Road to the Final: Croatia

The Vatreni are through to their maiden World Cup Final after dramatically defeating England after extra time.

Croatia were rank outsiders to win the World Cup before the tournament, but Croatia’s golden generation of players have shown their strength and will to exceed all expectations, setting up a momentous Final game against France.

Croatia showed the world exactly what they were capable of, by winning all three of their group games straightforwardly. Croatia dismissed Nigeria in their first match 2-0 before creating a major talking point in the Cup by defeating Argentina 3-0, sending the South Americans to the bottom of the group, finally Croatia’s toughest challenge yet was against the resilient Icelanders who stood strong until a 90th minute Ivan Perisic goal gave Croatia all nine points.

Penalty Cliffhanger

Croatia got off to the worst possible start  going down a goal to Denmark within the first minute, but Croatia did not let their minds waver and equalised with their first attack making the game 1-1 after just five minutes. Late drama struck as Croatia were awarded an extra-time penalty giving Luka Modric the chance send his country to the Quarter Finals, but his shot was saved and the game went to penalties.

It was the goalkeepers who stood tall for both countries as the Dane Schmeichel and Subasic of Croatia provided heroic saves treating fans to a truly dramatic shootout, it was the Croats who would prevail though as Rakitic fired past Schmeichel sending Croatia through 1-1(3-2) on penalties.

Triumph over hosts

Facing the host nation in the Quarter Finals would be no easy feat for Croatia, and they soon found themselves down 1-0 thanks to a Cheryshev wonder goal, but similar to their previous match the Vatreni rallied and struck back to make the game 1-1 before half time. Tensions were running high after a routine save from Subasic caused a hamstring injury which threw fear and doubt into the hearts of Croatian’s, but the hero of last game carried on through obvious discomfort, showing his grit and determination for his country.

Croatia required extra time again and scored a goal through centre half Vida who tore his shirt off in celebration, but late drama struck for Croatia as the hosts equalised through Fernandes sending the game into penalties. It was Croatia who would progress with the injured Subasic providing a save eliminating the hosts 2-2(4-3) on penalties.

Historic Comeback

The Vatreni had made a bad habit of conceding early as they went 1-0 down to a trademark England set-piece from Trippier. After over an hour the Croats finally equalised through Perisic who guided a Vrsljko cross past English keeper Pickford.

Croatia were required to go the extra distance once more, but this time penalties wouldn’t be needed as ‘Super’ Mario Manduzukic drifted in behind the English defence to strike passed an outstretched Pickford sending Croats everywhere into pandemonium.

England attempted to find an equaliser but were spread thin due to an injury to goalscorer Trippier leaving the Three Lions a man short and ultimately in the losing position, as Croatia came from behind prevailing 2-1 a.e.t to set up their first ever World Cup Final against former champions France.