Sunday, 22 July, 2018

England unchanged, Croatia's Vrsaljko passed fit

Richard Buxton: Croatia coach Dalic could regret his comments England vs. Croatia: Southgate Urges Team To Create History
Frederick Owens | 12 July, 2018, 03:19

More than 10,000 Croatian fans arrived in Moscow for a chance to see their nation in the World Cup semi-final and it was worth the trip as the nation created history.

Both of those runs ended in defeats on penalties, but there is a belief that something could be different this time.

England has shown that fielding a team young enough to forget the mistakes of the past can be incredibly useful in building confidence - especially when that team is led by a former player from those years of mediocrity.

Henderson has been key to England's success in Russian Federation so far with his calm and precise distribution as well as a willingness to protect the back three.

It was his first goal for his country, England's 12th of the tournament and ninth from a set-piece, but it should have added more from open play as it revelled in the space they were being given in the first half. When we look back we will think there's stuff we could have done better.

Southgate has been just the voice of reason England have needed to prevent anyone from getting too carried away. You know how hard it is to get to these big finals or even get to these World Cup.

But he is yet to fully convince and win the trust of everyone, and is still susceptible to occasional errors, highlighted by his stray pass that allowed Russian Federation a chance to go clear on goal in the closing minutes of the quarter-final.

England had been gripped by World Cup fever following the team's march to the semi-final stage, with popular English terrace chant "Football's coming home" making a revival among fans.

"Mentally strong team", midfielder Ivan Rakatic said.

Real Madrid playmaker Modric has excelled at times in Russian Federation, both on the ball and in terms of his leadership qualities.

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The captain was the man of the match again in the penalty shootout win over Russian Federation in Sochi at the weekend.

"There is still a lot to play".

Though Southgate said the World Cup would be remembered as a success, he also couldn't help but feeling like it was an opportunity lost.

Croatia were a goal down against Denmark in the last 16 and against Russian Federation in the quarter-finals, before equalising and forcing extra time and penalty shootouts. But there is less pressure on them now.

Mario Mandzukic scores the extra-time victor in the 109th minute to break English hearts.

"We knew what was at stake and how important the semi-final is for a small country like Croatia", he said.

This is a tough team to beat, however, and France will have to overcome Croatia's technical ability as well as their remarkable resolve.

Goalkeeper Danijel Subasic soldiered on against Russian Federation despite hurting a hamstring, while right-back Sime Vrsaljko is expected to miss the game.

Now one of these perennially disappointing teams will be in the final of the FIFA World Cup. Croatia, however, still appears to be the underdog in its upcoming game against France, per Bleacher Report, on account of the team having narrowly escaped with a win in three straight extra-time matches, and because France has had a dominant World Cup run thus far, having trailed just once in the tournament. "We've got to win because we play better".

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