England and Croatia will meet for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to reach the World Cup final, with their clash set for the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Wednesday, July 11, kick-off at 20h00 CAT.
England has been one of the surprise packages at the 2018 finals, and their semifinal berth was earned with a 2-0 win over Sweden in Samara on Saturday. Goals from Harry Maguire and Dele Alli – as well as a couple of excellent saves from Jordan Pickford – secured their place in the final four for the first time since 1990.
Gareth Southgate’s ‘Three Lions’ have shown tactical flexibility, athleticism, speed and a fine defensive discipline in their campaign, and they will fancy their chances of claiming victory in the Russian capital city.
Croatia was arguably the most impressive team in the group stage, but have since been forced to dig deep against Denmark and hosts Russia in the last 16 and quarterfinals respectively, playing out draws after extra time before advancing on penalties.
Zlatko Dalic’s side continues to boast one of the strongest midfields remaining in the competition, but the physical toll of back-to-back two-hour marathons will be a worry for ‘The Blazers’ as they attempt to go one step further than their ‘golden generation’ did in 1998.
While Luka Modric will once again be key for Croatia in his ability to dictate the play, the Eastern Europeans will also need Dejan Lovren to be at his best against Harry Kane – the defender was famously pulled off while playing for Liverpool against Kane’s Tottenham in the previous season and will be eager to avoid a repeat.
For England, the pace and movement of Jesse Lingard and Alli will be vital – Croatia has a habit of leaving a gap between midfield and defence, and the English pair will look to exploit this space at every opportunity.
Head to head: Croatia VS England
In head-to-head terms, England and Croatia have met in seven previous matches, according to FIFA’s statistics database. The ‘Three Lions’ have claimed four wins compared to two for ‘The Blazers’, while one game has been drawn.
This will be the teams’ first World Cup finals meeting, while their last match overall was a World Cup qualifier in September 2009 which England won 5-1 at home.
With their superior athleticism, fresher legs and the greater goal threat of Kane, England enter the game as favourites for victory. However, if Croatia can control possession and find openings in defence, they could yet move into a first-ever World Cup final.
England v Croatia
Matches played 7
England wins 4
Croatia wins 2
England goals 18
Croatia goals 10