World Cup 2018: Croatia vs England Preview
In the second semifinal match of this World Cup, Croatia and England will meet for a pass to the finals. The winner will advance to play France in Moscow on Sunday. However, this match brings youth against veterans. England’s roster is the third-youngest team in the World, next to France and Nigeria (Nigeria already eliminated). On the other hand, Croatia has 13 players that failed to advance out of group stage in Brazil 2014.
Nevertheless, the experience that the Croatians will bring on Wednesday’s match is so valuable as it gives them a slight-edge over their opponents. However, those legs have lots of miles in them. Despite the experience, Croatia played two back-to-back 120 minutes matches. This, believe or not, can take a huge toll on the Croatian players and can pay dividends for England.
On the other side, England defeated Sweden in rather easy-fashion. However, they too played and put-forth a tremendous effort to defeat Colombia in penalty kicks in the Round of 16.
However, under the tutelage of manager Gareth Southgate, England has grown up fast and meshed as a complete unit. The Three Lions are well-aware that they are on the verge of history-making as they are one game away from their first final since 1966. This matchup against the Croatians will be the most significant since their penalty shootout against West Germany in Italia ’90. Nevertheless, the route to this stage was not easy. Southgate boys took a dive and were humbled in 2016 under Roy Hodgson when they were eliminated by incoming Iceland in the Round of 16 of the Euro. Despite all this, Southgate has given this team a different identity, or perhaps the team found its own identity under the 47-year-old. Nonetheless, the manager’s reputation inside and outside has been reinforced for its run with this team of youngsters in Russia.
On the other side, Croatia returns to a semifinal stage after breaking through in France ’98 where they participated for the first time as a sovereign nation. The Bosnian manager Zlatko Dalic has only been in charge of this team since October 2017. However, the 51-year-old managed Croatia to a second place in their group stage and later playing a playoff against Greece to enter the World Cup. During the group stages, Croatia dominated convincingly and demolished everything team put in front of them, even a Lionel Messi Argentina. This earned them a first place in their group, while drawing Denmark and hosts Russia in Round of 16 and Last Eight, respectively. However, Croatia depends heavily on their veterans Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Perisic, and Mario Mandzukic. This leads to wonder if this team can actually withstand another 90 (or 120) minutes of play once again.
Croatia: Danijel Subasic; Sime Vrsaljko, Dejan Lovren, Domagoj Vida, Ivan Strinic; Ivan Rakitic, Marcelo Brozovic; Ante Rebic, Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic; Mario Mandzukic
England: Jordan Pickford; Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire; Kieran Trippier, Dele, Jordan Henderson, Jesse Lingard, Ashley Young; Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane.
Harry Kane remains the leading scorer in this tournament with six goals. If England finds a way to subdue Modric and Rakitic, the Three Lions can take a large step towards the final. In addition, if the match ends up in a penalty shootout, Jordan Pickford will once again excel and become England hero. Nevertheless, history beckons both sides despite the end-result. However, it would be nice to have a new world champion that has never won a World Cup.
Croatia 1 – 1 England (4-5 Penalty Shootout)