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England dreaming but Croatia set to provide biggest SWC test

11 July 2018
England dreaming but Croatia set to provide biggest SWC test

England are gearing up for their first World Cup semi-final since 1990 when they face Croatia in Moscow on Wednesday.

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

Prediction: Worn down after two straight penalty shoot-out wins, Croatia eventually fall victim to yet another set-piece goal from England. And a young, likeable side with an eminently sensible and humble manager in Southgate have captured the hearts of a nation. That's obviously why they are in the semi-final of a World Cup.

"Obviously we know we are playing in the World Cup, in the semi-final".

"This team is nowhere near the level they're going to be capable of, partly because of their age and partly because over the next few years, with us and with their clubs, they're going to have more and more big-match experiences. We know what it takes and in such moments you forget any fatigue you may feel", said the 29-year-old at Tuesday's (Jul 10) eve-of-game press conference at the Luzhniki Stadium.

England, who made an early impression with a 6-1 crushing of Panama in the group stage, then overcame their shootout hoodoo in beating Colombia in the last 16 and looked composed and mature in the 2-0 quarterfinal victory over Sweden.

Vrsaljko says that he expects the match against England to be completely different than the games against Denmark and Russian Federation.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic has only one real injury concern heading into Wednesday's World Cup semi-final in Russian Federation.

The Real Madrid ace has been outstanding in Russian Federation.

The captain was the man of the match again in the penalty shootout win over Russian Federation in Sochi at the weekend. - Mario Mandzukic assisted Andrej Kramaric's goal against Russian Federation in the quarterfinal - he has been involved in four goals at the World Cup finals for Croatia (3 goals, 1 assist), with only Davor Suker involved in more (6).

"There is still a lot to play".

Vida has quietly been one of the standout performers at this World Cup, and Croatia will be relieved he avoided a suspension for a rather ill-advised video published online after the win over Russian Federation.

Xabi Alonso, Xavi and Cesc Fàbregas are enjoying themselves on the ball too much for my liking and then it gets worse.

For Croatia, this is the first time they have reached this stage since 1998, and they are looking to reach their first ever major tournament final.

I hope we don't lose to the English because already you are in the final.

Although Croatia are the most hard opponent England will have faced in the tournament, Southgate has suggested he will stick to his gameplan.

Goalkeeper Danijel Subasic soldiered on against Russian Federation despite hurting a hamstring, while right-back Sime Vrsaljko is expected to miss the game. Right now, though, everyone is enjoying the ride and Southgate admits that the frenzied support back in England is beginning to filter through to his players in Russian Federation. So we won't win the game just because Croatia had half an hour more football than us three days ago.