Croatia stand in the way of England making their first World Cup final since 1966 as the two teams meet in an intriguing Moscow semi-final.
England’s 2-0 victory on Saturday over Sweden has got the country dreaming that ‘football is coming home’ after 52 years of disappointments at major tournaments.
Just 3,400 English fans were in attendance for the win over Sweden but flights to Moscow have been jammed pack over the past 48 hours and it’s reported there could be over 10,000 inside the Luzhniki Stadium and more in fan parks.
Gareth Southgate thinks England could get an even bigger reception than the heroes of 1966 if they manage to win the World Cup.
“We have had events on in camp when some of those guys have been in when the road was named at St George’s (Park) after Sir Alf,” he said.
“I’ve met quite a few of those players and we know exactly how they’re held and perhaps, in the modern era, that would be even crazier. Social media and everything else, the global thing is so much bigger.”
Croatia have reached this stage before in 1998 when a team featuring Davor Suker and Slaven Bilic knocked out Germany in the quarter-finals before eventually losing to winners France in the semi-finals.
Croatia struggled to find rhythm in their penalty shootout knockout game victories against Denmark and Russia with boss Zlatko Dalic claiming the defensive style of their opponents stifled their creativity.
He hopes England will be more suited to their style of play, but added that recovering from two extended games will be difficult.
“We played twice for 120 minutes in six days and spent tremendously, physically and mentally,” he said.
“There was a lot of energy needed for it, we do not have much time and we have to be ready for the game in three days….I’m glad we demonstrated strength at such matches and adapted their style, we played the best we could and finally got those matches. I hope that against England it will finally be our style of play and our match.”
Jordan Henderson had been doubtful with a hamstring problem for England but has been passed fit to play meaning Southgate has a fully-fit squad to pick from, including Jamie Vardy, who has recovered from a groin injury sustained against Colombia.
Croatia are hoping both full-back Sime Vrsaljko and goalkeeper Danijel Subasic are fit after picking up injury concerns during the quarter-final win over Russia.
Croatia’s Domagoj Vida can play despite featuring in a pro-Ukraine video. FIFA outlaws political statements and said it had issued the Besiktas centre-back with just a warning after the video was published online.
- This is the eighth meeting between England and Croatia, with England winning four of those games, with one draw and two Croatia wins; six of the previous seven games have also been played on a Wednesday.
- England and Croatia have met once before at a major tournament – England won 4-2 in a group stage match at Euro 2004.
- England are competing in their third World Cup semi-final; they won 2-1 against Portugal in 1966 on their way to winning the tournament but lost on penalties to Germany in 1990.
- Croatia have had eight different scorers at the 2018 World Cup – only Belgium have had more different players find the net (9).
- England have not beaten two European nations in a single World Cup since 1982 when they beat Czechoslovakia and France.
- England have scored 11 goals at this year’s World Cup, a joint-record along with the 11 they scored in their victorious 1966 tournament.
- Croatia have reached the World Cup semi-finals for the second time since their first World Cup participation in 1998, which is more than the likes of Argentina, England, Italy, Portugal and Spain (1 each). The only European nations with more semi-final appearances in this period (inc. 2018) are Germany (4), France (3) and the Netherlands (3).
- Croatia reached the semi-finals via penalty shootout victories in the last 16 against Denmark and quarter-final against Russia – the only other team to win two penalty shootouts in a single World Cup were Argentina in 1990 (against Yugoslavia and Italy).
- England had 15 shots on target in their first two 2018 World Cup matches but have attempted just six in their three games since – England had eight shots on target against Portugal in the 1966 semi-final, and four in 1990’s semi-final against Germany.
- Croatia have only lost one of their six knockout matches at the World Cup, losing to France in the 1998 semi-final.
- Harry Kane has scored on six of the seven days of the week for England, with Wednesday the only day he hasn’t scored on. Should he score, he’ll become just the third player to score on all seven days of the week for England, after Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard.