World Cup Semis Are Set
07 Jul, 2018
England achieved something David Beckham’s generation never managed: It reached the semifinals of the World Cup.
Harry Maguire and Dele Alli scored with headers in a 2-0 win over Sweden on Saturday, earning England’s youthful team a match against Croatia for a place in the final on July 15.
“We looked composed,” England captain Harry Kane said. “We looked like we controlled the game.”
England’s fairly muted celebrations reflected the routine nature of the victory over a hard-working Swedish side that had already gone further than expected in its first major tournament without Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
England’s deep run also is a surprise. Not even the England side containing stars like Beckham, Steven Gerrard and a young Wayne Rooney ever got this far at a major tournament.
The 1966 World Cup champions last reached the semifinals in 1990, losing the first of a series of haunting penalty shootouts. In 2014, the team didn’t even make it out of the group stage.
Yet the performances of Gareth Southgate’s squad — the second youngest at the tournament — are being celebrated wildlyback home. Even at Wimbledon, the home of lawn tennis, updates of England’s goals were spread by fans watching or listening to the match on their cell phones.
“I know the fans here are enjoying it,” Kane said. “The fans at home, I’m sure we’ll see some videos tonight of them enjoying it.”
Nyet this time.
Although Russia made it further at this year’s World Cup than most anyone expected, it was Croatia that advanced to the semifinals with a 4-3 shootout victory Saturday following a 2-2 draw.
The overachieving hosts, the lowest ranked team in the tournament at No. 70, were trying to make it to the World Cup semifinals for the first time since the Soviet Union finished fourth at the 1966 tournament in England.
Even Russian President Vladimir Putin was taken in by the host nation’s surprising run, at least according to Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov.
“Putin called me during the day, and he called me right now,” Cherchesov said. “He congratulated us on a very good game. He said what we showed on the field was great. I told him we were disappointed. He said we should have our eyes open and make the next steps.”
The Croats hadn’t advanced to the semifinals at the World Cup since 1998, when the country made its first appearance. Croatia will next play England in the semifinals on Wednesday in Moscow.
With the crowd silenced following an extra-time header from Croatia defender Domagoj Vida in the 101st minute, Russia defender Mario Fernandes scored with his own header in the 115th to send the match to yet another penalty shootout.
Fernandes, who was born in Brazil but rejected a chance to play for that country’s national team in 2011, sent his penalty kick wide of the net in the shootout, giving Croatia the advantage.
Both goalkeepers made early saves in the shootout, with an injured Danijel Subasic stopping the opening shot from Fyodor Smolov. Igor Akinfeev later blocked an attempt from Mateo Kovacic.
At 1-1, Fernandes missed his shot — only the second player to miss in any of the four shootouts at this year’s World Cup.
The teams then traded two scores each before Ivan Rakitic calmly converted the winning penalty.
Image FIFAWorldCup twitter
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