It’s certainly not ‘Coming Home’ afterall…
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, in their trance, it was impossible not to wonder whether there will be a lifetime of regret.
Croatia will return to the Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday to face France in the final and, on this evidence, they might yet have the competitive courage to complete their own dreams. The decisive moment here came in the 109th minute from a striker, Mario Mandzukic, who was carrying an injury and that in itself summed up the immense personality of this team.
England will go into a third-versus-fourth sideshow against Belgium the previous day and, just like 1990, they would desperately wish they were not there, as started so promisingly by taking the lead through Kieran Trippier’s wonderful fifth-minute free-kick.
England remained composed and in control and should have doubled their lead on the half-hour mark, but Danijel Subasic denied Harry Kane from a Jesse Lingard through pass and before the Tottenham’s striker struck the rebound against the post.
That kicked Croatia into gear and England needed a last-gasp block from John Stones to cut out an Ante Rebic’s cross before the full-back fired a follow-up straight down Jordan Pickford’s throat.
A second goal remained out of reach for England as Lingard fired a glorious chance wide after Dele Alli’s clever square on 36 minutes.
England’s inability to convert their dominance into goals nearly came back to bite them when Dejan Lovren went down in the area under a Harry Maguire challenge, but a VAR review after the half-time whistle had sounded proved inconclusive.
England invited more and more pressure on themselves and Croatia finally made them pay on 68 minutes as Perisic – a minute after Kyle Walker brilliantly blocked his goal-bound strike – stole a march on the Manchester City defender to poke Sime Vrsaljko’s whipped cross beyond Pickford.
Kane had the chance to send England through in stoppage-time but he headed a presentable chance wide from a Trippier free-kick.
Vrsaljko headed a goal-bound Stones header off the line nine minutes into extra-time before a stunning point-blank save from Pickford prevented Mandzukic from putting Croatia ahead.