England are just two games away from glory as they take on Croatia in the World Cup semi-finals following a superb run in Russia.
It is England’s most significant World Cup game since the semi-final loss to West Germany on penalties at Italia ’90 – with the vision of matching that famous occasion from 52 years ago if they win.
Croatia will likely offer England with one of their toughest challenges yet in Russia, but the Three Lions will be confident of reaching the final against France – especially with Croatia needing penalty shootouts to beat both Denmark and Russia to reach the final four.
England hasn’t conceded more than one goal in any game in Russia 2018. Harry Kane has six goals, the most by any Englishman at a World Cup since 1986, when star striker Gary Lineker tallied six in Mexico, and he’s the 2018 Golden Boot favorite. England’s lone World Cup title came back in 1966.
Croatia secured its semifinal berth with its second consecutive penalty shootout victory. It will be Croatia’s second-ever appearance in a World Cup semifinal, the last time coming in 1998. That year, it lost to France in the semis and defeated the Netherlands in the third-place game.
Croatia went down early to host Russia in the quarterfinals this year, but quickly bounced back and equalized thanks to Andrej Kramaric’s goal. Croatia became just the second team to progress via penalty shootout in consecutive knockout games in a World Cup tournament since Argentina in 1990.
England and Croatia have met seven times before, with the Three Lions winning four times, losing twice and sharing a draw.
The two nations drew their opening encounter 0-0 in 1996 before England won the next friendly 3-1 in 2003.
England then won their first competitive clash, a 4-2 victory at Euro 2004 in which Wayne Rooney scored two goals.
But Croatia got their own back over the Euro 2008 qualifiers, beating England 2-0 in Zagreb – with Paul Robinson’s infamous air kick a sore spot for England fans way back in October 2006.
Worse was to come as Croatia beat the Three Lions 3-2 at Wembley in November 2007 to ensure that England would not qualify for Euro 2008.
England gained some revenge as they crushed Croatia in their next two games, winning World Cup 2010 qualifying games in September 2008 (4-1) and September 2009 (5-1).
Jordan Pickford revealed he hurt his thumb when he attempted to thump the ground in a moment of frustration in the second half of the win against Sweden, but allayed any concerns over his fitness.
The only other fitness concern for Gareth Southgate is Jamie Vardy, although the Leicester striker was fit enough for a place among the substitutes on Saturday.
Croatia face an anxious wait to discover if Danijel Subasic (hamstring) and Sime Vrsaljko (knee) will be fit to face England.
The key pair will be closely observed over the next 48 hours after suffering injuries in Saturday’s draining victory over hosts Russia on penalties, though Vrsaljko took part in training on Tuesday.
England XI: Pickford, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Trippier, Henderson, Dele Alli, Lingard, Young, Sterling, Kane
Croatia XI: Subasic, Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic, Rakitic, Modric, Rebic, Kramaric, Perisic, Mandzukic
A very close call but the drive and confidence is all with Gareth Southgate’s young charges. We’re still believing it’s coming home. History and immortality anticipate if Southgate and England can reach out and grab them but, We have never underestimated Croatia’s potential in whole tournament.
Good Luck to both the side from Team SportsMate..!!