Photographer proves a good shot after getting squashed by Croatia players

Guardian sport
Croatia players celebrate next to AFP photographer Yuri Cortez after Mario Mandzukic scores their second goal against England. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

Give 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, 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 Mandžukić scored what proved to be the winning goal deep into extra-time.

AFP photographer Yuri Cortez gets close to the celebrations involving Croatia forward Mario Mandzukic. Photograph: Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images

Having pounced on Ivan Perišić’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 teammates arrived to join in the euphoric moment, they tumbled en masse past the advertising hoarding next to which Cortez was stationed.

Mandzukic offers a hand to AFP photographer Yuri Cortez. Photograph: Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images

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 wellbeing had been established, defender Domagoj Vida planted a kiss on his forehead before running back onto the pitch.

A team effort gets Yuri Cortez back on his feet. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

Crucially, Cortez didn’t 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.

AFP photographer Yuri Cortez recovers well. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

Croatia held on to their 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 playoff against Belgium on Saturday.