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Croatia forward Ivan Perisic commends Croatia ‘fighting spirit’   

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Croatia forward Ivan Perisic lauded his team’s fighting spirit after they secured a place in the World Cup final with a 2-1 extra-time victory over England on Wednesday.

Mario Mandzukic struck a dramatic extra-time goal at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow after Perisic had cancelled out Kieran Trippier’s opener in their semifinal.

It was the third consecutive match that Croatia have won after being forced into extra time. They won penalty shootouts following 120 minutes against Denmark in the round of 16 and Russia in the quarterfinals.

“It was very tough but we showed our character just like in the first two knockout matches,” said Perisic. “We were able to win again after going to extra time. This never used to happen with Croatia.”

Perisic was named man of the match for his goal and for setting up Mandzukic with a clever header into the box.

“My goal was important because it came at a time when we were dominating,” the Inter Milan player said. “For the second goal, Mario [Mandzukic] was in the right place at the right time. It’s not important who scores. It’s important who wins. I’d like to thank our supporters for coming here and for giving us that extra bit of strength that we needed.”

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EARLIER REPORT:

Croatia have been ‘underestimated’, says coach Dalic

MOSCOW Russia  (Xinhua) -- Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said Tuesday that his team deserves more credit for reaching the semifinals of the World Cup in Russia.

Croatia will bid for a place in the final on July 15 when they confront England at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday.

It will be Croatia’s first appearance in the last four of football’s flagship event since 1998 while England have not made it this far since 1990.

“I think the current generation of Croatian players has been underestimated,” Dalic told a news conference. “Croatia is remembered as a team who earned third place in 1998. Our players are at the strongest clubs, Real [Madrid], Barcelona, and have shown their best in Russia.”

Dalic’s side earned a semifinal berth by beating Russia on penalties while England progressed with a 2-0 win over Sweden.

Croatia’s Liverpool center-back Dejan Lovren said he and his teammates needed no extra motivation to perform at their best on Wednesday.

“We know what we need to succeed. In moments like this you forget fatigue, no matter how strong it is. Such a thing [a chance to play in the final] may only happen once in a lifetime,” Lovren told reporters.

The 29-year-old added that he is looking forward to facing England striker Harry Kane, whom he described as a “dangerous opponent”.

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