I didn’t think either team would make it to this stage. Both teams can walk away from the tournament proud of themselves. Yet neither team are quite ready for walking away just yet. In England’s case, this semi-final is the most important game in over quarter of a century. Can they beat Croatia? Of course they can! Can Croatia beat England? Yes. And that scares me, too.
Modric and Ractic. Two of the best midfield players in the world playing for arguably two of the best clubs in the world. They’re going up against England’s one man midfield (Alli and Lingard play as forwards for their respective clubs). Jordan Henderson has his work cut out. He’s had a great tournament but it’ll be interesting (and nerve-wracking) to see how he copes. It will also be interesting to see if Southgate changes the formation or tweaks his tactics a tad, or he sticks to his guns and attacks the way he has been. It’s going to be a key battle area.
Kane v Lovren
Harry Kane destroyed the Croat central defender Dejan Lovren earlier last season. For those not in the know, Kane plays for Tottenham Hotspur and Lovren plays for Liverpool. The game finished 4 -1 to Tottenham and Lovren was substituted around the 30 min mark as Kane had run loose on him.
Lovren has since improved somewhat since then, and reached the final of the Champions League with Liverpool, and Lovren played a great part in the cup run, although he is still seen as something of a weak link for Liverpool. An Englishman is begging Lovren falls apart again; Croatian supporters will be hoping he’s learned since then. It’s a different game, different teams, different competition. The past could mean everything or nothing when the stakes are so high and the line of success/failure is so fine. We’ll see.
It’s no surprise this has come up. Croatia have just come out of two games which have gone to extra time and penalties. This obviously tires a team, but it can also unite and motivate them. You saw how England felt from beating Colombia that very way: more together and focused. Most say this is “Advantage: England”. Again, we’ll see. I’m obviously hoping Croatia dead on their feet in the second half so England can run rampant on them.
I would probably say there is more pressure on England, but this is something of a golden era for Croatia and most likely Modric’s last world cup. To an extent, they have little to show for it. This pressure could motivate them to get to the final. It’s 20 years since they got to this stage, although for England it’s even longer. The Croats will be there in numbers; we wait to see how many England fans turn up. But for the English press, football traditions and expectations now, I feel the England have a greater weight on their shoulders, despite being young and having surpassed all expectations all ready.
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The final of the World Cup for the winner. France, I feel, is superior in terms of power and talent compared to either of these teams for the actual final, although strange things happen in this funny old game, and both England and Croatia won’t mind being the “Leicester City of international football.”
I don’t expect it to have much of an impact, but Croatia are the more favored team by the neutral supporter. Maybe it’s because of politcians haven’t coated us in glory in recent years, or Croatia is less of a superpower on football or political stage. Britain is seen as an economic power in both; Croatia less so, but I hear it has lovely beaches.
I’ve turned strangely superstitious during this World Cup (something in the Latin American air has made me this way) and I’m afraid to curse England in some way. So, I’m keeping my prediction to myself, thank you very much, and I just hope England win.
Test for Englishmen (and English women)
I saw this meme and it made me giggle. A test for all English reading this blog. Make your comments below.