One World Cup finalist is sorted, and a second will join France following Wednesday’s clash between England and Croatia.
England’s surprising run through the knockout rounds has the Three Lions one step away from a chance to bring it home, but a talented and energetic Croatian midfield stands in their way in Tuesday’s semifinal. England has come this far after topping Colombia and Sweden while Croatia is fresh off of two consecutive penalty kick wins over Denmark and Russia.
Those penalty kick wins are sure to take their toll as Croatia will almost certainly have heavy legs following Saturday’s thriller against the host nation. That match also took an injury toll as defender Sime Vrsaljko and goalkeeper Danijel Subasic picked up knocks in the victory. England, meanwhile, appears to be fully fit as Jordan Henderson looks ready to go in the England midfield.
The midfield battle will be key, making Henderson’s presence extra important. Luka Modric has arguably been the player of the tournament while Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Perisic and Matteo Kovacic are also dangerous in their own right. Because of that, Gareth Southgate could look to include Eric Dier over someone like Jesse Lingard, offering a bit more of a defensive presence in that battle in the center of the field.
While Croatia will look to rely on the team’s midfield playmakers, England has made a habit of embracing the set piece. Last game, it was Harry Maguire with the big goal while John Stones has contributed two of his own. The key figure, though, is Harry Kane, who will win the Golden Boot barring anything crazy over these next few games.
The good news for Croatia is that there is a bit of familiarity as Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren anchors the backline. There’s also the fact that Croatia handled Argentina in the group stage, boosting the team’s confidence when it comes to keeping elite-level attackers quiet. One attacker that should be a focal point is Raheem Sterling who, despite his struggles in front of goal, will need to step up if England wants to lift the trophy at the end.
Look for Croatia to keep possession and attempt to avoid giving away those precious set pieces while England will rely on their three-at-the-back system to frustrate a Croatia team as tricky as any in the tournament.