England’s World Cup dream has come to an end after Mario Mandzukic scored the winning goal on behalf of Croatia in extra time as Croatia beat England 2-1 in World Cup semi-final in Moscow on Wednesday.
In the desperate moments after the final whistle, as the English players wandered aimlessly around the pitch, almost zombie-like in their desolation, it was impossible not to wonder whether that will be a lifetime regret.
The Juventus forward netted in the 109 minute to complete a remarkable comeback from a shattered Croatian team and take the small nation of little more than four million people into the World Cup final for the first time in their short history.
England wing-back Kieran Trippier had opened the scoring from a brilliant free kick in just the fifth minute, curling the ball over the Croatia wall and into the top right-hand corner.
Harry Kane then missed a wonderful chance to make it 2-0 but could not find the net at two times of trying. However, the top scorer of the World Cup was flagged offside.
They controlled the first half and, with Croatia initially looking out of sorts after going through the physical demands of extra time and penalties in their two previous games, England will know they could have settled this game in that crucial phase.
England will now play Belgium in Saturday’s third/fourth place play-off in St Petersburg.
> Shatabdi Sarker Poushi