England vs Croatia: Southgate hopes England avoid semi-final stage fright

Jul 11, 2018, 02:48
England vs Croatia: Southgate hopes England avoid semi-final stage fright

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. And a young, likeable side with an eminently sensible and humble manager in Southgate have captured the hearts of a nation.

Ask anyone rooting for England in the World Cup, and they'll tell you, "It's coming home". Still, the Croatians have shown resilience, especially keeper Danijel Subasic, coming out on top despite an nearly comical list of setbacks that would have done in most teams. They'll be one game from being World Cup winners. The more big games we're involved in, the more pressure situations they're involved in and emerge from successful, the more belief it will build.

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

Croatia struggled to beat Denmark or Russian Federation in 120 minutes and England have more energy and quality in the final third.

Alli will surely start again for Gareth Southgate's side, and he will be part of a midfield attempting to stop Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic and Real Madrid's Luka Modric from running riot.

The captain was the man of the match again in the penalty shootout win over Russian Federation in Sochi at the weekend.

England's run to the semi-finals of the World Cup is the first time they have reached that stage since 1990. - Mario Mandzukic assisted Andrej Kramaric's goal against Russian Federation in the quarterfinal - he has been involved in four goals at the World Cup finals for Croatia (3 goals, 1 assist), with only Davor Suker involved in more (6).

"We've been fortunate the FA have backed us financially to bring in a lot of staff, experts in lots of fields: physical, medical, coaching, to offer good support for the players".

England is also one of the favourites to win the World Cup and you need to respect that.

Xabi Alonso, Xavi and Cesc Fàbregas are enjoying themselves on the ball too much for my liking and then it gets worse.

Southgate was in the squad the last time England reached the semi-finals of a major tournament; Euro '96.

Croatia have needed penalty shoot-outs to overcome Denmark and Russian Federation in the knockout stage.

"The more of these tests we can come through, the better, not just for now, but moving forward".

The fact that Croatia have had to play so much football could perhaps give England an edge, all the more so given the injury problems faced by Dalic.

Per the Mirror's David McDonnell, Dejan Lovren and Danijel Subasic are doubts for Croatia, but full-back Sime Vrsaljko has been ruled out, according to Robert Cottingham of MailOnline. 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.

"Any team in a World Cup semi-final is going to find the energy and going to find the motivation. All the way through we have been one of the youngest teams in the tournament, the least experienced team, but we were never quite sure how far this team could go", said Southgate.

"We've got to win because we play better".

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