The small country of Croatia keeps on grinding, all the way to the World Cup Finals now at this point. The team defeated England Wednesday after tying the game in the second half and then scoring a goal during the second half of extra time and holding off England until the clock expired. As elated as the squad must feel right now, the players are human and have their physical limitations. Croatia’s 2-1 win over England in extra time Wednesday night in Moscow made it the first team ever to go extra time in three straight World Cup matches, according to The Associated Press, adding that with extra factors like injury time and successive shootout wins over Denmark and Russia, Croatia has just played the equivalent of four and a half matches in 11 days.
They’ll have under four days to rest and prepare for the final against France, which has finished all of its games in regulation and has an extra day to prepare, having beaten Belgium on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.
The Croatians will have to worry about playing again in front of a partisan crowd not in their favor in the 81,000-seat Luzhniki Stadium. Or at least one of them.
Domagoj Vida and a team official, both of whom used to play for Ukrainian club Dynamo Kiev, appeared in a pro-Ukraine video posted shortly after Croatia beat Russia after a dramatic shootout finish. FIFA simply warned Vida, but the Russian fans felt differently and will probably boo him come Sunday.
England coach Gareth Southgate was happy that his team’s path to a potential championship wouldn’t have to go through Belgium. His plan seemed to work fine right up until Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic beat England ‘keeper Jordan Pickford in the 109th minute to send England home just shy of a tournament finals appearance.
This was a first semifinal at any event for England since 1996, and for Croatia, it was the first trip to the semi-finals since 1998. England exceeded expectations by getting this far.