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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Kylian Mbappe 'adjusting fine' to being a superstar, says France captain Hugo Lloris

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Mbappe's star continues to rise.

France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris believes Kylian Mbappe has dealt well with his rise to superstar status after starring in Les Bleus’ World Cup triumph during the summer.

Lloris was captain of that side and saw Mbappe score four goals in the tournament, including one in the final – which  made him the first teenager to score in a final since Pele in 1958. The 18-year-old was duly named the World Cup’s best young player.

Since then, the youngster has been on a tear, starting his domestic campaign with Paris Saint-Germain with eight goals and three assists, including a four-goal performance against Lyon last weekend. He’s also been named in the FIFPro World XI as well as being nominated for the Ballon d’Or.

There’s no doubt that, even at his young age, Mbappe is now one of the world’s biggest stars.

“Obviously Kylian has a brand new status now,” Lloris said ahead of France’s friendly against Iceland.

“Even though he has done great things in Ligue 1 and the Champions League, the World Cup gave him a new dimension in the world’s eyes.

“He is adjusting just fine to this new status; we all know his great potential.

“He proved that in the second half against Lyon. I have not seen the first half, just the second one.

“It is not easy to score four goals in Ligue 1. I’m sure he can repeat these kinds of performances all over again.”

Lloris has been named to the 30-man Ballon d’Or shortlist, too, along with four other Frenchmen – Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Antoine Griezmann, and Raphael Varane.

“It is always a token of appreciation,” the Tottenham goalkeeper said.

“I am really pleased to be in the list of 30 personally and for my team-mates. We all hope that a French player will win, however we are not the ones choosing so we’ll just watch.”

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