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11-07-2018, 20:39

Mario Mandzukic's fourth World Cup goal was his most important yet

Since the introduction of the round of 16 in 1986, Croatia are the first finalists in World Cups to have trailed in all three of their knockout games. They trailed against both Denmark and Russia before advancing on penalties in the round of 16 and the quarterfinals, before coming from 1-0 down against England to win the semifinal 2-1.

Croatia have reached the World Cup final for the first time in their history, making them only the third newcomer in the last 40 years after France (1998) and Spain (2010). It bodes well for Croatia that both France and Spain ended up winning the final on their maiden appearances those years.

Croatia have become the first team in 20 years to have won a World Cup semifinal after trailing. Interestingly, the last team to achieve this was France, who fell behind to Croatia in 1998 before winning 2-1 thanks to a Lilian Thuram brace. In all, Croatia are the seventh team to have won a World Cup semifinal after trailing, joining Uruguay (1930), Hungary (1938), Sweden (1958), Italy and Brazil (both in 1970), and France.

Croatia are the second team in history to have played three successive World Cup games that spilled over into extra-time. The only other time this has happened was with the England team of 1990, which won against Belgium and Cameroon after extra-time, before West Germany advanced on penalties at their expense in the semifinals. Argentina also had three of their games enter extra time in 2014, though not in succession.

Wednesday's semi-final was Luka Modric's 11th World Cup game, tying the record for most appearances for his nation at World Cups with Dario Simic. Former defender Simic played six of the seven matches during Croatia's run to third place on debut in 1998, made two further appearances in 2002, and started all of Croatia's group games in 2006. Modric made two substitute appearances in 2006, played all of Croatia's group games in 2014 and has been an integral part of their 2018 campaign, featuring in all six matches thus far.

Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic both scored their fourth World Cup goals, making them Croatia's joint second-highest goalscorers trailing only Davor Suker (six goals).

Kieran Trippier's goal for England was their first successful free-kick conversion at the World Cup in 12 years, since David Beckham's winner in a 1-0 win over Ecuador in the round of 16 of the 2006 edition. It has been a run of 14 matches since that clash, including the World Cups of both 2010 and 2014. It was also the first direct free-kick goal in a World Cup semifinal since West Germany's Andreas Brehme scored in 1990, against England.

England's fading away in influence on the semifinal can be gauged from the fact that after Trippier's fifth-minute goal, they failed to establish a single shot on target in the remaining 115 minutes of the game.