PREVIEW: Croatia v England

England take on Croatia in Moscow on Wednesday night, with the whole nation hoping the Three Lions can reach their first World Cup final since 1966.

Anticipation has been building back home ever since Gareth Southgate’s men won their first ever World Cup penalty shootout against Colombia in the first knockout round last Tuesday, before beating Sweden 2-0 in the quarter-finals.

England’s opponents have yet to reach the final in their 26-year existence and the country was still part of Yugoslavia when England last made the last four in 1990.

England have no injury concerns after Jordan Henderson recovered from a slight hamstring problem he suffered with against Sweden. Southgate has confirmed that all 23 members of the squad are fit for what is England’s biggest game in over a quarter of a century.

Eight of England’s 11 goals at this World Cup have come from set-pieces, whilst three quarters of the goals conceded by Croatia have been from dead ball scenarios.

This will be Croatia’s second World Cup semi-final appearance having finished third at their debut tournament in 1998.

The Croat’s booked their spot in the semi-final after defeating the hosts, Russia, on penalties on Saturday night following a 2-2 draw, after extra time.

That was Vatreni’s second successive shootout victory after they saw off Denmark in similar fashion in the round of 16, having finished top of a group that included 2014 runners-up Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland.

The Croatian’s are also quietly confident ahead of the game and manager Zlatko Dalic has played down the impact of a controversial pro-Ukraine video released after the win over Russia. Besiktas defender Domagoj Vida featured in the video, which was posted to coach and former player Ognjen Vukojevic’s Facebook page. Vukojevic has since been relieved of his duties. It is unclear what impact this unwanted media attention will have on Vida and his teammates.

Croatia do have a couple of injury concerns ahead of tonight though. Atletico Madrid right-back Sime Vrsaljko has been ruled out after suffering a knee injury against Russia. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Danijel Subasic of Monaco is still being monitored having struggled with a hamstring problem during the previous game.

This will be the eighth meeting between the two sides and their second at a major tournament, following a 4-2 win for a Wayne Rooney-inspired England at Euro 2004. England have four wins to Croatia’s two, with the remaining game finishing level.

England are many people’s favourites for this game but it is never easy to call a game of this magnitude as both teams aim to book their place in the final to play France on Sunday.

Sub-edited by Jack West

Leave a Comment