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2018 FIFA World Cup: Croatia and England Target Place in Finals

Gareth Southgate
England Manager Gareth Southgate has pushed all the right buttons to get England into the Semi-Finals for the first time since 1990. Photo By: Кирилл Венедиктов {Wiki Commons) [CC License]
  • Croatia and England meet in Semi-Finals play at 2:00 p.m. EST on Wednesday, July 11
  • Will England continue to dominate in set pieces?
  • Can Croatia reach the Finals for the first time in their country’s history?

For English fans born roughly anytime in the past 20 years, 2018 will mark the the longest they’ve been able to cheer for their team in the World Cup. A place in the Semi-Finals has not been achieved since 1990, when The Three Lions placed fourth in the tournament. Overall this is only the third time they’ve made it this far, with the other coming in 1966 when they won the World Cup on home soil.

England is in the Semi-Finals for just the third time in their nation’s history with the other two coming in 1990 and their World Cup winning year in 1966

Sweden vs England: Quarter-Finals Recap

On Saturday, England claimed their place amongst the final four nations with a 2-0 win over Sweden. Though England were favored in the match, a victory over Sweden was something they had only accomplished twice going back to 1968. Going into the match England had scored nine goals, of which six had been scored by captain Harry Kane.

Against Sweden they welcomed two new names to the scoresheet, with goals from Harry Maguire, who headed home a goal from a corner on the half-hour mark, and Deli Alli, who added to the lead at the 58′ minute mark. For Maguire it was his first international goal for England, and Alli his first at a World Cup.

With an early goal, England forced Sweden to come out of their defensive shell and the Swedes started to open things up in the second half. All three of their shots on target came in the second half, but England keeper Jordan Pickford was up to the task each time, making three standout saves.

Russia vs Croatia: Quarter-Finals Recap

The Croats were tipped as favorites against Russia in their Quarter-Finals match, but the host nation gave them all they could handle. Russia’s leading scorer Denis Cheryshev shocked Croatia with his fourth goal of the tournament at the 31′ mark, giving Russia an early lead. Croatia wasted little time in drawing even with a goal of their own by Andrej Kramarić eight minutes later.

Despite holding 65% of the possession and outpassing Russia 728-400, Croatia could not find a second goal, and the match would head to Extra Time. Ivan Perišić came the closest to scoring for Croatia in the second half, with a shot that hit the inside of the post, rolling back across the goal line and out of bounds.

Croatia looked like they had scored the winning goal at 100′ when Domagoj Vida scored a header off a corner to make the score 2-1. However, just minutes later Russia had their own set piece goal off a free kick that Mário Figueira Fernandes headed in to send the match to penalties.

In penalties, Russia kicked first and missed. Each team scored and missed once over the first two rounds. After Russia’s earlier hero Fernandes missed on the third attempt, Croatia’s Luka Modrić would give his team a lead they would not give up. Both team’s scored on their fourth and fifth attempts, with Ivan Rakitić’s goal sealing Russia’s fate for the 4-3 win on penalties.

Head-to-Head and Southgate’s Approach

These teams have limited history against one another, only having met seven times with England winning four and one draw. There is no recent history, though, with the last match coming in 2009.

Croatia is riding a six-game winning steak overall, and are 9-2-2 in their past 13 international matches. Meanwhile, England has only lost one game dating back to June 2017. That one loss over those 15 matches? Just a 1-0 defeat to Belgium during this tournament, in a match they rested several players and were arguably better off losing.

England has suffered through 52 years of frustration on the World Cup stage, but this group of players don’t seem to be carrying that weight on their shoulders. They entered the tournament loose and with minimal expectations, but now have everyone starting believe the drought could be over.

“You know, he’s lived what we’re living now, but he’s also very approachable, where you can go and speak to him. He joins in with the banter, so we’re one big family here now.” ~ English defender Kyle Walker on Manager Gareth Southgate.

The England youth programs have been excelling and along with Nigeria and France, the English are one of the youngest teams in the tournament this year.

English Manager Gareth Southgate has been hailed a savior in England for his new ideas, genuine personality, and approach-ability with his players. “It is why he is getting the best out of us players because he’s experienced all this before,” said defender Kyle Walker. “You know, he’s lived what we’re living now, but he’s also very approachable, where you can go and speak to him. He joins in with the banter, so we’re one big family here now.”

Will Both Keepers be Fit?

Croatia is playing in just their second Semi-Finals ever, last reaching this far back in 1998. But will they have their star keeper Danijel Subašić? Subašić appeared to suffer a potential hamstring injury at the end of regulation against Russia, and again looked to aggravate it in Extra Time. However, he stayed in the game and tied a World Cup record with four shootout saves in the same World Cup.

Pickford also emerged after England’s win with his hand heavily wrapped. The injury was self-sustained through a moment of frustration which saw him punch his own leg and injure his thumb.

Both should be fit to play but the injuries should be monitored.

World Cup Stats


5-0-0 Record 4-0-1
10 Goals Scored 11
4 Goal Allowed 4
6 Goal Differential 7
78 Total Shots 70
19 Total Shots On Target 19

Betting Advice

Picks with odds via Bovada
1st half draw -110
England to Qualify -160

This match looks like it could have all the makings for a tight affair, which could be decided off a set piece. England have scored eight of their 11 goals from set pieces. Their last match saw them score one from a set piece and both off headers.

Croatia scored one of their goals from a set piece and both from headers. In total 3/4 goals in the Croatia vs Russia match came from headed goals.

If we look up some average height statistics among World Cup teams, Croatia could hold an edge as the fifth “tallest” team by average, compared to the 16th-ranked English.

This English squad is giving longtime fans memories of their last winning team. The 11 goals scored so far was last reached in their championship year of 1966.

We’ve already seen Croatia come through two tight matches via penalties. They are actually only the second team to win back-to-back World Cup matches through penalties ever. Impressive as that is, this also means they have played over an hour of extra soccer this past week, and a half-hour more than the English, which could cause some tired legs.

This English squad is giving longtime fans memories of their last winning team. The 11 goals scored so far was last reached in their championship year of 1966. They’re also finding ways to win that past national teams could not.

Take for instance their Quarter-Final win over Colombia, which saw them end their 0-3 record in World Cup games decided by penalties. I see both teams feeling each other out during the first half, and England just having slightly more as the game progresses to advance to the Finals.

Croatia vs England Odds via Bovada

Spread Moneyline Total To Qualify
CRO +1/2 (-165) +240 2 (-115) O +130
ENG -1/2 (+135) +130 2 (-105) U -160
DRAW +220

Author Image

Ryan is SBD's resident soccer pro, though his repertoire is by no means limited to a single sport. His articles have been published by the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and the Kitchener Rangers, and outlets like SportsXpress and Shredthespread.com