Davor Suker and Harry Kane head past and present match-ups for Croatia v England

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

All four semi-finalists at World Cup 2018 feel the hand of history.

Superstars of even Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic’s renown have spoken about the impact of Croatia’s debut charge to the same stage in France 1998. Similarly, Wednesday’s opponents at Luzhniki Stadium, England, regale about their previous last-four appearance – 28 years ago at Italia ’90.

Here, we compare how the current competitors match up to their compatriots who last reached the World Cup semi-finals:

CROATIA

Goalkeeper: Sepia-tinged flashbacks about Croatia’s 1998 heroes often miss out their veteran goalkeeper.

Drazen Ladic came into the tournament aged 35 and on the back of a suspect qualifying campaign. But he excelled in France, a superb save against feared centre forward Olivier Bierhoff coming in the famous 3-0 quarter-final victory against Germany.

Danijel Subasic has enjoyed a strong tournament under head coach Zlatko Dalic. His superb penalty-stopping record for Monaco has continued in Russia.

He pulled off a joint-record three saves in the round-of-16 shootout against Denmark, before – while suffering cramp –  pawing away Fedor Smolov’s pathetic ‘Panenka’ when the hosts were eliminated via the same method.

1998 rating: 7/10

2018 rating: 8/10

FUSSBALL: WM FRANCE 98 Lyon, 04.07.98

Defence: Croatia’s backline has performed in contrasting manners during both advancements to the knockouts.

In 1998, there were no clean sheets in the group stage but a pair followed in the round of 16 and quarters. Such form saw left-back Robert Jarni earn a move to Real Madrid, via a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it stop at Coventry City, and youngster Dario Simic switched to Internazionale.

Centre-back Slaven Bilic’s only misstep was a shameful dive that got Laurent Blanc sent off and ruled out of the final.

Fast forward two decades and Croatia conceded once during the pools, but let in three goals during two knockout games. Besiktas utility man Domagoj Vida has been the outstanding part of a section that lacks glitter.

1998 rating: 8/10

2018 rating: 7/10

FBL-WC-2018-MATCH59-RUS-CRO

Midfield: Some of the most-refined footballers Europe has ever produced feature in both line-ups.

Dalic’s crop is lit up by midfielders Luka Modric of Real Madrid and Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona. The latter has effortlessly dispatched clutch penalties to win both shootouts, all while performing in an atypical withdrawn role.

Modric is a contender for player of the tournament. He is a maestro among mere mortals, even if his penalty technique needs improvement, with his perfectly sliced drive against Argentina the highlight.

Zvonimir Boban performed a similarly accomplished role to Rakitic, 20 years ago. Both conductor and destroyer, he was a performer of rare talent. Napoli’s Aljosa Asanovic was an able facilitator.

1998 rating: 9/10

2018 rating: 9/10

FUSSBALL: WM FRANCE 98 Bordeaux, 26.06.98

Attack: Davor Suker’s genius was written across France 1998.

Supported by the likes of Parma forward Mario Stanic, he struck six times in seven matches to win the Golden Boot as top scorer and Silver Ball as the competition’s second-best player. The Madrid frontman’s best goal was left for the third-placed play-off, drilling the ball into the bottom corner with adept precision to help beat the Netherlands.

Dalic’s phalanx is led by Mario Mandzukic, a striker whose great gifts reside in selflessness and commitment rather than rarefied finishing.

The Juventus man runs himself into the ground. His only goal of this tournament came with a snapped volley in a goalmouth scramble against Denmark in the round of 16.

1998 rating: 9/10

2018 rating: 7/10

FBL-WC-2018-MATCH59-RUS-CRO

OVERALL

1998 rating: 33/40

2018 rating: 31/40

ENGLAND

Goalkeeper: Shot stoppers at contrasting ends of the spectrum feature in this review.

Jordan Pickford, 24, was named England No1 by head coach Gareth Southgate for Russia, despite then possessing just three caps. This show of faith has been rewarded in fine style, with the Everton keeper being the star of the penalty-shootout win versus Colombia and then producing a trio of expert saves against Sweden.

Peter Shilton was a 40-year-old veteran at Italia ’90, his exploits still making him England’s most-capped player with 125 run-outs. But his age showed in the semi-final against Germany, when he couldn’t reach Andreas Brehme’s deflected free-kick or any efforts in the shootout.

1990 rating: 5/10

2018 rating: 8/10

Cameroon's forward Frantois Omam Biyik (L) tries t

Defence: Low expectations have been vastly improved upon in Russia this summer.

John Stones and Harry Maguire have held tight in defence and contributed three goals in attack, while Spurs right wing-back Kieran Trippier appears a shoo-in for team of the tournament. But it took until the last eight to keep a clean sheet, with auxiliary centre-back Kyle Walker making several errors – punished or unpunished.

England also utilised a five-man defence 28 years ago. Derby County centre-back Mark Wright got the vital goal in the groups against Egypt to progress, while only four strikes were conceded in the run to semi-final defeat thanks, in part, to the brilliance of Des Walker.

1990 rating: 8/10

2018 rating: 7/10

FBL-WC-2018-MATCH60-SWE-ENG

Midfield: Few players have had the impact, before or since, enjoyed by rampaging, gregarious playmaker Paul Gascoigne at Italia ’90.

‘Gazza’ was at his endeavouring best throughout a tournament that included several vital assists – plus tears after being booked in the semi-final that turned him into a global idol. An adventurous midfield saw David Platt and Peter Beardsley add goalscoring support.

Jordan Henderson’s strong end to the season at Liverpool has continued in Russia. The anchorman’s passing range and defensive diligence was detailed against Sweden.

Attacking midfielder Jesse Lingard has an average of 93.4 per cent pass accuracy, while Dele Alli managed to get on the score sheet in the quarters despite seemingly carrying a knock. None of these have matched the impact of Gazza.

1990 rating: 8/10

2018 rating: 7/10

ITA: World Cup 1990 - England v Germany

Attack: Tottenham strikers have both performed decisive role during England’s two most recent runs to the semi-finals.

In the 1990 edition, Gary Lineker – tournament-top scorer four years prior – came alive in the knockouts. A brace of penalties salvaged the quarter-final against Cameroon and then he struck the leveller against Germany.

That semi-final was less memorable for talented club-mate Chris Waddle, one of the sport’s best dribblers, who missed the decisive penalty. Elsewhere, Peter Beardsley was an unselfish auxiliary.

Harry Kane is on track for 2018’s Golden Boot. His leading six goals includes a deciding brace against Tunisia, hat-trick against Panama and penalty against Colombia.

Partner Raheem Sterling is yet to net, but his selfless runs have pulled defences apart and created space for others.

1990 rating: 8/10

2018 rating: 9/10

FBL-WC-2018-MATCH30-ENG-PAN

OVERALL

1990 rating: 29/40

2018 rating: 31/40

Most popular

Liverpool star Jordan Henderson could get helping hand and other Croatia v England tactical battles

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Croatia and England are set to scrap for a spot in World Cup 2018’s final when they meet on Wednesday at Luzhniki Stadium.

Here are the key tactical battles:

DOES HENDERSON NEED SOME HELP?

Continuity has been key for Gareth Southgate.

Bar midfielder Dele Alli’s injury absence against Panama and the subsequent scrap for second versus Belgium’s reserves when Group G wound up in unedifying fashion, the England supremo has stuck with the same XI.

Whether this stance is purely tactical or based on faith with his first-choice, stars will be tested in Moscow.

The temptation to bolster centre midfield may be hard to ignore. As it stands, Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson – currently experiencing a record 30-match personal unbeaten run for the Three Lions – will be the sole holding player versus the likes of Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic.

Opportunity could then arise for another obstructing force, either Tottenham’s Eric Dier or Manchester City’s Fabian Delph. But this was not conducive to flowing football in qualifying.

MESSING ABOUT WITH MODRIC

For all Modric’s brilliance in Russia, the sense lingers that boss Zlatko Dalic is struggling to find a defined role for him.

In the opener against Nigeria and the quarter-final versus Russia, the Real Madrid centre midfielder played deep alongside Rakitic. Stultifying football followed, with Modric pushed forward midway through the first half against the hosts.

In-between, Internazionale anchor man Marcelo Brozovic started and Modric was unleashed as a No10. From this spot, he’s orchestrated the 3-0 demolition of ramshackle Argentina – scoring a beautiful drive – and produced a through ball of rare quality against Denmark to cause a penalty he then missed.

With the experiment of picking forward Andrej Kramaric against Russia not aiding the team’s cohesion, expect Modric to form a formidable three-man midfield with Rakitic and Brozovic.

RIGHT-BACK BOTHER

If Croatia are unable to solve the club-versus-country row that threatens adventurous right-back Sime Vrsaljko’s involvement, then England’s hopes are boosted.

Atletico Madrid have demanded that the 26-year-old be denied the chance to feature at the Luzhniki after he suffered a blow to his left knee during extra time against Russia.

If the Europa League holders get their way, then veteran Vedran Corluka will be drafted in.

The 32-year-old has not played this role for several years, moving inside as his already suspect pace drains further away.

This denies Croatia a major attacking outlet. Against Russia, Vrsaljko had the fourth-most touches for them with 93, joint-second key passes with two and joint-most crosses with 10.

The days of Lokomotiv Moscow’s Corluka boasting such an impact belong to the past.

Most popular

Perisic and Trippier lead key battles ahead of Croatia v England at the World Cup

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

Croatia and England are set to scrap for a spot in World Cup 2018’s final when they meet on Wednesday at Luzhniki Stadium.

Here are the key battles:

IVAN PERISIC V KIERAN TRIPPIER

It is fair to label Ivan Perisic’s output in Russia as disappointing.

The 29-year-old winger was a major catalyst for Internazionale’s charge towards Champions League qualification for the first time in six years, notching nine assists and 11 goals in 37 Serie A appearances during 2017/18.

This sensational form should have made him a key weapon in head coach Zlatko Dalic’s armoury. But he’s netted just once in five matches, the late winner against Iceland as Group D wrapped up, and provided zero assists.

Tellingly, he was hooked on 63 minutes in the quarter-final against hosts Russia with the score locked at 1-1.

The time to make his quality count is at hand.

A revelation of the World Cup operates on the right flank for England.

Kieran Trippier appears a lock-in for the team of the tournament after his influential performances at wing-back in head coach Gareth Southgate’s 3-5-2 formation. The Tottenham defender has set-up 13 chances in Russia – a figure only bettered by Croatia’s Luka Modric, Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne and Brazil’s Neymar.

Only one assist has been officially registered, but his set-piece delivery from the right has led to a number of opportunities.

All this has come without Trippier neglecting his defensive duties. For both tackles (3/2.2) and interceptions (1.5/0.7), his average per game is better at the World Cup than it was in the Premier League during 2017/18.

10 07 key battles Croatia v England 1

LUKA MODRIC V JESSE LINGARD

Luka Modric’ superstar status has been bolstered by his run-outs in Russia.

The Real Madrid centre midfielder, par excellence, has been the heartbeat of Croatia’s side. A tally of 14 chances created speaks to his influence, while goals have come against Nigeria and Argentina.

An issue has been his deployment by Dalic. He started the last-eight tie against Russia in a deep role, with this error soon being corrected.

Jesse Lingard acts as a poster boy for the Southgate era.

The boss championed Lingard’s cause when they were together in the England Under-21s – and this faith has been repaid with the seniors.

The 25-year-old links play between the midfield and attack, with an average pass accuracy of 93.4 per cent speaking of his efficiency. A repeat of his vision to pick out Dele Alli for England’s second against Sweden is a must.

10 07 key battles Croatia v England 2

MARIO MANDZUKIC V HARRY KANE

Mario Mandzukic’s selfless toil up to for Croatia doesn’t go unnoticed.

Dalic labelled the Juventus centre forward as the “soul of the team” ahead of their last-16 clash with Denmark – and it is hard to disagree. The game against ‘Danish Dynamite’ saw his only goal in Russia, but an assist followed for Ante Rebic against Russia.

Such industry does come at a price, however. The 32-year-old laboured through the final stages against the hosts and his endurance will be tested against England.

Harry Kane drew a first blank of the tournament against Sweden.

The Tottenham superstar never looked close to adding to his six-goal tally, with only one off-target attempt on goal being registered. His 19 passes and 34 touches were also the lowest of any English starter.

A greater influence must be imprinted on this last-four clash. England need their outstanding player to rise to the occasion of a first semi-final in 28 years.

10 07 key battles Croatia v England 3

Most popular