Image licensed from USA Today Sports
England was a favorite to beat Croatia at the Luzhniki Arena in Moscow on Wednesday, July 11, but although they had a 1-0 lead, Croatia came from behind to record a 2-1 win and progress to the finals. The Blazers covered the -0.5 spread, while the game went under 2.5 goals. Zlatko Dalic’s side advanced to the finals and will face France, while Gareth Southgate’s men will meet Belgium in the clash for the third place and bronze medal.
England got to an early lead in the 5th minute through Kieran Trippier who set the ball for the free kick and fired in a beautiful strike, which nestled exactly in the top right corner, scoring the first goal for his national team, what a moment for the right-back. Harry Kane had an opportunity to double the lead and despite the assistant referee raised the offside flag, the strikers should score as the goal would probably stand after consulting the VAR. Ante Rebic tried in a couple of occasions to equalize the score on the other side, but Jesse Lingard was the one who missed a good chance in the 36th minute and the first half ended 1-0.
Croatia switched to a higher gear in the second 45 minutes and took over the control of the match, and in the 68th minute, Sime Vrsaljko played a terrific cross over to Ivan Perisic, who found some space inside the box and sneaked ahead of the defender to put the ball into the back of the net and make it 1-1. It was goal out of nothing for the Blazers, and it was evident that the Three Lions were shocked by it, while the punters who backed BTTS at +120 certainly expected it. Only four minutes later, Perisic created a good chance for himself and fired in a powerful close-range shot, but his effort ricochets off the right post, a lucky moment for the Englishmen who were in a knock-down. Rebic and Mario Mandzukic had opportunities to settle the game in the regular 90 minutes, but it finished 1-1, so if you opted to bet on a draw at +200, you tripled your stake.
The Blazers were the better side in the opening 15 minutes of the extra time, but Jordan Pickford didn’t let them take the lead; however, in the 109th minute, Perisic’s header was unchallenged by John Stones, and his bad positioning allowed Mandzukic to come from behind and slots the ball behind Pickford’s back to give Croatia a precious 2-1 lead. England didn’t have enough strength and character to tie the game and force the penalty shootout, so the Croatians got a deserved win.
Croatia will face France in the finals and will be the underdog in that clash, as the Blues are labeled as favorites at -105, but the Blazers will be playing in their first finals ever, and will be looking to get a revenge for the semi-final defeat in France 1998 when Croatia won a bronze medal.