Russia 2018 World Cup preview & probable line-up: Croatia vs England
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.
|Referee: Cakir C. (Tur)|
|Venue: Luzhniki Arena (Moscow)|
|With an all-European final on the cards, England (W4, L1 – 1 shootout win) and Croatia (W5 – 2 shootout wins) will battle it out in Moscow to set up a meeting in the final of Russia 2018 with the winner of the Belgium vs France match.|
|Croatia continue to deliver on the world stage after knocking out the host nation Russia in the quarter-finals. After conceding just one goal in the group stages where they swept aside Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland, the ‘Blazers’ (CRO) then saw off Denmark (last-16) and Russia (quarter-finals) both on penalties.|
Gareth Southgate’s ‘Three Lions’ march on following an impressive 2-0 win over ‘bogey team’ Sweden. Now undefeated in 15 of their last 16 fixtures, England are 11 goals to the good and are particularly effective at set-pieces, with eight of their goals coming from dead-ball situations.
|In seven previous H2H meetings in all competitions, England have the advantage with four wins compared to Croatia’s two – with one draw. Their last matchup saw England win 5-1 in the 2009 European qualifiers.|
|After playing 120 minutes of football against hosts Russia last time out, will the Croatia defence now hold out against the tournaments ‘set-piece’ kings? Or can Croatia take inspiration from their 3-2 victory back in 2007?|
|Players to watch: While Harry Kane has six goals so far, Croatia’s manager has outlined pace-master Raheem Sterling as England’s main danger – Sterling has two goals from 42 caps.|
|Stat attack: Undefeated in their last nine matches, Croatia have seen over 2.5 goals in total in four of their last five meetings with England.|
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.
|With England scoring five set-piece goals, and Croatia concededing two set-piece goals; could we see another here?|
|A total of 28 goals between them since their inaugural 1996 meeting, the four-goals per-game average suggest this may be a high-scoring affair.|