Last night, France beat Belgium with a strong display of determination and discipline. Les Bleus are now the tournament favourites but who will they face in the 2018 World Cup final? Tonight, it’s time for the second semi-final – Croatia vs England. The game is too close to call but here are 4 key battles to keep an eye on.
Dejan Lovren vs Harry Kane
No offence to Iceland, Denmark and Russia, but the Croatian defence hasn’t faced a world-class striker since Argentina’s Lionel Messi back in the group stage. And yet, Lovren and co. have still managed to concede 4 goals in their last 3 goals. How on earth will they cope with clever Mr Kane? One thing’s for sure - they’ll need to be careful at set pieces. Lovren has a history of being even handsier than Carlos Sánchez and Anibal Godoy.
And even if they somehow keep Kane quiet, there’s then the question of Raheem Sterling’s pace and movement, especially if Vedran Ćorluka replaces Sime Vrsaljko at right-back…
Luka Modrić vs Jordan Henderson
Modrić and Henderson have had brilliant World Cups so far, but for both, this will be their biggest test yet. Croatia vs England could all come down to the midfield battle. Against Denmark and Russia, Modrić and Ivan Rakitić were stifled by deep-lying defences. England, however, will certainly not be playing for penalties. Unless Gareth Southgate shuffles the pack, their three-man midfield may contain two attack-minded players – Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli. So far, so good, but England haven’t yet faced a playmaker like Modrić. Can Henderson do his own job and organise the others around him?
Ivan Perišić vs Harry Maguire
Can Perišić shine for his country like he does for his club? Last year, his performances for Inter Milan attracted interest from Manchester United manager José Mourinho. At this World Cup, however, Perišić has looked a shadow of his usual self. Can he raise his game just in time for the World Cup semi-finals? With his speed and trickery, Perišić could cause real problems for Maguire, who certainly prefers an aerial battle. When Perišić cuts inside, his left foot can be lethal.
Danijel Subašić vs Jordan Pickford
Will Croatia vs England be decided on penalties? Let’s hope not, but if it is, both goalkeepers will take some beating. Subašić is a shoot-out specialist, saving 4 against Denmark and Russia, but how will he get on in open-play? At the other end, Pickford is getting better and better as the tournament goes on. After his heroics against Colombia, he made 3 more vital saves against Sweden. Pickford may find himself a lot busier against Mario Mandžukić and co.