World Cup Semi-Final Results 2018: Top Highlights and Twitter Reaction

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJuly 11, 2018

Croatia's forward Ivan Perisic celebrates after scoring the equaliser during the Russia 2018 World Cup semi-final football match between Croatia and England at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 11, 2018. (Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS        (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)
ALEXANDER NEMENOV/Getty Images

England crashed out of the 2018 FIFA World Cup after losing 2-1 to Croatia in the semi-final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Wednesday.

Goals from Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic were enough to cancel out Kieran Trippier's spectacular opener. They were also enough to send Croatia into a first-ever World Cup final.

England went in front in less than five minutes, but the goal came from an unlikely source. It was right wing-back Trippier who stepped up to stroke a free-kick into the back of the net for his first international goal.

U.S. audiences can see the strike here:

Here it is for UK viewers:

The rest of the half saw England keep the pressure on but come up short more than once in the final third. Raheem Sterling's pace provided a constant threat, with every other England player seemingly intent on releasing the Manchester City forward over the top.

Both Sterling and Kane were helped by the technique and vision of Jesse Lingard, as the Manchester United attacking midfielder routinely found pockets of space to play defence-splitting passes.

Uncharacteristically, Kane's touch let him down in front of goal, as the Tottenham Hotspur striker spurned a one-on-one after being played in by Lingard.

The latter had also wasted an excellent shooting chance but generally performed well as a source of creativity between the lines. England led at the half, but the missed chances meant there was a feeling the lead should have been a more significant one:

Even so, the Three Lions were earning praise for the way they had nullified Croatia's chief sources of supply:

England had the lead, but control belonged to Croatia after the break as the Blazers began moving the ball quickly and intuitively through midfield. In particular, Luka Modric began exerting more influence and dictating the flow of his country's pass-and-move game.

Croatia got the breakthrough that the improvement merited on 68 minutes, when Perisic ghosted between two defenders to get his foot to a cross and complete a cute finish:

Danger was building when Perisic hit the post after turning Kyle Walker inside out. The growing threat prompted England coach Gareth Southgate to swap Sterling for Marcus Rashford, although what England missed more was guile in possession, a sentiment shared by many:

Not being able to control possession meant England spent too much time off the ball, allowing Croatia to grow in confidence. The upturn in the Blazers' temperament was obvious by the way Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Marcelo Brozovic effortlessly exchanged passes and dragged markers out of position.

Those quick exchanges stretched the Three Lions defence, and the pressure led to Mandzukic turning in after Perisic's header down in the 109th minute:

England appeared out of gas even before the winner was scored. A deflated group of players couldn't muster enough impetus to create a meaningful chance.

Pace was lacking along the front without Sterling, even after Rashford's introduction. Kane also appeared fatigued after a taxing tournament.

In fairness, none of England's forwards were helped by the lack of quality from the middle of the park. Instead, England players were left frustrated and chasing shadows until time ran out on their commendable but ultimately fruitless campaign:

By contrast, Croatia have performed above expectations, showing enviable resolve to go with their obvious technical acumen. The combination could be too much for France in Sunday's final.

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