AGONAsport World Cup Daily Recap, Day 24: Final Four Set As England And Croatia Advance
The final four of the 2018 FIFA World Cup is now complete after England and Croatia booked their tickets with wins on Saturday. Day 24 of the competition saw the final two quarter-final matches played. In the early match, England defeated Sweden 2-0 in a relatively comfortable afternoon. The second match was a different story as a topsy-turvy match between Croatia and hosts Russia finished 2-2 after two periods of extra-time. Croatia then prevailed on penalty-kicks 4-3. England and Croatia now will contest a World Cup semi-final on Wednesday for the right to play in the tournament final next Sunday.
Sweden v England 0-2
England prevailed in a subdued quarter-final meeting versus Sweden 2-0. Goals by Harry Maguire and Dele Alli gave England all they needed against a Swedish team who looked off the pace for the first time in the tournament.
After an even opening period, England took control of proceedings and opened the scoring from a set-piece as Maguire’s header from a Ashley Young corner made it 1-0 to Gareth Southgate’s men. Sweden never truly found their rhythm and fifteen minutes after the break England were up 2-0 as Dele Alli headed home Jesse Lingard’s pinpoint delivery.
Sweden did threaten on two occasions, but a couple of fantastic stops by England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford kept them at bay. England win and advance to their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years.
Russia v Croatia 2-2 (Croatia wins 4-3 on penalty kicks)
Hosts Russia were knocked out of the World Cup on penalties as Croatia advanced to the World Cup semis for the second time in their history. It was a breathtaking affair in spurts in Sochi as Croatia prevailed in dramatic scenes.
Russia started well and absolutely delightful long-range strike by Denis Cherysev gave them the lead just after the half-hour. It took Croatia only eight minutes to reply with Andrej Kramaric heading past Igor Akinfeev from Mario Mandzukic’s cross.
Croatia had the upper hand for most of the second half, hitting the post once through Ivan Perisic and coming close on a couple of other occasions. Russia held on though and the match went to extra-time. Again, Croatia looked more likely to score and did so in the 101st minute when Domagoj Vida headed in a corner-kick from Luka Modric. WIth five minutes remaining and looking like they were going out, Russia hit back as Mario Fernandes’ glancing header from an Alan Dzagoev free-kick made it 2-2 as the Fisht Stadium just about exploded.
In the shoot-out that followed, Fedor Smolov saw his shot saved by Danijel Subasic. Marcelo Brozovic scored for Croatia and then Russia made it 1-1 with their second shot from Dzagoev. Akinfeev pulled off a wonderful save from Mateo Kovacic as the teams went into the third round of spot-kicks level. Fernandes however dragged his shot wide. Four consecutive kicks then found the net with Croatia having Ivan Rakitic step up for the deciding penalty. The Barcelona man made no mistake and for the second match in the row scored the penalty that saw his country advance.
Greece’s last remaining connections in this tournament came from four players on the Swedish side. Marcus Berg and Robin Olsen (previously of Panathinaikos and PAOK, respectively) played the entire match for the Swedes with Oscar Hiljemark (former Panathinaikos) and Jimmy Durmaz (former Olympiacos) remaining on the bench.
GOAL OF THE DAY
Cherysev’s goal was magnificent. The curve on the ball is a sight to behold for a player whose stock rose tremendously during this tournament.
- Sweden disappoint in below-par loss to England
- England go through to semis on back of professional display
- Croatia advance to semi-finals after second consecutive victory in penalty shoot-out
- Hosts Russia exit tournament with heads held high after strong showing
- England and Croatia clash on Wednesday in Moscow with a place in the final on the line
Two more days off for this World Cup. Play resumes again on Tuesday with the first semi-final. France and Belgium square off in Saint Petersburg in a mouth-watering tie.
by George Tsitsonis
Image Source: Guardian.com