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Tired and battered, Croatia reaches its 1st World Cup final

Updated: 2018-07-12 07:04
Croatia's Sime Vrsaljko celebrates with a flag after the match. [Photo/Agencies]

MOSCOW — On both ends of the field, Sime Vrsaljko got the job done.

The Croatia defender set up the equalizer in the second half and then saved a likely goal by clearing a shot off the line in the first half of extra time.

Those two moments of excellence helped Croatia reach its first World Cup final following a 2-1 win over England on Wednesday.

Vrsaljko, who plays for Atletico Madrid, had struggled to be ready for the match after playing in two previous extra-time matches, but he found the strength to lift his tired, battered team to a comeback win.

Croatia's Sime Vrsaljko and Tin Jedvaj celebrate after the match. [Photo/Agencies]

The victory sets up a final against France on Sunday and improves Croatia's previous best showing at the World Cup, which ended in a 1998 semifinal loss to the host French.

With Croatia trailing 1-0, Vrsaljko curled in the cross that Ivan Perisic volleyed into the net in the 68th minute. In extra time, he leaped high to block John Stones' header, keeping Croatia in the game before Mario Mandzukic scored the winning goal about 10 minutes later.

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