ENGLAND’S World Cup dream was shattered in the cauldron of the Luzniki Stadium, Moscow.

A Mario Mandzukic strike in extra time of the semi-final showdown gave Croatia a lead they never looked like conceding, despite the desperate efforts of Gareth Southgate’s young players, who now face a third-place play-off against Belgium.

And the heartbreak came after a dream start.

The breakthrough for England came inside five minutes when Kieran Trippier struck a beautiful free kick from just outside the penalty area which flew over the Croatian wall and dipped into the top right-hand corner.

On the half hour Harry Kane was handed a great chance after being put through but couldn't steer the ball past keeper Danijel Subasic from close range, a second effort from an offside position also being kept out.

Five minutes later Jesse Lingard found himself in space just outside the area but put his shot wide to the right as England pressed.

At half time England were up and confident.

The second half began with Croatia pushing and on 64 minutes they were presented with a great chance that required Kyle Walker to block a powerful shot in his midriff.

Then the pressure paid on 68 minutes when Ivan Perisic's high foot steered a cross past Jordan Pickford for the equaliser.

A free kick in injury time gave England a chance to steal it but they couldn’t take it and the battle continued into extra time.

After eight minutes of the first half John Stones was denied when his powerful header was cleared off the line. Then Pickford saved bravely as Mario Mandzukic stormed in.

But it was 18 minutes into extra time that Mandzukic found himself in space in the penalty area again, this time deftly slotting the ball past Pickford to break England hearts.