England are just one match away from the World Cup final
Last updated: July 10, 2018 by Leon Marshal
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|Last Meeting:||England 5 – 1 Croatia|
|Competition:||FIFA World Cup|
Thirty years of hurt. Well, almost. Twenty-eight years after England last featured in a World Cup semi-final we are there again. This time the opponents are Croatia and England are favourites heading into the match.
What a tournament it has been. Whatever the outcome of this match, England’s players have already done themselves proud. Outperforming all pre-tournament expectations, they will be welcomed home as heroes even if they should lose here. But, dare we say that they shouldn’t lose? Bookmakers have England as favourites coming into this and the signs are positive. Ever a threat from set-pieces, the Three Lions scored two more headed goals on Saturday, against the tournament’s tallest team no less. Deliveries from Trippier and Young should be another feature of the match and are perhaps England’s best chance of scoring goals.
One aspect of England’s play so far that may not prevail here is dominating possession and the midfield. Croatia’s strength in the middle of the park is unrivalled and Jordan Henderson, rightly praised for his performances so far, will need to lift his game even higher. Croatia will try to control the game via that midfield, but that won’t necessarily translate into goal-scoring success. England’s defence has been rock-solid and Maguire, Stones and Walker will have aerial dominance over Croatia. Organisation will be key, then, as Croatia look to unlock the defence. Make no mistake, this is England’s toughest test of the tournament, but prevail they can.
Croatia have dropped off a little since their high-flying performances of the group stage. They could only muster draws against Denmark and Russia in both of their knock-out games as both went into extra-time and then penalties. The effect of that remains to be seen but the facts are that Croatia have played two rounds of 120 minutes of football plus two penalty shootouts within a week. Fatigue, both mental and physical, could well be an issue and Croatia’s players did already look a little sluggish against Russia.
But this is a World Cup semi-final – the country’s first since 1998 – and strong minds should prevail over tired legs. Croatia will be well aware of England’s threat from set-pieces, especially in the air from corners in the so-called love train tactic. That will be a great concern and Dejan Lovren and co will be tasked with stopping England in that respect. But defence is not necessarily Croatia’s strong point and they will want to win this by attacking. We all know the qualities of Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakitić and those two will be the danger men for England. How much they can influence the game will go a long way to deciding who wins this one.
England once against have a full strength team to choose from so there are unlikely to be changes made from the team that beat Sweden.
The first name on the team-sheet will be Harry Kane as the forward still leads the way for the Golden Boot
Goalkeeper Subasic appeared to suffer a hamstring injury against Russia before continuing to see out the match. He missed yesterday’s training session and it’s unknown if he will feature.
Sime Vrsaljko also limped off in that match with a knee issue and is also a doubt for this one.
|England (3-5-2):||Pickford, Young, Maguire, Stones, Walker, Henderson, Trippier, Lingard, Alli, Sterling, Kane|
|Subs:||Rose, Dier, Vardy, Butland, Welbeck, Cahill, Jones, Rashford, Loftus-Cheek, Alexander-Arnold, Pope|
|Croatia (4-5-1):||Subasic, Vrsalijko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic, Modric, Rakitic, Rebic, Kramaric, Perisic, Mandzukic|
|Subs:||Livakovic, Corluka, Kovacic, Brozovic, L Kalinic, Jedvaj, Bradaric, Caleta-Car, Badelj, Pjaca, Pivaric|
Head to Head
|Last 5 Competitive Meetings Between The Sides|
|Date||Game Result||Round||First Goal-scorer|
|09/09/2009||England 5 – 1 Croatia||FIFA World Cup||Lampard 8′|
|10/09/2008||Croatia 1 – 4 England||FIFA World Cup||Walcott 26′|
|21/11/2007||England 2 – 3 Croatia||UEFA Championship||Kranjcar 8′|
|11/10/2006||Croatia 2 – 0 England||UEFA Championship||Eduardo 61′|
|21/06/2004||Croatia 2 – 4 England||UEFA Championship||Kovac 5′|
Conclusion & Betting Tips
It’s a World Cup semi-final and anything can happen. Both of these teams have the form and quality to win and this is a very tight one to call.
The bookies have England as favourites and, despite our obviously biased perspective, we think they will do it. As we said, it won’t be easy and this could go down to the wire, so we’ll be going a little cautious with England to qualify, which you can get at Sport Nation.