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Croatia stun England, reach World Cup final

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  • Trippier put England ahead
  • Perisic equalized for Croatia
  • Manduzkic scores winner in extra time
  • Croatian second smallest nation to reach World Cup final

Croatia fought back to beat England 2-1 in their 2018 World Cup semifinal in Moscow on Wednesday as Mario Mandzukic scored the winner in the second half of extra time.

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Kieran Trippier gave England the lead after five minutes but the Three Lions wasted several chances and were punished as Croatia dominated the second half. Ivan Perisic got the equalizer and hit the post in the second half of normal time and he then set up Manduzkic’s winner to send Croatia to the final.

After their third-straight extra time win (the first nation to ever do that at a World Cup)Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia will play France in Moscow on Sunday in the final, while Gareth Southgate‘s England will play Belgium in Saint Petersburg on Saturday in the third-place match.

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England got off to a perfect start as Dele Alli was brought down by Luka Modric on the edge of the box to win a free kick and Trippier curled home a stunner to make it 1-0.

What a way to score your first goal for England.

Trippier sent over a corner soon after which Harry Maguire nodded wide of the far post as England battered Croatia early on. Croatia finally got going and had an effort on goal as Perisic dragged a shot just wide, but at the other end Kane, who should have put England 2-0 up.

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England’s skipper was played in by Jesse Lingard and although Danijel Subasic saved his initial effort Kane then smashed the post from two yards out as the offside flag was raised but VAR would have surely overturned the decision.

Croatia cranked up the pressure before half time as England blocked a few shots from distance, then Ashley Young denied Ante Rebic with a well-timed challenge. Lingard slotted wide at the other end as the game opened up and right on half time Dejan Lovren went down in the box as VAR checked the call but nothing was given.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ]

At the start of the second half Croatia cranked through the gears but England looked dangerous on the break as Lingard’s shot deflected over the bar and Trippier’s cross almost found Kane in the six-yard box.

Raheem Sterling then got free but he couldn’t get his shot off and moments later Perisic had a fierce shot blocked by Kyle Walker who put his body on the line.

Croatia finally equalized as Sime Vrsaljko’s superb cross found Perisic in the center of the box and he prodded home brilliantly to make it 1-1. That goal gave Croatia the momentum as Perisic then hit the post as Walker and Pickford were involved in a mix-up.

England had a decent chance late on as Trippier’s free kick to the back post found Kane but he couldn’t connect properly on his header and nodded wide.

In extra time England regained their composure and they thought they had regained the lead as Stones’ header from a corner looked in but Vrsaljko got back to head off the line.

Pickford then denied Mandzukic right on half time with a huge stop as he flicked the effort over the bar bravely. Brozovic then drilled over from a short corner as Croatia’s chances continue to come.

Manduzkic gave Croatia the lead as Perisic headed forward and the Croatian legend snuck behind Stones and finished across goal to take his nation to the World Cup final.

Report: Borussia Dortmund enters race to sign Hudson-Odoi

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In what could look like a nightmare to Premier League sides, Borussia Dortmund could potentially play next season with two of England’s top young wingers.

[READ: Pogba “happy” at Man United]

After multiple failed attempts to sign Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi on a transfer last summer and in the January transfer window, Bayern Munich now has competition for Hudson-Odoi from Dortmund, according to a report in the Telegraph. With Christian Pulisic heading the opposite direction to Chelsea this summer, Hudson-Odoi could look at Dortmund and feel that his chances for first team minutes are better than at Stamford Bridge.

The 18-year-old, who has been called-up to the current England squad, is yet to start a Premier League match this season. Of course, Hudson-Odoi is behind the likes of Eden Hazard and Willian, who would start ahead of most players. But surely Hudson-Odoi will see how his England teammate Jadon Sancho has made 35 appearances, including starts in the Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League.

Sancho has also been subject to huge transfer speculation, especially from Manchester United, which could look to make a big splash this summer under new (or current) management. If he leaves on a $100 million-plus deal, Hudson-Odoi could be Sancho’s replacement as well.

Ultimately, should Hudson-Odoi leave the Premier League, it’s a lost opportunity for both Chelsea and the league to not only develop young players but provide them with playing time, assuming they’re deserving of it from practice.

Watch: A-League referee mic’d up during match

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Soccer around the globe is pretty transparent. We can see with our own eyes goals, fouls and red cards, as well as frame-by-frame slo-mo replays again and again. But the one aspect most people never get to see is about the referee. We never hear what the referee is saying to players, what’s in their mind as they’re consulting with the video assistant referee, or why they decided to make a certain decision. Until now.

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In his final A-League match before moving to England to be in the League Championship pool of referees, Jarred Gillett agreed to be mic’d up by local broadcasters so that fans could hear the game through his senses. The result is an incredible display of communication, knowledge, confidence and refereeing expertise that gives the viewers a new-found respect for referees.

It may not be great in every circumstance, but getting to hear what referees are saying to players or coaches could certainly help endear them to fans and the media, instead of the standard bashing treatment most referees are afforded.

Watch the video below.

Beasley to miss 4-6 weeks with knee injury

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One of Major League Soccer’s elder statesman could have used this injury as a sign it’s time to hang up the boots. Instead, it will just be a brief spell on the sidelines.

DaMarcus Beasley posted a post-operation photo after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, according to the Houston Dynamo. Beasley said “I’ll be back in a flash” in his Instagram post after the surgery. The Dynamo did not specify when Beasley suffered this injury, but the 36-year-old has not played for the club in its first three league matches this season.

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If Beasley returns within the next four to six weeks, it would put his return around the middle to end of April. The Dynamo have a pair of home games at the end of April into May, against the Columbus Crew and FC Dallas, which may be a good time to bring Beasley back.

Sane, Low play down injury fears after horror tackle for Germany

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Leroy Sane suffered a tackle so graphic on video that in most cases would have ended up with a broken leg. Thankfully, Sane says he’s just fine.

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Late in Germany’s 1-1 friendly draw with Serbia on Wednesday evening, Serbia’s Milan Pavkov went over the ball and hit Sane’s leg directly with the studs of his cleats. Pavkov was shown a straight red card and Sane limped off the pitch. However, after the match, Sane assured fans that he’s doing all right.

“The foul looked worse than it was, everything is fine with my ankle,” Sane said after the match. “I’m very happy, we had a few good moves. We had good phases where the final pass was lacking, but I think that will come with time. Everyone could see that we got better and better.”

With the start of Euro 2020 qualifiers ahead and the announcement last month that Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, and Thomas Muller would no longer be with the national team, Joachim Low has started pushing a youth movement in the German National Team. Timo Werner started up top with Sane, 19-year-old Kai Havertz, and 22-year-old Julian Brandt in the three attacking midfield positions.

“It was a vicious foul,” Low said after the match, via Sky Sports. “Sane was lucky and got away with not getting hurt but such fouls can break bones.”

The news about Sane is a huge boost to Manchester City, which is still in the run for the quadruple in England and Europe. Sane will certainly play a big role with Pep Guardiola‘s side down the stretch.