The World Cup is over. France will beat Croatia 1-0

Croatia 2 England 1 (AET)

Trippier 5 Perisic 68 Mandzukic 109


We won the first half 1-0.

Thanks to Dele Alli and Kieran Trippier.

Even in real time I could see that Dele, racing into a dangerous position centrally in front of the D, didn’t really have the ball under control. Two defenders had reacted to block and I didn’t think he could score. He knew that and took the knock, as he often does.

Modric touched him and Trippier scored his first goal for England with a lovely free-kick over the wall.

After that it turned into an open,scrappy game for a while but the early goal had settled the nation’s nerves.

Then we won a corner on the right and Trippier took it but Harry Maguire headed two yards wide.

A HUGE MOMENT. From 2-0 we might have got to the World Cup Final.

But then we all got a reality check in 19 when an Ivan Perisic shot hit the inside of the post and then a Rebic shot in 20 was blocked by John Stones.

I could not see us scoring again in the match.

Myles: “It will be 1-0 till the 85th minute.”

Jan: “Don’t say that!”

Then a really tasty Lingard pass found Kane, who nipped neatly into a nice little Harry position near the goalpost. His first shot was saved by Subasic, who got up very slowly but we saw Kane’s second shot squirt away off the keeper.

In 31, Rebic shot straight at Pickford.

The intelligence of the Croatians was now the key factor in the game.

We do not have the skills or confidence to slow a game down, so we can only play our high-tempo game of quick passes to fast runners.

Jan said, “Come on England! Please get a goal before half-time!”

TRUTH: we are too one-dimensional. The only left-footed player in our team is Pickford.

By contrast, each Croatian can improvise a little bit and several are very two-footed.

At half-time ITV pundit Gary Neville said, “We have to finish the job off!”

Roy Keane said, “If England don’t finish this game off, they’ll never forgive themselves.”

Ian Wright said Kane should have given Raheem a tap-in rather than shooting himself

In 65, a Perisic shot hit Kyle Walker in the groin, almost crippling him.

In 68 a superb David Beckham early cross from right back Vrsaljko found Perisic and the bouncy midfielder got his left boot up beautifully to steer the ball down past Pickford for 1-1.

Then Perisic jinked past Walker in the box and fired a left-foot shot across Pickford that hit the far post. Lucky England!

In 72 a Rebic shot hit the post again.

Croatia were now rolling like Juventus on a good night, a mature and accomplished outfit.

As Rashford was coming on to replace Raheem in 75, the commentator told us that England have only had 30% possession in the second half.

By then we had gone to pieces.

In a word, disintegrated.

This match situation needed seven experienced tournament players and we didn’t have them. We had no play round the ball, so we were hitting longer passes.

Eric Dier came on for Henderson and his shot hit Perisic and went for a corner and John Stones had a header headed off the line by Virsaljko.

Extra time didn’t look good, even with Vardy on for Walker. But Danny Rose for Ashley Young made sense.

Mostly I just sat there thinking: I wish England could play football. I really do.

When Rakitic fouled Rashford, Trippier took the free-kick but Kane miscued his header wide. Then left back Strinic went down holding his groin and Pivaric replaced him.

When Kramaric replaced Rebic in 102, I thought he might score because by then it looked as if Croatia had 16 players.

When Perisic launched a raking cross low into the box, Pickford came out bravely for a 50-50 with Mandzukic and the shot hit the keeper’s knee and flew over the bar. Great save!

When Walker skied a miscued clearance. Ivan Perisic, still bright as a button, won the header and knocked the ball down behind the frozen John Stones for stealthy veteran Mandzukic to score his 32nd goal for Croatia.

He is a stoppage time striker and an extra time goalpoacher.

Experience and intelligence are vital in football.Those qualities allow you to go the distance and these guys are exceptionally good at going the distance.

Croatia have won three knock-out games in extra time.

Before kick-off I was undecided about a bet.

Figured we might win 1-0 or 2-1.

But I was so unsure that I thought : Why bother?

About 15 seconds before kick-off, I put a fiver on BTS.

Both teams scored but the World Cup is over. France will beat Croatia 1-0. That’s my next bet.

VERDICT:  We enjoyed Gareth Southgate and our boys getting to this semi-final and we did better than Spain or Portugal and a lot better than  the elderly Germans, who are the champions, and Argentina, the losing finalists of 2014, and the Brazilians. But I really wish we could play football.

Tomorrow on ANR : A piece that nobody else would write. Which I’ll post when I get up at 7.a.m. so you can read it on the tube or train as you go to work.