Croatia’s route to the 2018 World Cup final

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Croatia will take on France in their first World Cup final on Sunday afternoon at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at Croatia’s route to the showpiece event.

Croatia’s route to the World Cup final (PA Graphics)

Croatia kicked off what could have been a daunting Group D campaign with a three-point haul against lacklustre Nigeria. A first-half own goal from Oghenekaro Etebo set them on their way and captain Luka Modric sealed victory from the penalty spot with 19 minutes left.

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

The quality of Zlatko Dalic’s side shone through in an ultimately comfortable win over the two-time world champions that saw Ante Rebic, Modric and Ivan Rakitic find the back of the net. Rebic took advantage of a Willy Caballero error to volley home the opener before Modric scored his second of the tournament with a brilliant effort 10 minutes from time. Rakitic added a late third as Croatia secured their place in the last 16.

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

Another solid performance from what was a much-changed Croatia saw them top the group with a 100 per cent record. Milan Badelj’s 53rd-minute goal was cancelled out by a Gylfi Sigurdsson penalty but substitute Ivan Perisic struck in the 90th minute to kill off any chance of Iceland progressing.

Croatia 1  Denmark 1 (Croatia won 3-2 on penalties) – Last 16, Nizhny Novgorod, July 1

Denmark got off to a flying start with Mathias Jorgensen netting in the first minute but Mario Mandzukic levelled soon after. Neither side could find another breakthrough – Modric missing a penalty deep into extra-time – as the match went to spot-kicks. And it was Croatia who emerged victorious with goalkeeper Danijel Subasic saving from Christian Eriksen, Lasse Schone and Nicolai Jorgensen to put his side through to the quarter-finals for the first time in 20 years.

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

Another tense occasion that saw Croatia prevail after extra-time and penalties.  Denis Cheryshev’s brilliant strike for Russia was cancelled out by Andrej Kramaric during the 90 minutes, before a dramatic late Mario Fernandes header saw Russia level at 2-2 during extra-time after Domagoj Vida had nodded Croatia in front.  Another Subasic save, from Fedor Smolov, and a miss from Fernandes during the shoot-out saw the hosts knocked out and Croatia progress to only their second World Cup semi-final.

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

Mandzukic was the hero for Croatia as he turned in Rakitic’s header in extra-time to set up a final against France. Once again they found themselves behind as Kieran Trippier’s fifth-minute free-kick had put England ahead. Croatia proved to be the better side as the game wore on and scored a deserved equaliser through Perisic, who also hit the post before Mandzukic stole in behind a tiring England defence to strike the killer blow.

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