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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 October 2018

2018 World Cup semi-final as it happened: Mandzukic goal puts Croatia in World Cup final

Gareth Southgate's England side face Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Wednesday. Kick-off time is 10pm UAE

1.20am - Final weekend schedule

So now we are down to two games remaining.

It will be Belgium v England on Saturday to decide who gets third place. That match is in Saint Petersburg and is at 6pm UAE time.

Then it is the final on Sunday in Moscow. France, looking for a second world title after their 1998 success, up against Croatia, managed by former Al Ain manager Zlatko Dalic, in their first final, and looking for glory.

Thanks for following us tonight for the action. Follow all the news here from Russia with The National.

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12.40am - Croatia are in the World Cup final

Congratulations to Croatia and particularly to former Al Ain manager Zlatko Dalic.

Croatia become the first side since France in 1998 to win a semi-final after conceding the first goal as they triumph 2-1 after extra time.

They will play France in the final on Sunday in Moscow.

Croatia were well worth the win as they fought back from a poor start to triumph.

12.25am - Mario Mandzukic puts Croatia ahead

England are caught ball watching as a half-cleared ball from a corner is headed back into the area, and Mandzukic takes advantage of John Stones being half asleep to fire past Jordan Pickford.

England have 10 minutes to find an answer.

12.15am - Still level at 1-1 between Croatia and England

England have gone closest to breaking the deadlock in extra time as John Stones has a header from a corner cleared off the line.

Jordan Pickford then makes a close range stop to deny Mario Mandzukic, with the Croat striker injured in his attempt at scoring.

Both sides are looking tired and one mistake could be costly.

Fifteen minutes to go to get a winner or it is penalties.

12am - Extra time underway

Back underway. Can we get a winner or is it another penalty shootout?

England have made one change with Danny Rose on for Ashley Young.

Neither side will fear penalties if it goes that way. Croatia have won twice by that method and England once.

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11.50pm - Extra time it is

It finishes 1-1. Croatia can take real pride from a terrific second half in which they fought back, equalised, and then arguably could have won it.

England have the last chance of the 90 minutes as Harry Kane cannot get a header from a free-kick on target.

It goes to another 30 minutes. Croatia have the momentum and Gareth Southgate must give England's players a strong team talk to try and regain their belief.

11.30pm - Croatia in charge

That goal has changed things. England are rocking and Croatia are bossing the game.

Perisic almost has his second as he finds space on the left of the area and his shot hits the post.

England need to calm down and Raheem Sterling has come off and been replaced by Marcus Rashford.

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11.25pm - Croatia equalise

Game on. Croatia are level.

Ivan Perisic volleys home a cross as he gets ahead of Kyle Walker, who had tried to head the ball clear.

England had been content to sit back until then. Do they have an answer?

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11.05pm - Second half underway

We are underway again. Only Italy in 1990 have led a semi-final at half time and gone on to lose. Gareth Southgate's England will hope that they will not become the second side to do that.

Zlatko Dalic has arguably given the most important team talk of his career to his Croatia players. Can the former Al Ain manager inspire a revival?

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10.45pm - England lead at half time

So Kieran Trippier's free-kick separates the sides at half time.

Both sides will have cause for optimism and concern.

England's will be they are leading, but arguably should be further ahead.

Croatia's will be they have come more into the match as the half has worn on, but have struggled to create chances and it has been England who have manufactured the better opportunities, with Raheem Sterling impressing.

10.35pm - Chances at both ends

England will feel they should be two up as the normally prolific Harry Kane hits the post from a yard out from an acute angle.

Croatia are not out of this, however, and are beginning to stretch the England backline and Jordan Pickford has to parry away an Ante Rebic shot.

This game is nicely boiling up.

10.10pm - Dream start for England

England are ahead against Croatia and it is another set-piece!

This time it is Kieran Trippier's curling free-kick from just outside the area that flies into the net to give England first blood.

Only five times in World Cup history have a side who scored the opening goal of the game and not gone on to reach the final.

The last team to do that: Croatia in 1998.

10pm - Game on and fans having fun

So, here we are. Croatia v England for a place in the World Cup final.

France are a scary prospect for whoever wins, but Gareth Southgate and Zlatko Dalic will worry about that once they have got through tonight.

Remember, as with every knockout game if it is level after 90 minutes it goes to extra time and then possibly penalties.

Meanwhile, here is a gallery of fans of both sides before kick-off in Moscow.

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9pm - Teams are out

The starting line-ups have been named for the game. Gareth Southgate has stuck with the same 11 that got the better of Sweden in the quarter-finals.

Croatia make one change as Marcelo Brozovic comes in for Andrej Kramaric.

The teams will begin warming-up ahead of kick-off at 10pm UAE time shortly.

8.55pm - Is Roger Federer's defeat an omen?

In other sport going on away from Russia, Roger Federer has lost in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon to Kevin Anderson.

It is a shock loss for the defending champion.

British tennis player Liam Broady, in an amusing tweet, believes England's players can be lifted by the news of the 20-time major winner losing.

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8.40pm - Not long now

The teams have both arrived at the Luzhniki Stadium for the second World Cup semi-final, which decides who faces France in Sunday's final.

We should have the team news shortly.

6.05pm - History in the semi-finals

This is England's third appearance in the World Cup semi-finals and Croatia's second.

England have a 50 per cent success record. In 1966 they defeated Portugal 2-1 at Wembley Stadium, with Bobby Charlton scoring both goals, on their way to winning the tournament as they defeated West Germany 4-2 in the final.

They, however, were beaten 4-3 on penalties by West Germany in 1990 in Turin, following a 1-1 draw, with Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle both failing to score with their spot-kicks.

Croatia's sole appearance previously in the last four was in 1998 in France. They went ahead against the tournament hosts thanks to Davor Suker's goal, but France hit back to prevail 2-1.

11.30am - Who will join France in Sunday's World Cup final

France confirmed their place in the final of the 2018 World Cup with a 1-0 win over Belgium in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday. Tonight, we find out who of Croatia or England will join them in Sunday's showpiece.

For England it is the next step in what has been an incredible journey so far, one that has defied expectations.

Gareth Southgate picked a squad light on experience but big on enthusiasm for Russia. Indeed, not even the manager was born the only time England lifted the World Cup in 1966 on home soil.

In Croatia they face a team that demolished Argentina in the group phase but have had to rely on the lottery of penalty shoot-outs in their two knockout matches - against Denmark and Russia - to reach only a second World Cup semi-final.

Southgate told reporters on Tuesday that the most important thing was to keep things as normal as possible for his young charges.

"We've been tucked away in our base camp preparing the same way," he said. "Our preparation for the game has been identical. I think it's important there's consistency leading into matches like this.

"You don't have to change things, you don't have to do things differently. You don't have to find another level, generally speaking.

"As a player if you can perform at your regular level in these games then very often that's more than enough because people can be inhibited in big matches."

If keeping things "normal" means training with blue and red rubber toy roosters as part of preparing for the biggest games of their lives, then England have it nailed.

Check out this gallery of England's Tuesday training session at their base on the outskirts of Moscow.

Set-piece specialists?

A higher ratio of goals per match have been scored in Russia than at any other World Cup. And from set-pieces, no team has been more effective than England.

Including their three penalties - and excluding the four spot-kick goals of their shoot-out against Colombia in the last 16 - England have scored eight of their 11 goals from dead-ball scenarios, principally crosses into the penalty area, via a corner or a free-kick.

This might be taken as evidence that the England team lean heavily on the supposed traditional fortes of English football: high crosses, big target-men and a certain muscularity.

Croatia defender Dejan Lovren heads clear against Russia on Saturday. He and his defensive colleagues will expect to deal with more aerial balls against England. Getty Images
Croatia defender Dejan Lovren heads clear against Russia on Saturday. He and his defensive colleagues will expect to deal with more aerial balls against England. Getty Images

How England have scored their set-piece goals in Russia

Three Penalties

v Panama, Group Stage (Harry Kane)

v Panama, Group Stage (Kane)

v Colombia, Last 16 (Kane)

Four Corners

v Tunisia, Group Stage (Kane, via John Stones header, from Ashley Young corner)

v Tunisia, Group Stage (Kane, via Harry Maguire header, from Kieran Trippier corner)

v Panama, Group Stage (Stones, header, from Trippier corner)

v Sweden, Quarter-Final (Maguire, header, from Young corner)

One Free-Kick

v Panama, Group Stage (Stones, via Jordan Henderson, Kane header, and Raheem Sterling, from Tripper free-kick)

โ€œEngland are dangerous at set-pieces,โ€ acknowledges Dejan Lovren, the Croatia and Liverpool central defender. โ€œJust look at the players! The smallest is about 1.9m tall! So it will be a challenge.โ€

Croatia have Lovren and Domagoj Vida as principal sentries in the centre of defence and, as was notable in their quarter-final against Russia, they use some novel manouevres to mark set-pieces.

Ian Hawkey takes a deeper look into Croatia's set-up defending set-pieces, and what they can do to quell England's threat.

Gareth Southgate has restored a feelgood factor to the England national team. EPA
Gareth Southgate has restored a feelgood factor to the England national team. EPA

Gareth Southgate - the fall-guy who has become an unlikely national hero

Southgate was the last England footballer to touch the ball in the semi-final of a major tournament. His rather tame spot kick was blocked by Andreas Kopke. It was Euro '96 and another German team advanced to the final at Englandโ€™s expense.

For 22 years, it felt defining, the moment that overshadowed the other achievements in an admirable career. โ€œI was the person who had ended a nationโ€™s dream,โ€ Southgate wrote in Woody And Nord: A Football Friendship (by Southgate and Andy Woodman). โ€œI knew this would be a major issue for the rest of my life.โ€

So it has proved, and yet the first line of his eventual obituary requires rewriting. The circle of footballing life is almost complete. Southgate erred in a semi-final โ€“ albeit one where he had actually excelled in his job as a defender โ€“ but has led England to their first since then. He has restored a feelgood factor that has been missing for much of the time since those heady days of Euro '96.

That there is the same soundtrack, with the constant choruses of โ€œfootballโ€™s coming homeโ€ and Three Lions back at No 1 in the charts, has added to the sense that history is repeating itself, but with a difference. The fall-guy has become the unlikely national hero. The 2018 World Cup seems to be Southgateโ€™s redemption song.

The implausibility of an underestimated manโ€™s renaissance has been one of the endearing elements. Read Richard Jolly's comment piece on how Southgate, by leading a nation to a World Cup semi-final, has already proved England's improbable hero.

France coach Didier Deschamps celebrates with goalscorer Samuel Umtiti at the end of the 1-0 win over Belgium that secured Les Bleus a third World Cup final appearance. Reuters
France coach Didier Deschamps celebrates with goalscorer Samuel Umtiti at the end of the 1-0 win over Belgium that secured Les Bleus a third World Cup final appearance. Reuters

France into third World Cup final

As mentioned above, Didier Deschamps' France side are the first team to confirm their place in Sunday's final, Samuel Umtiti's header enough to secure victory over Belgium in their semi-final match.

We have plenty of reaction from that game, including Ian Hawkey's analysis of an ominous-looking France side, who have just booked their place in the countryโ€™s third World Cup in their last six attempts.

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Read more:

Roberto Martinez says Belgium must 'regroup' for one final game to try and clinch World Cup bronze

Analysis: Imperious France have all the tools to deliver a second World Cup trophy

Report: France reach World Cup final as Samuel Umtiti's goal sinks Belgium

2018 World Cup as it happened: France beat Belgium

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