Five memorable England v Croatia encounters as both sides prepare for UEFA Nations League clash

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Harry Kane and company were left heartbroken in England's last meeting with Croatia.

England play Croatia in Rijeka on Friday night in their second Nations League game – less than 100 days after suffering World Cup semi-final heartbreak against their hosts.

Here, we take a look at five memorable meetings between the two sides.

Euro 2004: Croatia 2-4 England

Two goals from Wayne Rooney proved more than enough to secure Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England safe passage into the quarter-finals.

Croatia took an early lead in Lisbon through Niko Kovac but Paul Scholes levelled with a header for the Three Lions.

Rooney then struck either side of half-time, with Frank Lampard adding the fourth after Igor Tudor had reduced the arrears.

Euro 2004 saw Wayne Rooney at his best.

Euro 2004 saw Wayne Rooney at his best.

Euro 2008 qualifier: Croatia 2-0 England 

A bizarre Gary Neville own goal helped heap pressure on England boss Steve McClaren as his side struggled to secure qualification for the European Championships.

Eduardo headed Croatia in front in Zagreb before Neville’s back-pass hit a divot and bounced over the foot of goalkeeper Paul Robinson as he looked to clear, resulting in a calamitous moment for the away side.

Having drawn 0-0 with Macedonia at Old Trafford four days earlier, the pressure was building on McClaren to put things right.

The luckless Paul Robinson watched on as an own-goal doomed England.

The luckless Paul Robinson watched on as an own-goal doomed England.

Euro 2008 qualifier: England 2-3 Croatia 

Defeat in Russia in their penultimate qualifier meant England needed something against Slaven Bilic’s Croatia at Wembley. But instead it was another evening to forget for McClaren, who watched on forlornly from under an umbrella as his England side were beaten in the rain.

A terrible error from goalkeeper Scott Carson allowed Niko Kranjcar to put Croatia in front before Ivica Olic doubled their advantage inside 15 minutes. England rallied as Lampard and Peter Crouch scored, only for Mladen Petric to settle the match in favour of the visitors.

McClaren was asked to clear his desk soon after.

Steve McLaren under an umbrella would become an infamous picture.

Steve McLaren under an umbrella would become an infamous picture.

World Cup qualifier: Croatia 1-4 England 

Fast-forward 10 months and England, under new manager Fabio Capello, were flying in their World Cup qualification group.

Enter 19-year-old Theo Walcott, who stunned Zagreb with a hat-trick at the Maksimir Stadium.

The winger scored the opening two goals either side of Robert Kovac’s red card for the hosts and took home the match ball after adding his third following Rooney’s well-taken effort.

England would seal qualification for the World Cup in South Africa with a 5-1 thrashing of Croatia a year later.

Theo Walcott stunned Croatia with a hat-trick.

Theo Walcott stunned Croatia with a hat-trick.

World Cup semi-final 2018: Croatia 2-1 England (after extra-time)

The last meeting between the two nations will still be etched on the memory of both sets of supporters. With a place in the World Cup final at stake, Kieran Trippier’s stunning early free-kick gave Gareth Southgate’s men the advantage in Moscow.

Harry Kane then hit a post before Croatia rallied.

Ivan Perisic equalised to take the game into extra-time, where Mario Mandzukic capitalised on some static defending to score the winner and break English hearts.

Croatia won to move onto their first World Cup final.

Croatia won to move onto their first World Cup final.

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Mason Mount and Jadon Sancho all feature in Croatia v England talking points

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England take on Croatia in the Nations League in Rijeka on Friday night.

The pair met less than 100 days ago in a World Cup semi-final clash which saw English hearts broken in extra-time.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at the major talking points ahead of the match.

AS ONE DOOR CLOSES…

Friday’s game at Stadion HNK Rijeka will be played behind-closed-doors as part of a UEFA sanction that has been hanging over Croatia since 2015. They were ordered to play two UEFA matches in front of an empty stadium after a swastika was marked on the pitch ahead of a Euro 2016 qualifier. England manager Gareth Southgate showed his players a video of Barcelona’s game against Las Palmas from last year, which was also played in front of no fans, to prepare them for a unique test, which goalkeeper Jordan Pickford believes plays into the hands of the visitors.

NINETY THREE DAYS OF HURT

Three months on from the biggest game England had played in 28 years, the Three Lions get a shot at some modicum of revenge. In Russia, Kieran Trippier’s early free-kick put Southgate’s side ahead and on course for the World Cup final, only for Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic to score the goals which saw Croatia progress at England’s expense. It brought an end to a surprisingly successful summer for England, with the players wanting to exact a little retribution in Rijeka.

GENERATION GAME

Mason Mount, Jadon Sancho and James Maddison all spoke to the media earlier in the week as they enjoyed their first taste of a senior England call-up. The trio will be hoping for some level involvement against Croatia – or Monday’s Nations League meeting with Spain in Seville – rather than just being in and around the squad for the first time. All three have impressed this season – Mount on loan at Derby from Chelsea, Sancho in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund and Maddison at Leicester – and will be desperate for a chance to impress. Leicester’s Ben Chilwell is likely to add to his first cap in last month’s friendly win over Switzerland following the withdrawals of fellow left-backs Luke Shaw and Danny Rose.

HAPPY TWO YEARS

Joe Hart, Gary Cahill, Theo Walcott, Wayne Rooney, Chris Smalling, Fraser Forster and Michail Antonio – seven players who were all involved in Southgate’s first match in charge of England on 8 October 2016 as Malta were dispatched 2-0 at Wembley. That list shows two years is a long time in football, but Southgate can toast his anniversary in Croatia knowing he is the most popular England boss for a generation and with a newly-signed contract to boot.

HIT FOR SIX

Croatia may have beaten England in the World Cup, but Zlatko Dalic has not seen his side win since. A 4-2 defeat to France in the final was followed by a 1-1 friendly draw against Portugal in Faro. But it was their opening Nations League match which will be of most cause for concern as Croatia were thumped 6-0 by Spain. They will be itching to put that right, with victory over England once again in their sights.

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Empty stadium will give England the edge over Croatia, says Jordan Pickford

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England lost to Croatia in the World Cup semi-final

Jordan Pickford insists playing in an empty stadium against Croatia will give England the upper hand in their Nations League clash on Friday.

The teams meet just 93 days on from a World Cup semi-final which Croatia won 2-1 in extra-time.

But, unlike that night in front of 78,000 fans at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, there will be eerie silence this time around.

Croatia have been forced to play the game behind closed doors, the second and final match of a UEFA sanction after a swastika was imprinted on the pitch ahead of a Euro 2016 qualifying match against Italy.

England boss Gareth Southgate has shown his players a video of Barcelona‘s recent behind-closed-doors LaLiga game against Las Palmas to help their preparation, and Pickford believes the visitors could gain the edge from the empty Stadion HNK Rejika.

“It is going to be very different,” the Three Lions goalkeeper said.

“I played in Croatia last year for Everton (in the Europa League) and I know how hostile their fans are.

“They are great for their teams so I think it gives us the upper hand going away from home and when they need their fans, they haven’t got them.”

Pickford was one of many players to star for England in the World Cup before they suffered semi-final heartbreak at the hands of Croatia.

The 24-year-old admits there is a hint of a revenge mission about the upcoming rematch – even if he concedes Croatia can always boast about winning that World Cup semi-final.

“It would be nice to get one over them but they will always have (the ability to say) that they beat us in the semi-final,” he said.

“It is another season, another campaign with England and we want to be beating the top teams and they are ranked in the top 10 as well as Spain (who England play on Monday) and we want to be pushing ourselves to beat these teams as part of our progression.

“As a team we have got to take ourselves to the next step and progress even more as a group of players as staff and for England to go further this is the start of something new.”

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