Winger Ivan Perisic was the decisive star for Croatia as they advanced to the final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia in a 2-1 win over England after extra time at the Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday night.
England’s Three Lions at a point in the game were already dreaming of a first World Cup final appearance since 1966 after Kevin Trippier’s fifth minute free kick had put them in firm control of proceedings at the Russian capital, Moscow.
The Croats however levelled scores in the 68th minute as Perisic flicked home Sime Vrsaljko’s cross before the winger then turned provider for Mario Mandzukic in the fourth minute of second half extra time.
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Perisic was named the game’s most valuable player and as expected, gave a summary of what was a tough evening.
“It was a very difficult game,” begun the Inter Milan star.
“We all know what was at stake and how difficult England will be for a team like Croatia. We started slowly but we showed our character like we did in our last two matches when we were one goal down and I think we are relieved to have won.”
Asked on how crucial his contributions were for the team, he said:
“Our first goal was important because it came at a key moment when we were attacking in the game. The second goal was also crucial at the extra time. It wasn’t important to me that I scored but that Croatia won.”
Croatia will be appearing in their first ever World Cup championship match, twenty years after finishing third in their debut appearance at the Mundial in 1998. Perisic is delighted the dream of his mother comes true and also relives how he watched the 1998 finals.
“My mum told me she dreamt Croatia will face France in the final, now it has come to pass, I am happy and we will see who wins.
“Twenty years ago, I was back home in my hometown. I rooted for Croatia wearing the jersey as a small boy. I could only dream of reaching this stage with my country and scoring one of the goals that would take them there,” he added.
France defeated Croatia in the semifinal of that tournament in 1998 with current France coach Didier Deschamps, the captain of that team which went on to lift the trophy. Both teams come face to face again at 6pm local time (4pm in Nigeria) at the 81,000 capacity stadium in Moscow.
Fisayo Dairo reporting from Moscow