July 11, 2018 / 9:03 PM / 5 months ago

Croatia were lions, says scorer Mandzukic

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Croatia played like lions to beat England and reach the World Cup final on Wednesday, striker Mario Mandzukic said after scoring the winning goal, while coach Zlatko Dalic described the performance as fantasy.

Croatia's Mario Mandzukic celebrates scoring their second goal. REUTERS/Carl Recine

“This is a miracle. Only great teams can be as brave as we were and fight back from a goal down against teams like England,” said Mandzukic, whose side face France in Sunday’s final after their 2-1 extra-time win.

“We’ve played our hearts out throughout the tournament. I am happy with my performances so far but I am here for the team. We were like lions out there tonight and we will be the same in the final.”

Dalic, who was appointed in October, days before their final group qualifying match against Ukraine, said there was more to come.

“We are deservedly in the final,” he said. “What the lads played tonight is fantasy, they’ve made history. We haven’t said our last word, there is still one more game to go. God willing, we will be world champions.”

England captain Harry Kane said the defeat would hurt for a long time.

“It’s tough, we’re gutted,” he said. “We worked so hard, the fans were amazing, it was a tough game, a 50-50 game, when we look back we will think there’s stuff we could have done better.

“We worked as hard as we could... it hurts, it hurts a lot and it will hurt for a long time. We have had a fantastic journey, further than we thought,” he added.

“We created some good chances when we were 1-0 up, maybe we dropped a little too deep but we didn’t get enough pressure on the ball. There are a lot of ifs and buts, in these games it’s small margins.”

“It’s hard to say (what went wrong). There’s a lot we could have done better. They played well and made it difficult for us... it’s hard to put your finger of it.”

“It’s been great to get to this stage but we have fallen a little bit short and it hurts.”

Reporting by Zoran Milosavljevic in Belgrade; additional reporting by Brian Homewood, Editing by Toby Davis

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