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Why should England not be complacent ahead of Semi-Final fixture?

Much like England, Croatia have defied the odds in reaching the World Cup semi-final, and getting to this stage has prompted great anticipation in both camps. With a place in Sunday’s final on the line, a tasty meeting between the two on Wednesday is almost guaranteed. 90MAAT take a closer look at their campaign to date and highlights the reasons why England can’t afford to be complacent come kick-off.

Facing Croatia should be by far England’s toughest test yet, especially considering Croatia have won every game to get to this point, including a 3-0 win against 2014 finalists Argentina. We shouldn’t be too surprised by this success, since Croatia have some phenomenal players in their squad. But what exactly has propelled them so far in the tournament?

First of all, the overall team performance has certainly pulled them through some difficult situations, including the two penalty shootout’s they’ve had to endure. With their ten goals coming from eight different scorers, a potential winner could come from anywhere on the pitch. In fact, seven of Croatia’s starting eleven against Russia had scored by the end of extra time of that match. Luka Modrić is the only Croatian to have scored more than one goal, which makes it rather difficult for England to decide who to keep tabs on.

With this being said, every player has certainly played their part for Dalic’s side and the collective team effort has been remarkable, despite being criticized for not possessing this trait in previous competitions. It’s difficult to single out an individual who has really shined so far with the team making such an experienced unit. Having said all this, if we had to pick out one player from the team, Luka Modrić would probably be that player. This is a pretty unsurprising decision because of Modrić’s stellar season at Real Madrid, but Croatia’s 32-year-old captain has been a consistent performer at the 2018 World Cup and has sparked the ambitions of his home country. I’m sure the fans have forgiven him for his extra time penalty miss against Denmark which forced Croatia to take part in their first of two stressful but successful penalty shootouts, in which Modric has slotted home in both.

Out of the two, England are the favourites to reach the final which is something the English are certainly not used to hearing. However, despite most of the country getting increasingly excited about the prospect of football finally coming home, we can’t get complacent just yet. Reaching the semi-finals has rekindled our love for the England football team, but Croatia will be a sturdy test for Southgate’s men.

The Eastern Europeans have not conceded more than one goal in 90 minutes in the competition and while England have equalled their goalscoring record at a World Cup, they may have to be that little bit more clinical in front of goal in order to stop Croatia reaching their first ever final in a major tournament. A little more selfishness from Harry Kane than we saw against Sweden may also be a good thing on this occasion.

Croatia have scored an impressive ten goals themselves, which is four more than Sweden or Colombia had managed by the time they played England. It may be worth emphasising how important it is that England retain their composed mentality that has been missing from previous competitions. So far (touch wood) I can only recall one, almost costly, lapse of concentration from the England team at this year’s World Cup. The back five need to stay calm and try not to give Jordan Pickford too many more world class saves to make.

If, God forbid, England were forced to endure a second penalty shootout at the same World Cup, experience of winning them certainly favours Croatia, who have beat Denmark and Russia both on penalties. I don’t think Croatian or English hearts will be particularly keen on enduring another, but that may be what it comes to in the end.

The fact there is so little football being played at the moment, but England nor Croatia have been knocked out yet, is a very exciting thought for both. Whoever bows out at this stage can be extremely proud for making it so far, despite some negative expectations of them at the start of the tournament. With the grand finale within touching distance, both teams will be ready to battle it out on Wednesday for a historic place in the final and for many reading this piece, an England success will likely turn the nation football crazy. If their not already that is.

Harry Mahon

90maat's team correspondent for Tottenham Hotspur, graduate of Loughborough University and current student at the University of Surrey.

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