A trip to the 2018 World Cup Final is on the line when England and Croatia square off against each on Wednesday, July 11 in the second semi-final at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium. Both sides have waited patiently for their turn, each experiencing heartbreak in prior editions since they last appeared in the final four. It's been 20 years since Croatia last reached the semi-finals way back in 1998, where they lost to the hosts France. While England last reached the semi-final stage 28 years ago at Italy in 1990.
Both teams would agree that before Russia 2018 started, they would not have anticipated reaching this stage. But have certainly earned their place with valiant performances. Croatia has had to play two consecutive penalty shootouts against Denmark and the host Russia to reach this stage of the tournament.
England Vs. Croatia Comparison & History
The two grueling 120-minute epic encounters might have caused fatigue, which could be a slight concern for Croatia before their encounter against the Three Lions on Wednesday. England, on the other hand, has cruised past Sweden in the quarterfinals. If we look at the FIFA World Rankings, England is No. 12 and Croatia is No. 20. But as we have seen in this world cup so far, rankings don't matter that much. It all depends on how well you play on the given day.
England hasn't conceded more than 1 goal in any game in Russia 2018. Harry Kane is England's top goal scorer with 6 goals so far, the most by any Englishman at a World Cup since 1986 when star striker Gary Lineker scored six in Mexico. Harry Kane is a strong contender for the golden boot.
- They have have met once before at a major tournament - England won 4-2 in a group stage match at Euro 2004.
- This will be their eighth meeting overall; England have won four times, Croatia twice, with one draw.
- Croatia's last victory against England was the infamous "Wally with the Brolly" match which Croatia won 3-2 at Wembley in November 2007 to end England's hopes of qualifying for Euro 2008.
- Six of the previous seven games have also been played on a Wednesday.
- Croatia are playing in their second World Cup semi-final after a last four appearance on their debut in the tournament in 1998.
- They reached the semi-finals via a penalty shootout victory in the last 16 against Denmark and the quarter-final against Russia. The only other team to win two shootouts in a single World Cup were Argentina in 1990 (against Yugoslavia and Italy).
- Their only defeat in six World Cup knockout matches was against France in the 1998 semi-final.
- That is Croatia's only defeat in eight World Cup matches against European opposition (W5, D2).
- Only three of the 10 goals they have scored have been via set-pieces - the others have all been from open play.
- However, three out of the four goals that they have conceded have been from set-pieces.
- They are unbeaten in their last nine competitive games since losing 1-0 to Turkey in September 2017.
- The Croats have had eight different scorers at this World Cup; only Belgium with nine have had more.
- This is England's third World Cup semi-final following their 2-1 win over Portugal in 1966 and their penalty shootout defeat to West Germany in 1990.
- The Three Lions have lost their last three semi-finals at major tournaments (Euro 96 v Germany, 1990 World Cup v West Germany and Euro 68 v Yugoslavia).
- England's current haul of 11 goals has equalled their highest total at a World Cup, set in 1966.
- After losing three consecutive World Cup games, England have lost just one of their last six (W3, D2).
- England have not beaten two European nations in a single World Cup since 1982, when they beat Czechoslovakia and France.
- They have lost just two of their last 30 competitive matches (W22, D6) since losing their first two matches at the 2014 World Cup.
- Eight of England's 11 goals have been scored via set-pieces - the most in a single World Cup since Portugal in 1966.
- Four of their goals have come via corners. The last three teams to score four or more goals from corners at a World Cup have gone on to win it - Germany in 2014, Italy in 2006 and France in 1998.
- England's tally of five different scorers is their joint-most in a tournament along with 1954, 1998 and 2002.
- Harry Kane is the World Cup's top scorer with six goals. At the previous nine World Cups, only Ronaldo (eight for Brazil in 2002) has scored more. No European player has scored seven goals at a single World Cup since Poland's Grzegorz Lato got seven in 1974, while no European player has scored eight since Gerd Muller hit 10 for West Germany in 1970.
Croatia have got good players right through their team and, without a doubt, they will be the best team that England have played at this World Cup - I am ignoring the meaningless match against Belgium.
So I think Gareth Southgate's side will have to raise their level from what we have seen so far.
But this just strikes me as one of those games that I really do think England will win, by hook or by crook.
I just have a feeling that England will find a way to win. Sometimes I think these things are written - and the way this tournament has opened up for England is one of the reasons it feels like this is their time.
Croatia: Danijel Subasic; Sime Vrsaljko, Dejan Lovren, Domagoj Vida, Ivan Strinic; Ivan Rakitic, Marcelo Brozovic; Ante Rebic, Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic; Mario Mandzukic.
England: Jordan Pickford; Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire; Kieran Trippier, Dele, Jordan Henderson, Jesse Lingard, Ashley Young; Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane.