Croatia's monumental journey to the FIFA World Cup 2018 finals

Since finishing third in its first World Cup as an independent nation, at France in 1998, Croatia hasn't advanced from the group stage in the three World Cups for which it qualified.

Published: 13th July 2018 05:22 PM  |   Last Updated: 14th July 2018 07:21 AM   |  A+A-


Croatia's Mario Mandzukic celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the semifinal match between Croatia and England at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. (File | AP)

By Online Desk

Croatia are set to play in the first World Cup final in their history on Thursday after they came from behind to crush England's hopes in an enthralling contest.

The Balkan nation of just four million people will play France on Sunday after Mario Mandzukic's extra-time winner in Wednesday's semi-final prolonged England's 52-year wait to reach a second World Cup final.

Let's have a look at Croatia's journey to the summit of the FIFA World Cup 2018

Croatia 2 Nigeria 0 – Group D, Kaliningrad, June 16

Croatia earned a comfortable 2-0 victory over a young Nigerian side in both sides' first group match at the World Cup in Kaliningrad on Saturday.

An own goal from Oghenekaro Etebo put Croatia ahead and a second-half Luka Modric penalty wrapped up the win.

Argentina 0 Croatia 3 – Group D, Nizhny Novgorod, June 21

Argentina slipped to the brink of an embarrassing World Cup group-stage exit on Thursday after Croatia beat the South Americans 3-0 to progress to the last 16.

A goalkeeping howler from Willy Caballero allowed Ante Rebic to give Croatia a 53rd-minute lead, and late goals from Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic left Lionel Messi and Argentina needing an unlikely series of results to keep their hopes of progressing from Group D alive.

Iceland 1 Croatia 2  – Group D, Rostov-on-Don, June 26

Needing a point to make certain of top spot, Croatia dominated early on, with Real Madrid pair Modric and Mateo Kovacic dictating the tempo without creating clear chances.

Fiorentina midfielder Badelj got his right foot over a deflected cross and fired a volley wide of Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson to give Croatia the lead.

Iceland's Sigurdsson dispatched his penalty shot into the roof of the net with Kalinic diving the wrong way. Then on 90 minutes, Croatia's Perisic delivered the final blow.

Croatia 1  Denmark 1 (Croatia won 3-2 on penalties) – Last 16, Nizhny Novgorod, July 1
Mathias Jorgensen gave Denmark the lead after just 58 seconds but Mario Mandzukic levelled for Croatia in the fourth minute. 

Kasper Schmeichel saved a Luka Modric penalty in the final minutes of extra time to keep the score at 1-1.

Croatia won the shootout 3-2 after Danijel Subasic saved three spot-kicks.

Russia 2 Croatia 2 (Croatia won 4-3 on penalties) – Quarter-finals, Sochi, July 7

Croatia beat Russia 4-3 on penalties on Saturday to set up a World Cup semi-final against England after a dramatic match full of twists and turns.

The game finished 2-2 after extra-time following a late equaliser by Russia's Mario Fernandes.

Denis Cheryshev struck a stunning opener from distance to give the hosts the lead in the 31st minute but Croatia equalised through Andrej Kramaric just eight minutes later.

Croatia's Domagoj Vida broke the deadlock in extra-time, getting his head to the ball from a corner to score in the 101st minute but Fernandes headed home from a free-kick just five minutes before the end in Sochi.

Croatia 2 England 1 (after extra-time) – Semi-finals, Moscow, July 11

Croatia will play France in the World Cup final after they beat England 2-1 in extra-time on Wednesday thanks to a Mario Mandzukic goal in the second period of extra-time.

Kieran Trippier's free-kick after five minutes gave England a dream start to the semi-final but Croatia clawed their way back into the match and Ivan Perisic equalised with a 68th-minute volley.

Mandzukic was fastest to react to Perisic's header and shot past Jordan Pickford in the 109th minute to decide the game in the Luzhniki Stadium and send Croatia into their first ever World Cup final.

(With inputs from AFP)

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