With just four teams remaining, England will take on Croatia at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, a place in the World Cup Final on offer for the winner. Neither side could’ve realistically expected to reach this stage, but now they have, both sets of players will be hungry for victory and to become legends in their respective homelands.
"I wasn't born the last time England reached a World Cup semi-final," 24-year-old Jordan Pickford told reporters after the goalkeeper produced another stand out performance against Sweden. "We have always said we would take one game at a time and we can go on and create our own history.”
But their opponents are in a similar mood and know that, despite their last two matches going to penalty shootouts, they must recover to be ready for this encounter.
"In the past six days, we have spent a lot of energy. We played two games, totalling 240 minutes and it certainly will be a problem.” Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said at a press conference this week. "England have played excellent football at this World Cup. They have a lot of great young players. But we are aware that we are strong and that we are not afraid of anyone."
Croatia have no reason to fear England, arriving at this stage having not lost any of their previous nine matches. An impressive 3-0 rout of Argentina saw them emerge as contenders for the trophy in Russia only for that form to desert them and the Eastern European side have had to dig deep to grind out victories against Iceland, as well as those wins on penalties against Denmark and the host nation.
Meanwhile, England have lost just one of their last 15 matches, and that was the final group game against Belgium which came after their place in the knockout rounds was secure as Coach Gareth Southgate made a large number of changes.
His players also have history on their side, despite a defeat to Croatia marking a genuine low point for the national team. A 3-2 loss at Wembley back in 2007 cost England a place at Euro 2008 and led to Steve McClaren’s sacking – not to mention the infamous “Wally with a brolly” headline – but is one of only two losses to the Vatreni in nine total meetings.
Indeed, the last two meetings – in 2010 World Cup qualifiers – saw England win 4-1 in Croatia and 5-1 at Wembley, with the most likely outcome here being that streak continuing. Karamba offering odds of 27/20 on the Three Lions adding another win against Croatia to their record.
With Croatia’s obvious fatigue sure to play a part, this is a tie that certainly looks set to have a few goals for football betting fans to enjoy. Both teams are laden with quality players, and each side has enjoyed themselves in front of goal so far in the tournament, England’s tally of 11 thus far seeing them net just once more than their opponents.
However, the duo have also struggled to keep them out too, England’s only clean sheet this summer coming in the quarterfinal win over Sweden. It has been a similar story for Croatia too, their tournament starting well with shutouts against Nigeria and Argentina, only for the defence to then flounder and they have subsequently conceded four goals in their last three outings.
As a result, it is well worth backing that trend to continue and Bet365 are offering odds of 21/20 on both teams to score. To add even more value to that wager, the same bookmaker has England at 5/1 to win with both teams scoring, while they also offer odds of 6/4 on there being more than 2.5 goals in this match.
Croatia defended poorly from set pieces in their two knock-out games, conceding from them in both encounters, while England have been dominant from them in the opposition box throughout the tournament. Indeed, five of their 11 goals thus far have been from dead ball situations, with three more coming via the penalty spot (and two of those came as a result of defenders grappling with them at corners!).
Expecting that to continue could see some otherwise unlikely names making it onto the score sheet. Harry Maguire and John Stones have both found the back of the net in Russia already which, combined with England’s set piece prowess, makes them extremely dangerous in this clash.
10Bet has either Maguire or Stones at odds of 33/1 to score the first goal, or a hugely enticing 16/1 to grab a goal at any time, a very good value option. The same bookmaker also has Harry Kane – who failed to score against Sweden, his only game as Captain without a goal – at a very generous 5/4 to net at any time.
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