For an hour, it looked like England would be headed to Sunday's World Cup.
The Three Lions took the lead on a terrific free kick by Kieran Trippier in the 5th minute. The Tottenham defender bent his shot from 25
yards over the wall with a shot with his best imitation of David Beckham, the last England player to score direct from a free kick at the World Cup.
The Three Lions missed chances
to extend their lead -- Harry Kane hit the post when he tried to stuff a rebound past goalkeeper Danijel Subasic at the near post in the 30th minute -- but they were generally in control
of the match.
But then it all unraveled.
Croatia scored an equalizer in the 68th minute when an innocent-looking ball from right back Sime Vrsaljko floated into the
area, where Ivan Perisic beat Kyle Walker to the ball and stabbed it past keeper Jordan Pickford.
Coming off two games that went to overtime, Croatia was supposed to
be the team that was tired. But it was England that looked tired as the game went on. Minutes after the surprise equalizer, the England defense failed to clear the ball, and Perisic fired a low shot
past Pickford but off the far post.
England was a bundle of nerves and was lucky to get to 90 minutes with the score still level at 1-1.
The game turned in overtime on two
plays -- one on which a defender was alert, the other on which a defender was caught napping.
England looked to take the lead on overtime when a John Stones header was headed for
the far post, but Vrsaljko anticipated the shot and back-pedaled, heading the ball off the line.
Later, a ball was played out to Perisic, who headed it back into the area. Stones was
caught flat-footed as Mario Mandzukic, who was injured in the first overtime and almost didn't return, turned on the ball and fired it past Pickford for the winner in the 109th minute.
The game ended with England down to 10 players and out of substitutes. Trippier, the England goal-scorer, was injured in the second overtime and could only watch from the bench as the clock ran
on England's dream of returning to the World Cup final for the first time since 1966.
Croatia -- the first team to earn three comeback wins in the knockout stage of a World Cup -- will play in
its first final.