Sunday, September 23, 2018

Prediction: Croatia vs England

Verdict: Croatia to qualify

Best Odds: 13/10

Bookmaker: 888sport

After two successful penalty shoot-outs, Croatia are in a position to fight for a place in the final and they will fancy their chances against revived England in Moscow. The Three Lions, on the other hand, are finally in a position to reach the World Cup final and they, too, will be pumped going into the semi-final clash.

Croatia

Even with players like Modric, Rakitic, Perisic and Mandzukic having important roles to play in some of Europe’s strongest sides, the Croatian national team have struggled to prove their worth at the international stage, crashing out in the group stage at the Euro 2012 and 2014 World Cup finals before reaching the Last 16 phase at the Euro 2016. Vatreni were not exactly brimming with confidence heading into the tournament in Russia, but they did well to prove the doubters wrong, albeit somewhat thanks to Lady Luck.

While they enjoyed hard-fought wins over Nigeria and Iceland, Croatia thought Argentina a genuine lesson in football in their third group fixture, thus setting up a clash with Denmark in the first knockout phase. Vatreni were not at their best in said match, but eventually managed to triumph on penalties, before repeating the feat against hosts Russia in the quarter-finals. Croatia showed a great deal of character to recover from going a goal down and conceding a late goal in the second extra time period, as most four out of five players kept their cool and converted from the penalty spot to send the team into the semis. With their next opponents England not really impressing on the road to the last four, we can definitely see Zlatko Dalic’s side making it to the final.

Team News

Latest reports suggest that Sime Vrsaljko is set to miss the game through a knee injury, meaning Domagoj Vida could be moved to the right-hand side.

England

Having enjoyed virtually no success since lifting the World Cup trophy in 1966, England became referred to as perennial underachievers and nobody really expected Gareth Southgate’s youthful side to shake off said tag. The former Middlesbrough boss did well to guide the Three Lions to Russia after the Sam Allardyce fiasco, but many were surprised with both his 3-5-2 formation and his final selection for the World Cup finals.

Starting berths were handed to inexperienced Jordan Pickford, Harry Maguire, Kieran Trippier and Jesse Lingard, while Ashley Young was preferred to Danny Rose and Ryan Bertrand on the left flank. Even so, England had an easy job in the group stage, defeating Tunisia and Panama before somewhat intentionally losing to Belgium, setting up a clash with Colombia in the first knockout stage. The Three Lions produced a decent performance against Los Cafeteros, eventually winning the clash after penalties, while they went on to defeat Sweden thanks to two headers, thus securing a first appearance in World Cup semi-finals since 1990. It has to be noted though that England scored most goals in Russia from set pieces and that their midfield department is not nearly good enough to match the likes of Modric and Rakitic, which could ultimately cost them the opportunity to fight for the coveted trophy.

Team News

Gareth Southgate is sweating over the fitness of key midfielder Jordan Henderson, who is rated doubtful with a tight hamstring.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Both teams scored in 5 of last 6 meetings between the two sides
  • Those 6 games produced astonishing 28 goals
  • England have three wins against Croatia’s two, with one match ending in draw
  • Croatia are unbeaten at the 2018 World Cup
  • England scored 8 of their 11 goals from set pieces

Conclusion

While England have mostly profited from easy fixture list and impressive set-piece play, Croatia have showed a great deal of quality and character on the road to the semi-finals and with England’s Jordan Henderson a major doubt, expect Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic to run riot at Stadion Luzhniki and help Croatia reach their first ever World Cup final.

Verdict: Croatia to qualify

Best Odds: 13/10

Bookmaker: 888sport

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nemanja Lazarevic


Working as editor-in-chief at Soccernews.com, Nemanja Lazarevic is responsible for organising and managing the team of writers to ensure the content produced on the site meets high industry standards and remains interesting to our readers. As our go-to guy for the football transfer news, he uses an extensive experience in the industry to dig up latest transfer stories from local sources.

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