs into the turf. Lingard looks distraught too. Maguire stunned. Alli with his head in his hands. Football’s not coming home after all. But two things: England have been magnificent tonight, and this is a run that will echo down the ages. Heroes all. Croatia meanwhile, after being run ragged in the first half, were the better team for the rest of the match and deservedly make it to the final. Commiserations to England’s heroic young squad ... but congratulations to Croatia!

Jamie Vardy and Dele Alli of England look dejected after the final whistle.
Jamie Vardy and Dele Alli of England look dejected after the final whistle. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images


EXTRA TIME, FULL TIME: Croatia 2-1 England

The free kick’s no good. Floated in. The man-of-the-match Perisic races off with the ball ... and the English dream is over. Croatia will play France in the 2018 World Cup final!

ET 30 min +4: England will have one last set piece to save themselves! Alli tries to burst down the left. Badelj stops him, but only by handling! England load the box. Rashford takes!

ET 30 min +3: Perisic romps down the left. Crosses. Pickford claims and launches long but can’t find anyone.

ET 30 min +2: After a tussle for the ball, Alli gathers Rakitic’s shirt into his fist, in the old-school cartoon style. Again, it nearly descends into saloon-style shenanigans, but the ref snuffs it out. Dier hoists long but Subasic claims.

ET 30 min +1: Rakitic and Perisic meander down the left. The clock ticks on. There are now three minutes for England to save their World Cup dream.

ET 30 min: Croatia triangulate nicely down the right. Suddenly Kramaric is romping into the box! He’s got Perisic free in the middle, but decides to go for the top right. He only ripples the side netting. There will be four minutes of added time.

ET 29 min: Modric is replaced by Badelj.

ET 28 min: Trippier can’t continue. He’s being helped off. Meanwhile on the field, the ten men of England win a free kick down the left, Alli fouled. England load the box. Rashford floats it into the mixer. The ball flicks off Lovren’s head, but the ref thinks it’s come off Maguire. Goal kick.

England’s Kieran Trippier is helped towards the bench.
England’s Kieran Trippier is helped towards the bench. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters


ET 26 min: Meanwhile Trippier limps off with a groin complaint. He looks in a bad way. England will defend the corner with ten men. Perisic has a crack from distance. Pickford mishandles, but gathers ... and is barged by an over-enthusiastic Vida. Free kick. For a second it looks like kicking off, but the referee is over quickly, and to be honest, Pickford just wants to get on with it.

ET 25 min: Pivaric and Rakitic combine well down the left, earning a corner. Before it can be taken, Mandzukic is replaced by Corluka. The big striker takes his own sweet time to leave the field of play, and the referee performs the international mime for “I’m adding on some time, son.”

ET 23 min: Rashford hoists in from the left, hoping to find Alli. But Subasic is out quickly to spring high and claim.

ET 22 min: Gareth Southgate rolls the dice for the last time, replacing Walker with Vardy. Rashford races down the left and lifts a cross into the box. But there’s nobody in white nearby. Modric clears calmly.

ET 20 min: A fine finish by Mandzukic, though it was more sleepy defending by England. Can they rescue themselves at the death?


GOAL! Croatia 2-1 England (Mandzukic ET 19)

England fail to clear a high ball down the left. Perisic beats Trippier to a header to the left of the D. Mandzukic meets the dropping ball, and flashes an unstoppable low shot across Pickford and into the bottom right.

Mario Mandzukic of Croatia scores past England keeper Jordan Pickford.
Mario Mandzukic of Croatia scores past England keeper Jordan Pickford. Photograph: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic celebrates scoring their second goal with team-mates.
Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic celebrates scoring their second goal with team-mates. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters
England’s John Stones and Kyle Walker react after conceding their second goal scored by Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic.
Whilst England’s John Stones and Kyle Walker look dejected. Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters
Down the other end of the pitch Vida celebrates with Subasic.
Down the other end of the pitch Vida celebrates with Subasic. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian


ET 18 min: Croatia take it quickly. England are snoozing. Brozovic barrels down the inside-left channel into acres of space. He’s in the area and meets the ball ... but blazes it high and wide left. England breathe again, because that was poor defending.

ET 17 min: Croatia are hogging the ball in the early stages of this final period. Perisic, who has been excellent tonight, works his way down the left and wins a corner.

And we’re off again! Again! Croatia get the ball rolling. Goodness knows how this final period will pan out. We’re 15 minutes away from penalty kicks; just saying.

EXTRA TIME, HALF TIME: Croatia 1-1 England

The corner leads to nothing. Modric faffs about on the left, and that’s that for the first half of extra time. That was an outstanding save by Pickford, who is unquestionably one of England’s players of the tournament. If not the England player of the tournament, Kane’s goals and all. Mandzukic is still walking very gingerly.

ET 15 min +2: Then Perisic, deep on the left, curls low for Mandzukic, on the edge of the six-yard box. Pickford comes out bravely to put the striker off: he star jumps and Mandzukic’s effort is deflected wide and high. What a save! But he’s also crumped Mandzukic in his trouser arrangement with his knee. So there’s a bit of time for the striker to catch his breath before the corner’s taken.

Jordan Pickford saves from Mandzukic.
Jordan Pickford keeps England in the World Cup. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian


ET 15 min +1: There will be two minutes added to this period. In the first, Perisic is sent scampering into space down the left. He pulls one back for Kramaric, who hits first time. But his shot is blocked.

ET 15 min: The game has slowed to walking pace now. A mixture of exhaustion and nervous tension.

ET 13 min: Rose has been dangerous since his introduction. He makes good ground down the left, and his fizzing cross is well dealt with by Lovren. England have regained the initiative, after seriously rocking during that second half.

ET 12 min: Croatia’s free kick is a waste of time.

ET 11 min: England have been the better team since the start of extra time. But then Croatia launch pretty much their first attack of the period. Vrsaljko races down the right. Rashford slides in. No contact, but it’s a free kick anyway. Before that can be taken, Rebic is replaced by the in-form Kramaric.

ET 9 min: Trippier’s ball flashes onto the head of Stones, 12 yards out and level with the right-hand post. Stones guides his header towards the top left. It’s going in, but Vrsaljko is on the line and clears! So close!

Croatia’s Sime Vrsaljko clears the ball off the line after a header from England’s John Stones.
Croatia’s Sime Vrsaljko clears the ball off the line after a header from England’s John Stones. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters


ET 8 min: Dier is immediately into the action, earning a corner with a speculative shot from distance. Trippier will take, out on the right.

ET 7 min: Trippier chips the free kick into the area, towards Maguire. But now it’s a free kick for Croatia, Henderson having knocked Mandzukic over. And that’s Henderson’s evening over: he’s replaced by Dier.

ET 6 min: Rose goes skittering at pace down the middle. Rebic slides in from behind and picks up a yellow card. The free kick is central, and a good 35 yards out. Here’s Gary Byrne: “Regardless of the result, France are absolutely loving this.”

ET 4 min: England are seeing more of the ball. You’d think Croatia - older, and with an extra period of half time in their legs - could struggle if this keeps up. Strinic goes down, feeling his groin. It looks as though he’ll be hooked for Pivaric ... though he’s taking an age to traipse off.

ET 2 min: England turn down the chance of throwing high into the box, and the chance to put Croatia under pressure is gone.

Here we go again! England have made another change, swapping Young for Rose. They kick off, and quickly Rashford is making his presence felt down the right. He earns a throw deep in Croatian territtory. England should have had a corner, Brozovic hacking clear from behind the byline, but they don’t get it.

FULL TIME: Croatia 1-1 England

It was always going to be this way, wasn’t it. We’re slap-bang in the middle of an epic.


90 min +2: Trippier loops a slow one to the far post. Kane meets it, but from eight yards flashes a header wide left. That wasn’t the easiest of chances ... but it wasn’t the hardest, either. Kane wears the disappointed look of a man who knows he should have done a little better.

Despite the melee Harry Kane gets a header in but it goes wide.
Despite the melee Harry Kane gets a header in but it goes wide. Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images


90 min +1: Rashford dribbles infield from the right and is clumsily bowled to the ground by Rakitic. What a chance for England to load the box, and score from yet another set piece. If they do, they’re in the final!

90 min: Lovren attempts a shot from 30 yards. Hats off for ambition, I suppose. There are three extra minutes between these two street-fighting teams and extra time.

88 min: Rebic is released into a little space out on the left. He hoofs a needlessly panicked cross out of play on the other wing. A lot of players thinking about extra time now. A lot of players dreading making a mistake that would almost certainly decide this semi-final.

87 min: Kane, deep on the left, nearly finds Lingard with a clever threaded diagonal pass. It’s inches away from the striker, who can’t sort his feet out in time to control. Lingard was free on the spot. This is beyond tense!

86 min: Strinic dribbles in from the left, a wonderful solo run. He thinks about shooting, but instead looks for Perisic in acres on the right. Wrong choice. His pass is wild, sailing out for a throw. Perisic stretches to reach it in the knackered style. He puts his hands on his knees and takes a few gulps of air.

84 min: England fail to deal with a high ball. Pickford comes off his line to punch. It’s not a good one, falling straight to Perisic, out on the left. Perisic tries to return it instantly, the net now unguarded, but hoists it over the bar.

83 min: Brozovic dinks a pass down the inside-right channel. Mandzukic, who has been quiet, swivels and hammers a shot at goal from a tight-ish angle. Pickford parries brilliantly. England go up the other end. A long ball deceives Vida, nearly letting Rashford in. Subasic rises high to claim.

Mario Mandzukic of Croatia takes a shot as Kyle Walker of England attempts to block.
Mario Mandzukic of Croatia takes a shot as Kyle Walker of England attempts to block. Photograph: Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images


81 min: Trippier nearly sends the very dangerous Perisic through with a weak prod back towards his keeper. Stones does just enough to stop Perisic wriggling free, and Pickford hammers clear ... though he nearly hits Perisic in doing so. The nerves are rattling all right.

80 min: Stones is hassled and harried by Rebic. The ball flies out of play for a throw. Stones unleashes a volley of abuse at the referee. For a throw in the midfield! The stress is beginning to show.

78 min: England are looking dangerous for the first time this half. Croatia can’t get out of their box. Henderson tries to release Lingard. The ball breaks back to him. He tries a dipping volley. Over the bar. This really could go either way: neither team looks secure at the back. And the nerves will really start to kick in right about now.

Jordan Henderson of England shoots.
Not that close so definitely no cigar for Jordan Henderson. Photograph: Joosep Martinson/FIFA via Getty Images


77 min: Rakitic, deep on the left, sends a high diagonal ball into the middle. Pickford comes to the edge of his box to claim well, under severe pressure from the marauding Perisic. England go up the other end, Lingard gliding into the box down the inside-right channel and dragging a shot across the face of goal. That wasn’t far away from creeping into the bottom left.

Jesse Lingard shoots wide.
Close but no cigar for Jesse Lingard. Photograph: Eddie Keogh for The FA/Rex/Shutterstock


75 min: Croatia are playing at a high tempo now. They sense blood. Vrsaljko moves down the right. His low cross nearly finds Perisic on the penalty spot. England hack clear. They survive. Just.

74 min: England make the first change of the evening, swapping Sterling for Rashford.

73 min: England are rocking. Croatia win a corner down the right. Vrsaljko’s ball in is half cleared. Brozovic latches onto it, and blazes a 20-yarder a similar distance over the bar.

71 min: Croatia hit the post! Stones hesitates on the edge of the area, and shanks a clearance. Perisic drops a shoulder and enters the box down the left. He whistles a low shot across Pickford and off the right-hand upright! The ball breaks to Rebic, who can only waft a soft first-time shot into the grateful arms of Pickford!

Jordan Pickford of England looks on as Ivan Perisic of Croatia’s shot hits the post.
Jordan Pickford of England looks on as Ivan Perisic of Croatia’s shot hits the post. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images


70 min: England have been a little passive since the restart. Kane tries to get them going, racing down the left and launching diagonally for Trippier, romping into the box from the other flank. There’s just a bit too much juice on the pass. Goal kick. But that’s a decent response to conceding the equaliser.

GOAL! Croatia 1-1 England (Perisic 68)

Croatia had been turning up the pressure, and now they’ve got their reward! Vrsaljko, deep on the right, curls towards the far post. Walker stoops to head clear, but Perisic nips in