England keep marching on and the games keep getting bigger. The last time England walked out for a semi-final at a major tournament their current manager was in the team, the last time they played in a World Cup semi-final most of the current squad weren’t born.
Just by walking out to play a semi-final England’s players will be achieving something that eluded Stanley Matthews, Billy Wright, Kevin Keegan, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and many lesser knowns. As Alan Shearer stated last night the boys are already heroes, but could come home legends.
England are having an excellent World Cup far exceeding pre tournament expectations with the country falling back in love with a national team so long a source of derision. England’s young side are playing without the fear and fatigue that dogged so many recent campaigns.
Croatia meanwhile are a capable side with a formidable midfield run by playmakers Luka Modric & Ivan Rakitic who spend most their time running the midfields of Real Madrid & Barcelona respectively. Mario Madzukic remains a dangerous forward whilst wingers Ante Rebic & Ivan Perisic have both had excellent tournaments. At the back Danijel Subasic has been a Croatian hero in 2 penalty shoot outs and Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren has held together the back 4.
Croatia have a clean bill of health injury wise but were out on their feet at the end of their quarter final with Russia- their second straight penalty shoot out. England should be fresher after coasting past Sweden in their quarter-final.
The key to victory for England will be keeping Modric & Rakitic quiet, when allowed space to play they ran riot against Argentina. Denmark nullified them by pressing them high up the pitch- England may well use Dele Alli & Jordan Henderson to do the same.
Croatia’s defence looked shaky against Russia with some dreadful defending leading to Mario Fernandes’ late leveller whilst Lovren who has had a good tournament but suffered a torrid time against Harry Kane in the Premier League last season.
England start as marginal favourites but Croatia are a dangerous side filled with experienced campaigners with Champions League medals in their collections. But it’s coming home!
Prediction: England 2-1 Croatia