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Croatia reaching World Cup final 'a miracle' - Mario Mandzukic

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Project Russia: Three Lions bow out (3:06)

ESPN's Charlie Gibson takes in all the action and fanfare in Moscow as England's World Cup journey comes to an end at the hands of Croatia. (3:06)

Croatia hero Mario Mandzukic called reaching the World Cup final a "miracle" after his side beat England 2-1 in a dramatic semifinal on Wednesday.

The Juventus forward scored the winner in the 109th minute to send the tiny country of just 4 million people to their first-ever World Cup final, and couldn't say enough about the historic achievement after the match.

"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," Mandzukic said.

"We were like lions out there tonight and we will be the same in the final."


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Croatia were stunned early in the match when Kieran Trippier gave England a lead after just five minutes with a wonderfully taken free kick. But Ivan Perisic gave them an unlikely lifeline in the 68th minute and Zlatko Dalic's team dominated from there.

And Perisic said: "It was a very difficult game, we all know what at stake, how important a semifinal is for a small country like Croatia.

"We started slowly but we've shown our character, just as we have in the previous two knockout rounds when we were one goal down in both matches. We didn't use to be that resilient."

Croatia last reached the semis of a World Cup in 1998 and the moment wasn't lost on the Inter Milan man.

"Twenty years ago I was back home in Omis, my hometown. I rooted for Croatia, wearing a Croatia jersey, and I could only dream of playing for my country and scoring one of the most important goals to send us to a final," Perisic said.

Croatia won all three of their group stage games before needing penalties to overcome Denmark and Russia and setup Wednesday's semi with England. And Dalic says their story has yet to end.

"We are deservedly in the final," Croatia coach Dalic 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."