Croatia to play France in World Cup final; England face Belgium in third-place play-off
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 12/07/18 12:35am
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic believes his side were better “in all segments of the game” as they beat England to reach the World Cup final for the first time.
Gareth Southgate’s team opened the scoring at the Luzhniki Stadium, but Croatia turned things around and will now face France in Sunday’s showpiece finale.
Ivan Perisic drew Croatia level and Mario Mandzukic secured a 2-1 extra-time win to propel the country into their first World Cup final.
Asked for the reasons behind Croatia’s comeback, Dalic said: “Because we were the better team in all segments of the game.
“We did not underestimate them. We respected them because we analysed them. We knew what they were doing and where.
“We played a high press on their backline. We closed down (John) Stones and (Jordan) Henderson. We nullified them.
“We let the centre-halves play. (Luka) Modric and (Ivan) Rakitic pressed their backline and we had the ball possession.
“During half-time, I told the players ‘calmly pass the ball, do not lose your heads’. We showed that we were the better team in all segments of the game.
“I think this was our best game. We played today better than against Argentina.
Neville: England have lifted everyone
England’s performances at the World Cup have lifted English football, insists Gary Neville.
“We were motivated and what I told these players before the game was ‘there’s no pressure, no nerves, don’t lose your head – you’ve reached the semi-final, be proud and enjoy your football’.
“And this is exactly what they did – they enjoyed their football.”
Dalic thanked Croatia’s fans and players for their efforts in securing this historic win, setting up Sunday’s encounter with France – the team that knocked them out of their previous World Cup semi-final in 1998.
“There is no weakness in a team which is in the final,” Dalic added. “They are a top-drawer team with fantastic players.
“But we are going to discuss France tomorrow. We’re taking it step by step. We’ve entered the final today. We’re going to celebrate, to rest and then we will prepare for France.
“We’re facing another daunting task but it’s going to be a fantastic match. We are ready for it. I am sure everybody will enjoy watching that match. I have huge respect for France.”
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