England enjoyed a lot of possession in the early exchanges and stunned Croatia with a goal inside five minutes. A lovely touch from Jesse Lingard set up Dele Alli, who was fouled by Luka Modric just outside the box in a central position. Kieran Trippier stepped up and curled a glorious effort into the top corner to net his first international goal.
With England on the front foot, Raheem Sterling almost latched onto a pass from Jordan Henderson but Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic raced out to claim the ball. The Manchester City winger’s pace was being targeted on the counter and Sime Vrsaljko was lucky to intercept a long ball with nobody else near them.
England’s prowess from set pieces almost came to the fore again as Harry Macguire met a corner but headed just wide of the post.
Croatia regained their composure and began to put a string of passes together. Ivan Perisic’s long range shot whistled past the post after taking a deflection off the heel of Kyle Walker and Ante Rebic found some space but saw his effort brilliantly blocked by a diving John Stones.
Ivan Strinic’s error, after a poor clearance from Subasic, almost let in Sterling but he opted to pass to an offside Harry Kane rather than shoot and the assistant’s flag went up. Sterling then won a free kick from Lovren and Ashley Young swung in the cross, but Subasic did well to punch clear with a host of white shirts waiting behind him.
On 30 minutes, Kane missed a glorious chance. Some excellent interplay on the edge of the area saw Alli pass to Lingard before the United forward slid Kane in. The England captain’s shot was weak and Subasic made the save before Kane tried to slot the rebound home from a narrow angle but hit the post and the ball rebounded over the bar off the goalkeeper — though the assistant’s late flag suggested it would have been ruled out for offside anyway.
At the other end, Stones made a vital interception before Jordan Pickford was forced to block a Rebic effort, but England kept up the pressure and Alli found Lingard on the edge of the box only for his curled shot to fly wide.
Rebic came off for Andrej Kramaric and, when Croatia broke on the counter after a fine pass from Modric, the substitute’s shot was blocked easily.
England then had a wonderful stop from Pickford to thank for keeping the score level. A fizzed low cross from Perisic was met by the advancing Mandzukic, but Pickford came out bravely and deflected the ball wide with the outside of his leg.
In the second period of extra time, England fell asleep from a corner and were lucky to see Marcelo Brozovic’s shot fly over. Seconds later, Mandzukic struck. A header was not cleared and the striker ran in behind the defence to slot past Pickford.
Southgate brought on Jamie Vardy for Walker in his last throw of the dice. Perisic was unable to connect on a shot inside the box and Mandzukic limped off with cramp to be replaced by Vedran Corluka. Trippier also had to hobble off with a groin injury, meaning England went down to 10 men as they had used all their subs.
Pickford spilled a shot, but gathered it before Domagoj Vida could get there. And Croatia made their final change as Modric came off for Milan Badelj with two minutes left on the clock.
Kramaric broke free but failed to spot a teammate in open space in the box and blasted his shot into the side netting. Minutes later, the whistle went. Croatia were through into their first World Cup final; England going home.