Everything you need to know about the England v Croatia World Cup semi-final
- Credit: PA
England have reached their first World Cup semi-final for 28 years and will play Croatia on Wednesday night. Mark Heath brings you everything you need to know about the game.
WHEN AND WHERE
England and Croatia will face off for a place in the final of World Cup 2018 at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Wednesday.
The match, England’s biggest since that famous 1990 semi-final defeat to West Germany on penalties, kicks off at 7pm our time.
ITV will screen the match on television, the BBC having showed the quarter-final win over Sweden. Their coverage starts at 6pm.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
England finished second in their group behind Belgium, having beaten Tunisa 2-1 and Panama 6-1 before losing 1-0 to Belgium. Then they saw off Colombia on penalties after a 1-1 draw, before knocking Sweden out 2-0.
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Croatia topped their group in impressive style, winning all three of their games – beating Nigeria 2-0, Argentina 3-0 and Iceland 2-1.
Since then, they’ve needed penalties to make progress, firstly seeing off Denmark after a 1-1 draw, and then breaking host nation Russia’s hearts from the spot following a 2-2 draw.
England are the betting favourites with most bookmakers, with odds ranging from 5/4 to 15/11.
If you fancy Croatia, you can get 5/2 with many bookies.
Unsurprisingly, Harry Kane leads the first goalscorer market at 3/1.
The Three Lions have faced their semi-final foes five times in competitive matches since the turn of the century, winning three and losing two.
The last clash came during World Cup 2010 qualifying, a 5-1 win for England, while perhaps their most famous game saw former boss Steve McClaren dubbed a ‘wally with a brolly’ as his side missed out on Euro 2008 after a 3-2 defeat at Wembley.
The two sides also met in a friendly at Portman Road back in August 2003 – the only senior England match ever held at the ground – which England won 3-1, skipper David Beckham among the scorers.
It’s got to be Harry Kane for England, hasn’t it? The skipper has been simply sensational in Russia and leads the race for the Golden Boot with six strikes, two ahead of nearest rival Romelu Lukaku of Belgium.
But he’s been more than simply goals, coming up big at key times with ice in his veins, holding the ball up fantastically and pinging some superb passes.
For Croatia, midfielder Luka Modric has been pulling the strings. England can’t afford to allow him and fellow midfield dynamo Ivan Rakitic the space and time to create and craft openings.
DEAD BALL THREAT
England have been scoring goals for fun from set-pieces in Russia, corners especially proving a happy hunting ground.
Indeed, of the 11 goals that the Three Lions have netted thus far, just three have come from open play. And it’s something that the Croatians are worried about.
“We saw how good they are from dead-ball situations,” said Modric. “We will have to improve our set-piece defending.”
Gareth Southgate needs no introduction, surely. The England boss – widely seen as an underwhelming choice for the top job when he was appointed in 2016 – is now everyone’s choice for a knighthood.
The super-calm waistcoat-sporting 47-year-old bloody nice bloke has managed to imbue his side with a supreme confidence and team spirit, plus galvanise a nation behind their football side once more.
The man in the opposing dug-out will be Zlatko Dalic, who took the national side last October. A former pro midfielder, he has coached three Croatian football league sides, plus managed in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
I’m a little worried about trying to predict the outcome of such a big game, concerned that any prediction could jinx the Three Lions.
But life’s not about sitting on fences, and I can see this being a cracking game.
England have already surpassed all expectations, and one has a feeling there’s something a bit special about this side. I fancy them to make history and reach the final with a 2-1 win.
Should England do the unthinkable and reach the World Cup final, the first time since 1966 that they would play in the biggest game of all, keep your diary clear on Sunday, July 15.
The final, which will be held at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, kicks-off at 4pm our time. If they get through, England will face either France or Belgium in the finale.
Both the BBC and ITV will show the game live.