Published: Wed, July 11, 2018
Sport | By Tony Jimenez

The Croatian players England need to watch out for

The Croatian players England need to watch out for

None more so than Luka Modric who, on this site on Monday, was named by former Croatia coach Slaven Bilic as the player of the tournament so far. The big issue was this: why Southgate's players had started their training session at Repino on Tuesday morning by throwing around a rubber chicken? "What is that all about?"

For Kane and England's other midfield weapons to get their sights at goal, the impossibly irritating Sterling must keep up his diversionary tactics or, better yet, be ignored and permitted to dazzle in the more traditional sense. "Just some mobility exercises".

Midfielder Ivan Rakitic thinks the spirit that carried the team through those tense knockout matches will stand it in good stead against England, which is hoping to beat two European nations at a World Cup for the first time since 1982.

Prediction: Worn down after two straight penalty shoot-out wins, Croatia eventually fall victim to yet another set-piece goal from England. But underneath it all, there remains the serious business of attempting to become world champions for a second time.

The calmness in England's camp on and off the field is in stark contrast to Croatia's experience.

England manager Gareth Southgate and Harry Kane celebrate their entry into FIFA World Cup 2018 semifinals. Our supporters, our country, has had a long time of suffering in terms of football.

"We were not certain what this team might be capable of", Southgate admitted to ITV, mindful of England's many recent failures.

He added: "Our country has been through some hard moments recently in terms of its unity, and sport has the power to do that (unite people)".

In the latest in a series of controversies, former global Ognjen Vukojevic was kicked out of their delegation on Monday and fined by Federation Internationale de Football Association for posting a pro-Ukraine video clip following their penalty shootout victory over Russia on Saturday.

Southgate admits he sees similarities between the run to the 1996 semifinal and this one in Russian Federation although it's best not mention to him that football is coming home.

"Football's coming home.I couldn't listen to it for 20 years, frankly", Southgate said. It will be a battle again but I trust us. "We can feel the energy and feel support from home and it's a very special feeling, a privilege for us".

"The age of the players, the improvement in the players and the hunger of the players has been apparent for everybody to see".

"We have emerging leaders". We've got emerging leaders [in Russia], at that time that team had six club captains so there was a lot of leadership within the group.

"Come here, and we'll watch it together". That is what these guys have done.

One gets the sense that, on average across the board, England are the more talented outfit between the two, but then this World Cup hasn't paid much mind to who's better on paper.

That allowed Croatia to reach the semi-finals for the first time since the 1998 World Cup in France, which was their first as an independent nation. "We feel much easier at this point", said striker Mario Mandzukic. "To have seen our younger teams have success they have has been hugely rewarding. Hopefully we'll go out there and implement our plan".

Gareth Southgate and England are ready to face the music.

"I was not a renowned fashion icon through my playing career so it's rather odd to be one now", Southgate joked.

Here's a look toward Day 23 of the 2018 World Cup, including a match preview and a look at which key player will be worth keeping an eye on. They'll be one game from being World Cup winners.

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