Madzukic left it late in extra-time, to end the English hopes of winning the World Cup and kept the Croatian dream alive and a France hurdle to cross in the final.
It was a nerve-racking game of two halves. England enjoyed the first, created as many chances and buried one. Croatia enjoyed the second, equalized and fluffed as many chances. And when the game went to the wire, the men with character stood up to be counted. It was the steely Croats.
The game never lacked anything football had to offer and when referee CAKIR Cuneyt whistled for the end of the match after 120 minutes of football, it was England who will be going home without the trophy they so badly wanted after bottling an early lead in the first half.
In Becham style, Kieran Trippier set the English to a flying start with his beautiful free-kick, too magnificent for a defender and it was just five minutes into play.
Trippier curled the ball over the wall, after Dele had been tripped just on the edge and left Subasic ball watching.
It was England in front and they should have added more. A horrible piece of defending in the 21st minute gifted Sterling an opportunity to increase the tally but the City man chose to be selfless at the wrong time when he picked up Kane who was clearly in an offside position.
Raheem Sterling was the tormentor in chief for the Croats, using his pace and trickery to perfection and causing too much problems for Vida to handle.
And while England had little to show for possession, the chances they created and missed were one too many. Harry Kane of all players had only Subasic to beat but in a one-on-one occasion he fired feebly onto the path of the goalkeeper and when the ball fell to him on a rebound, Kane contrived to miss at the foot of the post. Even though he was later flagged offside the Tottenham man knew he needed to score with the hope that VAR will rule in his favour. Replays suggest that would have stood should he have scored. But he didn’t.
In the 31st minute, Croatia’s best effort at scoring came but Ashley Young slid in a great tackle to poke the ball with his toe and left Rebic slamming into an empty air with Pickford at his mercy.
Four minutes later, Jesse Lingard went for placement just at the edge of the box after being picked up beautifully by Dele but the execution from Lingard was horrible.
England was to rue the many chances missed in the first half and they did after a spectacular comeback by Croatia in the second.
But even before Perisic will get that equalizer for the Croats it was Trippier again who whipped in a volley in search for Kane in 55 minutes but the clearance from Vida was timely and bold.
Sterling who was a little subdued in the second half had the chance to increase the tally for the English but he fell too easily in search of a penalty.
It was then time for the English to defend series of attacks by the Croatian front men. Walker had to put himself in the way, after Perisic struck from the edge in the 63rd minute. It was his groin area that got hit in the process but to what use is a groin when an English trophy was at stake and a dream to fulfill?
From a long a cross on the right with Walker waiting to head the ball to safety, Perisic in a show of determination, surged forward, picked his toe above the head of the waiting Walker and connected for the much-needed equalizer. It was heartbreak for the English.
The goal unsettled them in defence and the English were caught napping in defence with one howler after another, one of which they should have been punished for. Perisic dummied two English defencemen after a bad clearance from Pickford but his shot from his left foot rattled the post with a rebound horribly executed.
Harry Kane who was having a terrible semi-final should have ended the night on a high but his free header in injury time went wayward and sent the game into extra-time.
Following the same script in the 90 minutes of regulation time, England started the first half of the extra time looking the more buoyant and likely to score and they almost did but Stone’s header from a corner destined for the net was cleared on the goal line by Vrsaljko.
In the last action of the first half of extra time, Perisic sent in an inch-perfect cross from the left. Madzukic needed only a touch for the deal to be done and he did but Pickford boldly picked his steps brilliantly, cluttered into Madzukic with the ball taking a ricochet for a corner which could not be taken for lack of time.
But there was enough time for the Croats to cause damage in the second half. They came in stronger and focused ready for the kill and they did in one moment of indecision by the English defence.
Both Walker and Stone, stood watching a loose ball in the vital and left a lurking Madzukic slipping through with a deadly strike that ended the Elglish dream and gave a new meaning to the Croat’s dream of a historic first World Cup.