By 90Min
July 10, 2018

England and Croatia are preparing for their first World Cup semi finals in 28 years and 20 years respectively ahead of their last four clash in Moscow on Wednesday night.

This moment has been a long time coming for both nations, with just 90 minutes now separating them from a place in the World Cup final. For the players involved, this is most likely a once in a lifetime opportunity...


Head to Head


England hold the bragging rights over Croatia in their head to head record since the former Yugoslav state became an independent nation in the early 1990s, with four wins for the Three Lions in seven games. Croatia have won twice, with the only draw (0-0) coming in the first ever meeting between the two in an international friendly in the build up to Euro '96.

Steve McClaren's England infamously lost home and away to Slaven Bilic's Croatia in Euro 2008 qualifying, with a 3-2 Croatia win at Wembley on the final matchday condemning the English to third place in the group and a summer on the beach.

Jamie McDonald/GettyImages

Prior to that, an 18-year-old Wayne Rooney had scored twice against Croatia as England won 4-2 in a group game at Euro 2004. England have also thumped Croatia in their two most recent encounters, winning 4-1 away, courtesy of a Theo Walcott hat-trick, and 5-1 at home, during which Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard netted braces, in a pair of 2010 World Cup qualifiers.

That 5-1 game nearly nine years ago remains the last encounter between these two countries.

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2018 World Cup So Far


Croatia were one of only three teams alongside Uruguay and Belgium who finished the group stage with a 100% record after impressive wins over Nigeria, Argentina and Iceland, the latter showcasing the depth of quality in their squad.

Zlatko Dalic's team had more trouble with Denmark in the Last 16, relying on the penalty shootout heroics of goalkeeper Danijel Subasic to get through, while an extra-time equaliser against Russia meant they also had to win from the spot in the quarter finals.

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Nobody expected England to go this far before the start of the tournament, with getting out of the group and winning just one knockout game the extent of even the most hopeful expectations.

Opening wins against Tunisia and Panama ensured a third group game against Belgium mattered little, before a challenging and demanding Last 16 tie against Colombia saw England win a first penalty shootout since 1996 and a first ever in the World Cup.

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The product of a favourable draw, the quarter final against Sweden was much more comfortable and Gareth Southgate's team looked in control for most of the contest that finished 2-0.


Team News


Neither side have any players suspended for this one, while all previous yellow cards in the tournament have now been wiped out. It means the only way a player can be suspended for the final, if their country gets there, is by getting sent off in this game.

Right-back Sime Vrsaljko is a major a doubt for Croatia after limping out of their quarter final win, breaking up the partnership of Dejan Lovren and Domagoj Vida in the centre as the latter moves wide to cover, allowing Vedran Corluka to come into the team.

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Meanwhile, Marcelo Brozovic is likely to replace Andrej Kramaric, pushing Luka Modric forward.

Croatia coach Dalic insists his team will have the energy to face England despite being taken all the way to penalties in both of their knockout games so far.

Backup striker Jamie Vardy is the only minor doubt for England, with manager Southgate widely expected to keep the same team that started against Sweden. There is, however, a school of thought that Eric Dier could start alongside Jordan Henderson to offer greater midfield solidity.

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Probable Lineups


Croatia (4-2-3-1): Subasic; Vida, Corluka, Lovren, Strinic; Brozovic, Rakitic; Rebic, Modric (c), Perisic; Mandzukic

England (3-5-2): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire; Trippier, Henderson, Alli, Lingard, Young; Sterling, Kane (c)


Prediction


Croatia are a far more technically able side than Sweden and are much more level headed and mature than Colombia, suggesting that this may finally be where England's fairytale finishes.

The presence of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Perisic and Danijel Subasic means that Croatia have vastly more experience at the highest level, albeit not in this exact context, and are likely to control possession and keep England on the back foot.

That isn't to say it will be a one-sided game, far from it. England will still fancy their chances, especially if the pace of Raheem Sterling, Jesse Lingard and others can stretch the game and pressure Croatian midfielders and defenders into mistakes.

Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

The fatigue of back-to-back penalty shootouts for Croatia could also become a factor.

Croatia 2-1 England

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