England's squad all train ahead of World Cup semi-final against Croatia

11 July, 2018, 09:38 | Author: Judy Cobb
  • Gareth Southgate

England and Croatia will compete on Wednesday for the right to face France in the 2018 FIFA World Cup final, with the two underdogs searching to complete their against-the-odds runs through Russian Federation.

One gets the sense that, on average across the board, England are the more talented outfit between the two, but then this World Cup hasn't paid much mind to who's better on paper.

Southgate explained: "We are enjoying the journey". So we won't win the game just because Croatia had half an hour more football than us three days ago. "The age of the players, the improvement in the players, the hunger in the players has been apparent for everybody to see".

En route to the semi-final, Croatia have scored in every game so far, netting at least two in four of their five (three in normal time) with eight unique goalscorers, the second highest at the tournament behind Belgium (nine).

"When you have such a solid foundation, you have the basics and clear understanding of what we want to do and achieve, it's not a surprise that it's going well for us".

"But any team in a World Cup semi-final is going to find the energy and going to find the motivation. There is no complacency, there is no talk of anything other than the game".

Right now, though, everyone is enjoying the ride and Southgate admits that the frenzied support back in England is beginning to filter through to his players in Russian Federation. So much so that tomorrow is already being referred to as #WaistcoatWednesday.

"Croatia have had mixed results against England in the past and the team will be exhausted from the last two games", Biscan said.

"We're really proud of the support we're receiving", he said.

"But the feel of this group of players is very similar to the player we had [in 1996]. It's a privilege for us".

While Croatia possess arguably the best central midfield pairing in the tournament in the shape of Real Madrid's Luka Modric and Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic, Southgate's language does not indicate he is about to bring in Eric Dier as an additional defensive midfielder alongside Jordan Henderson.

Monaco goalkeeper Subasic saved three penalties in Croatia's shootout win over Denmark in the round of 16, and another in the quarter-finals as the Vatreni dramatically ousted hosts Russian Federation on penalties.

Neither team came to Russian Federation being heralded as favourites but they have produced performances throughout the competition which have shown they were underestimated by the pundits. They are in the semifinals for the first time since 1990.

Croatia are hoping to reach the World Cup final for the first time and England are hoping to end a 52-year wait to return.

"We don't have to shift from what we've been and what we've been doing because we can cover those players from within that system, albeit you know they can produce moments that you've got to be even more aware of".

Southgate added: "For a country whose population is small they have produced some incredible footballers".

"We experienced the extra time and penalties (against Colombia) and we know the physical and emotional effect of that", he said.

"It's a huge test for us but we're in the semi-final of a World Cup, we wouldn't expect it to be any different".

England manager Gareth Southgate is expected to name the same XI against Croatia as he did in the victories over Colombia and Sweden which saw them reach the final four.

And he can see similarities between the two groups of players. Many supporters are viewing this match as England's chance of revenge. [In 1996], that team had six captains of their clubs. England is also one of the favourites to win the World Cup and you need to respect that. We made a lot of changes with the national teams that helped us be successful. We have to constantly evolve and improve. The experiences of the last few weeks, the milestones they've hit, will be a great reference point moving forward. "We are excited about the future but we want to make the most of this opportunity as well".

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