Federation Internationale de Football Association 2018: Finally, England and Croatia have to banish semifinal blues

Federation Internationale de Football Association 2018: Finally, England and Croatia have to banish semifinal blues

As World Cup fever builds at home, England are avoiding the hype as coach Gareth Southgate prepares his team in their tranquil base near St. Petersburg for their first semi-final since 1990.

"But any team in a World Cup semi-final is going to find the energy and going to find the motivation".

Behind him, England's midfield will face their biggest test as they look to deal with star pairing Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, not to mention the likes of Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic.

England finished second in their group, having lost their final group match to Belgium.

"But he is a world class player and he is extremely effective for his country, for his club, and he has been one of the best players here at the World Cup so far".

In total the two sides have played each other seven times, with England notching four wins to Croatia's two.

Real Madrid playmaker Modric, who was at Tottenham Hotspur earlier in his career at the same time a young Kane was starting out, has been a particular inspiration.

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"There is still a lot to play".

"He's one of the best strikers in the Premier League", the defender told United Kingdom newspapers.

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.

Goalkeeper Danijel Subasic, right-back Sime Vrsaljko and Liverpool centre-back Dejan Lovren all missed the session at the Luzhniki Stadium training complex.

However, Southgate refuses to accept the idea that England will be significantly fresher.

"It's been a long season, but you play in a World Cup semi-final once in a lifetime and there's no point giving up now". So we'll just have to assess people as we go.

Henderson, if again selected as England's sole holding midfielder, will need to be at his disruptive best to prevent the Croatians developing a stranglehold in the middle of the pitch, while also watching out for those surging runs forward.

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