England vs Croatia preview, betting tips and prediction
Croatia @ 12/5 with Coral
This could really be England’s year. Their best showing at a World Cup since 1990 was secured when they swept past Sweden with a 2-0 win in the quarter-final. Once they got going, they did it with minimum fuss too. Harry Maguire got the opener from a set-piece before Jesse Lingard found Dele Alli with an inch-perfect cross to double their advantage. Sweden tried to get back into the game but were denied by another inspired performance from Jordan Pickford. Gareth Southgate will try to manage expectations with the toughest tests still to come.
And despite being exhausted, Croatia will provide the toughest test for England yet. The Croats had to endure another 120 minutes before a nerve-shattering penalty shoot-out saw them dump out Russia, as they done with Denmark in the previous round. It was the first of four matches to go to extra-time in this tournament to actually feature a goal in the extended period. If anything, Croatia taking the lead raised the energy levels and intensity of the game. Other extra-time passages had been slower, nervy precursors to shoot-outs. Had Croatia known it was going there anyway, they might have saved their energy. But the achievement of reaching the last four is bound to give them access to the reserves that they need. If anything, it might inspire them to try to get the job done early against England. They could fly out of the blocks.
Southgate will be encouraged by a first clean sheet of the tournament. This was partially thanks to Pickford heroics but also down to competency from his defenders, one of whom netted the opener. That was a reminder to everyone about how dangerous England are from set-pieces. Harry Kane was a little off the boil against Sweden but it could be argued that he wasn’t getting the service he required from Lingard, Alli and Sterling. Many have called for Sterling to be dropped for Rashford due to the Manchester City star’s habit of wasting good opportunities. He was once again guilty of this in their quarter-final win but he also deserves credit for his positional intelligence, making the runs to create these openings in the first place.
Croatia had to fight hard to reach their second World Cup semi-final, triumphing in successive penalty shoot-outs against Denmark and Russia. This could be seen as a measure of their fighting spirit or their inability to kill off games. Zlatko Dalic will have faith in his team against England either way. Both knockout games have seen them come from behind, which is another encouraging detail. The ice-cold Ivan Rakitic was the player to win both shoot-outs. Subasic was also a hero again, saving a penalty despite picking up an injury. Modric will again by key. Croatia will be confident that they can win the midfield battle.
England appear to have a clean bill of health for this match.
Strinic, Vrsaljko, Mandzukic, and Subasic are all potential injury concerns.