Well, who would have thought pre-tournament that England would have been in the World Cup semi-finals?
England have been a surprise package despite coming through a fairly easy group with comfortable wins against Panama and Tunisia scoring 6 in the process and even with a loss in the final group game vs Belgium they got through the group and arguably into the easier side of the draw.
Harry Kane lead England into a last 16 tie with the Colombians and despite seeming easily on top in a very feisty affair, England conceded a last gasp header to take the tie to extra time and then finally penalties. Fortunately, Eric Dier stepped up to take England’sfifth penalty and tucked it away which put them through to play against Sweden.
Coming into this quarter final after winning their first last 16 World Cup game for 28 years, the momentum was well and truly with England.
Sweden were arguably a tough fixture after proving to have a fantastic defence and the ability to play under pressure after their last group game being a 3-0 win over Mexico when they needed it most. Evidently, it didn’t seem to cause a problem for England who emphatically won 2-0 and didn’t seem to have been caused a problem at all. Both of the goals were scored via headers from Harry Maguireand Dele Allito push Englandthrough to a historic semi final against Croatia.
So, England vs Croatia.
Croatia had an absolutely fantastic group stage winning all 3 of their games including an astonishing win vs Argentina and eye catching performances from the duo of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic.
The continuous control of the Croatian midfield has proven utterly vital for them to progress through the tournament. Despite the praise they’ve received they have definitely crumbled a bit since getting into the knockout stages, facing Denmark and Russia where they have managed to get through via penalty shootouts.
There are positives to be taken though, the games in which they did go the 120 and pens were dominated by Croatia but they just lacked the clinical edge that would have usually been expected from Mario Mandzukic. By his standards it would be an average world cup, only racking up an assist and a goal and not stirring enough up as a lone striker for Croatia.
In the last 40-50 minutes of the Russia game he also seemed to have nothing left in the tank, there may be a 4 day gap between the quarters and the semis but his stamina could be a serious issue for a lacklustre Croatiaattack.
England have been brilliant under a determined Gareth Southgate who has been a joy to watch, interacting with fans and moulding a very young England side into what could potentially already be World Beaters. Harry Kaneis currently sitting top of the goal scoring charts with 6 goals in his 4 World Cup games, 3 of them may have come from the spot but the other 3 were just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
A man that is the number 1 breakthrough of the England squad Harry Maguire has looked like a future staple of the back line, his consistent threat in the air has been the biggest attacking option Englandhave had.
Across the tournament he’s won the most aerial duels and has bagged a goal and a couple of assists. It would not be unreasonable to expect a queue of big clubs coming in for him after this World Cup. Another England defender that’s been incredibly consistent is Kieran Trippier, the Tottenham right back had a breakout season in the Premier League after the departure of Kyle Walker [who has also moved slightly more central this season] which has allowed Trippierto progress into the dead ball specialist he’s become. The never ending flow of crosses has been a tool that England have utilised fully scoring an abundance of headers.
This game proves to be a tight match but after seeing the fatigued Croatia side of the last couple of games there’s a brilliant opportunity for England to get to the final.