World Cup: Photographer proves a good shot after getting squashed by Croatia players

Croatia's Ivan Rakitic celebrates with AFP photographer Yuri Cortez after Mario Mandzukic scores their second goal during the World Cup semi-final match against England on July 11, 2018.
Croatia's Ivan Rakitic celebrates with AFP photographer Yuri Cortez after Mario Mandzukic scores their second goal during the World Cup semi-final match against England on July 11, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (THE GUARDIAN) - Given their proximity to the field of play, perhaps it is a surprise it does not happen more often.

But when one World Cup photographer found himself at the bottom of a Croatian pile-on during the World Cup semi-final against England on Wednesday (July 11), he got closer to the action than he might have imagined.

At Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium to record proceedings from behind his camera, Agence France-Presse snapper Yuri Cortez became part of the action after Mario Mandzukic scored what proved to be the winning goal deep into extra time.

Having pounced on Ivan Perisic's header through, the Juventus striker expertly drilled the ball past Jordan Pickford in the England goal before wheeling away in celebration. But as more and more team-mates arrived to join in the euphoric moment, they tumbled en masse past the advertising hoarding next to which Cortez was stationed.

He disappeared under a pile of blue-shirted bodies and became pinned down as the celebrations continued, before eventually emerging apparently unscathed. Several Croatian players appeared concerned for his safety and once his well-being had been established, defender Domagoj Vida planted a kiss on his forehead before running back onto the pitch.

Crucially, Cortez did not forget the reason he was there, and despite the distraction he continued to take some of the most candid photographs seen at the tournament in Russia.

Croatia held on to their 2-1 lead for the remaining 11 minutes and will now play France in Sunday's final while England are left to lick their wounds and contemplate a third-place play-off against Belgium on Saturday.