For England to stand any chance of finally bringing football home this summer, they’ll have to first get past Croatia in Wednesday’s World Cup semi-final. It looks set to be a delicately poised match; both teams entered this tournament as underdogs to the world’s historic elite but for varying reasons now find themselves surrounded by hope, optimism and to some extent expectation.
But can history tell us anything about this fixture? How could the referee influence the match? Who has endured the hardest route to the semi final and what will England’s starting XI look like? Here’s everything you need to now before the 7 pm kickoff…
Neither England nor Croatia are accustomed to this stage of the competition. In fact, they’ve reached just three semi-finals previously between them, just one of which has been successful – of course, England’s famous triumph in 1966. On paper though, all signs point to England being the stronger side.
While Croatia famously ended England’s European Championship qualification hopes back in 2008, courtesy of Steve McClaren and Scott Carson, the Three Lions have picked up twice as many wins from their meetings down the years. Likewise, England are currently eight places higher in the FIFA rankings – although if this World Cup has taught us anything, it’s that they really don’t mean much.
Croatia have advanced to the semifinals after winning the two penalty shootouts, first one vs Denmark in the Round of 16, and the second one against Russia in the Quarter Finals. They’ve showed their strength through the whole Tournament and their key players Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric look sharper then ever, can the extra accumulated minutes play against them?
Vrsaljko is injured and Corluka will take his place on the pitch, Dejan Lovren and Subasic are doubtful due to some minor injuries in the last game vs Russia. In the other hand, England way to the Semifinals has been just a bit easier, advancing to the Quarter Finals after beating Colombia on the penalty shootout, and a clean win over Sweden 0-2 to reach the semis. The key man in England’s last 2 games has been the goalie Jordan Pickford, who has made 5 crucial saves both vs Colombia and Sweden, always flanked by Stones, Maguire, Walker or Dier who are performing on a high level every game.
Southgate has all their players fit except Jordan Henderson and Jamie Vardy who will be doubtful until the last minute.
Croatia vs England Head 2 Head last 5 Games
|09/09/2009||WQE||England||5 – 1||Croatia|
|10/09/2008||WQE||Croatia||1 – 4||England|
|21/11/2007||ECQ||England||2 – 3||Croatia|
|11/10/2006||ECQ||Croatia||2 – 0||England|
|21/06/2004||EUC||Croatia||2 – 4||England|