1. Tireless Croatia thrive in extra time
Croatia will face France in their first World Cup final on Sunday after overturning a 1-0 deficit to beat England 2-1 after extra time in the semifinal in Moscow. Goals by Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic, following Kieran Trippier's fifth-minute opener, booked Croatia's place in the final for a repeat of the 1998 semifinal against the French.
But while Croatia's superior quality and command of the ball told in the Luzhniki Stadium, their remarkable level of energy was also key, with this game the third time they have been forced to negotiate extra time in Russia.
Against Denmark and Russia in the earlier rounds, Croatia were forced to go through the ordeal of penalties before advancing, but the fact remains that they will face France having played 90 minutes more than Didier Deschamps' team due to their accumulated extra-time workload.
This is a tough team to beat, however, and France will have to overcome Croatia's technical ability as well as their remarkable resolve.
At times in the first half, they were struggling for air against England, but Croatia held on and fought back to win. Luka Modric, who looked exhausted for much of the game, still ended up as the conductor for Croatia.
France will be favourites on Sunday, but don't write Croatia off.
2. England waste a golden opportunity
England were 22 minutes from the World Cup final until their faltering game plan was finally punished by Perisic and Croatia, but they have only themselves to blame for being in position to lose this game.
Gareth Southgate's team dominated the first half, and they had Croatia on the ropes for lengthy periods after Trippier's fifth-minute free kick gave England the lead.
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