MOSCOW (TNS) — Mario Mandzukic's goal four minutes into the second overtime Wednesday capped a wild comeback and sent Croatia into Sunday's World Cup final with a 2-1 win over England.
The victory makes Croatia the first country to win three consecutive extra-time games in the same World Cup; it won the first two in penalty-kick shootouts. Wednesday's victory, which ended at nearly midnight local time, also concluded a streak that saw Croatia play six hours of World Cup soccer in 11 days.
It has another 90 minutes — at least — coming up Sunday in the World Cup final with France. England will meet Belgium in the third-place match Saturday.
Ironically, England is the only other team to play three extra-time games in the same tournament. It lost that third in the 1990 semifinals, the last time England had made the final four of a World Cup.
Mandzukic's goal was sent up by a mistake. After a poor England clearance, Croatia's Ivan Perisic fought off defender Kieran Trippier to head the ball forward for Mandzukic at the edge of the six-yard box and his left-footed shot hit nothing but net.
That set off a wild celebration at the corner flag that ended with a photographer buried at the bottom of a pile of Croatian players.
England's goal came in the fifth minute on a Trippier free kick. Croatia's first score came like a bolt out of the blue in the 68th minute when Perisic split two defenders to nudge in a long cross from Sime Vrsaljko. Vrsaljko would later save the game by clearing away a header from England's John Stones at the far post early in the first extra period.