Moscow: Croatia began preparations for the first World Cup final in their history on Thursday after they came from behind to crush England's hopes in an enthralling contest.
The Balkan nation of just four million people will play France on Sunday after Mario Mandzukic's extra-time winner in Wednesday's semi-final prolonged England's 52-year wait to reach a second World Cup final.
England roared into the lead in just the fifth minute through Kieran Trippier's superb free-kick, but Croatia hit back through Ivan Perisic and Mandzukic to win 2-1 in front of 78,000 spectators in the Luzhniki Stadium.
In beating Gareth Southgate's young team, Croatia have surpassed the achievements of the heroes of 1998, when they reached the semi-finals in France in their first World Cup as an independent nation.
Not only did they reach the final of the masterpiece tournament for the first –ever time, but also they became the smallest nation in terms of population to reach the final since Uruguay in 1950.
While Croatia currently have a population of 4.17 million, Uruguay had a population of 2.4 million people when they won the trophy back in 1950.
To add to that, Croatia became the lowest-ranked team ever to reach the summit clash of football’s biggest event.
A 20th ranked Croatia will take on 7th-ranked France in the final at Moscow on Sunday, whereas England play group rivals Belgium in the third-place playoff on Saturday....