MOSCOW — Their legs had stopped working long before the end. Their muscles ached, their lungs heaved, their bodies creaked and groaned. Croatia’s players had hit their limits and traveled beyond them, yet again; they had drained themselves of adrenaline; they had passed deep into the red, into the pain.
And still, even as their movements grew stiff and their tendons tight, when they were gasping for breath and it looked as though they could not possibly give any more, they kept going, kept chasing, kept running: past England, into the World Cup final, into history.
When the final whistle blew after two periods of extra time and their 2-1 victory was confirmed, several sank to the turf, floored not just by the sheer physical effort they had produced, but by the scale of their achievement.