Croatia have had quite the road to get to the semifinals. They finished the group stage with nine points including an emphatic 3-0 victory over Argentina surrounded by wins over Nigeria and Iceland. But then the knockout rounds started and Croatia needed 120 minutes and penalties to prevail over Denmark followed by 120 minutes and penalties to knock out the tournament hosts Russia. It will be a tired Croatia heading to Moscow.
England have had a much less stressful path to the semifinal. They finished second in their group behind Belgium, resting key players in the group finale against Belgium with advancement secured. Then England got a massive monkey off their back and won their first ever World Cup penalty kick shootout when they beat Colombia in the Round of 16. England then had a remarkably easy 2-0 win over Sweden that resembled a qualification game in November more than a World Cup quarterfinal. England will be as rested as a team can be on their sixth game of the tournament and will be looking to make their first World Cup final since 1966.
The winner will play France on Sunday, while the loser will play Belgium on Saturday. If England lose, we could have the second England versus Belgium match of the tournament with little at stake.
Croatia vs. England
Time: 11:00 AM
Location: Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
TV: FOX (English) and Telemundo (Spanish)
Announcing team: John Strong and Stu Holden (English)
Streaming: Fox Sports Go and Telemundo Deportes
The last time England beat two European opponents in the same World Cup was 1982 when they beat a country that no longer exists, Czechoslovakia, and their next opponent should they win today in France.
England has scored eight of their 11 goals via set piece, including three penalty kicks goals for Harry Kane. Kane is currently leading the Golden Boot race with six goals. Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku has four goals but failed to score yesterday in their 1-0 defeat to France. Look for England to continue to capitalize on set pieces against Croatia. With Jordan Henderson cleared to play after some concern about a hamstring injury, England is fully fit heading into the game.
Croatia might be tired heading into this match, but they still have Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic dictating the game from the midfield. Modric is clearly headed for a Best XI nomination in the tournament regardless of how this game plays out. The key battle will be if Jordan Henderson is truly healthy and can continue to play as England’s lone defensive midfielder without ceding too much time and space to Modric and Rakitic.
England fans, insufferable as they can be, have adopted the “It’s coming home” mantra to remind everyone that England is the ancestral home and inventors of football before the rest of the world innovated and passed them up on the playing field. Unless Croatia can muster a reserve of energy after playing 240 minutes over six days, England will likely have until Sunday to keep chanting It’s coming home before they lose to France.