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Mandzukic sends steely Croatia into first World Cup final
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Croatia showed magnificent resilience to come from behind and beat England 2-1 on Wednesday as Mario Mandzukic's extra-time goal sent them into their first World Cup final and sparked celebrations across the Balkan nation. England had looked on course for maxbet their first final since 1966 as they led through Kieran Trippier's fifth-minute free kick and totally dominated the opening half. But Croatia, in their first semi since 1998, levelled through Ivan Perisic after 68 minutes and then looked the more dangerous side. It stayed level at 90 minutes, meaning Croatia faced extra time for the third successive game, having got past Denmark and Russia on penalties. But instead of flagging, they seemed to gain in energy and avoided a third shootout when Mandzukic struck with a well-taken low shot in the 109th minute. Since their dream run to the last four in 1998, their first tournament as an independent nation, Croatia have failed to get past the group stage, with every subsequent failing team being compared unfavourably with the heroes of France.maxbet This group, however, have gone one better and will get the chance to avenge the defeat of 20 years ago when they face the French on Sunday back at the same Luzhniki Stadium. "We are deservedly in the final," Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said. "What the lads played tonight is fantasy, they've made history. We haven't said our last word, there is still one more game to go. God willing, we will be world champions." As always, Croatia have shown fantastic spirit and belief, coming through extra time in three matches and battling back superbly after a wretched first half against England when they should have been put out of the game. England had got off to a flying start when Trippier curled a superb free kick into the top corner. It was their 12th goal of the tournament and ninth from a set-piece, but they should have added more from open play as they revelled in the space they were being given and looked completely in command. maxbet
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