Gareth Southgate says England face toughest World Cup test against Croatia

Annette Crawford
July 12, 2018

England are looking to create history when they take on Croatia in the semi-finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russian Federation on Wednesday and make the final for the first time since 1966 - the last time they won the cup.

Croatia heads into this game on the back of penalty shootout wins over Denmark and Russian Federation in the last-16 and quarter-final stages.

The winning team will now go through to the final on Sunday, to play France - a team that will have been watching Wednesday's long and gruelling match eagerly after its 1-0 victory over Belgium on Tuesday.

England were knocked out of the tournament by Croatia after their European rivals fought back from 1-0 down to win in extra-time.

"It's not coming home" quickly became a joke on social media. Harry Kane & Co. will deal with the same disappointment that felled Shearer and Platt, Gazza and Wazza, Beckham and Gerrard.

Earlier, England had got off to a flying start when Trippier curled a superb free kick into the top corner.

At full-time, with the score deadlocked at 1-1, England looking to be lagging, and extra-time looming, the former Irish captain found his opportunity to wreak havoc.

Croatia had the better of the chances in the remainder of regulation, but England appeared to recover well in the first half of extra time and would have taken the lead in the 98th minute but for Vrsaljko clearing a header by John Stones off the line.

Croatia will be especially wary not to give Trippier too much leeway to fire in risky crosses from the right flank.

Kyle Walker rushed his clearance and Ivan Perisic reacted first to back-head the ball into the box.

Mandzukic scored after Walker stuck out a leg to block Josip Pivaric's cross. The Croatian striker drifted in behind the England defence, who weren't aware of his presence, and he spun to take the shot on the swivel, firing a low finish past Pickford.

Trippier's free-kick was not only his maiden England goal but was his first goal of any kind since he scored for Tottenham against Watford on February 6, 2016 - 886 days ago.

Modric and Rakitic have also been protecting central defenders Dejan Lovren and Domagoj Vida, who stand in front of experienced keeper Danijel Subasic.

England hadn't really faced a truly world-class striker on their run to the semi-finals and in Mandzukic they came up against a player who was equipped to make the most of any deficiencies at the back.

Trippier got England off to the ideal start as England battle for a place in the World Cup final for the first time since 1966. Choruses of "God Save the Queen" began in England's end. Jesse Lingard sent an open 18-yard shot just wide in the 35th.

"It's a bit slow at the moment", said Paul Turner from Manchester, sporting a red England jersey in central Moscow.

Croatia have an experienced squad and will go into the match with the belief of going the distance.

Extra time arrived again and was predictably tense.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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