England face a titanic tussle against Croatia in the World Cup semi-finals on Wednesday and we’re looking at where this game could be won and lost.
The Three Lions have reached this stage for the first time since Italia 90, while the Blazers lost out to then hosts France 20 years ago in their only appearance in the last four.
Here we examine some England vs Croatia key battles ahead of the Moscow showdown:
Dejan Lovren v Harry Kane
Croatia’s defence is considered their weak link, with neither Lovren nor centre-back partner Domagoj Vida boasting great pace. Lovren, who has struggled against Kane in the Premier League in the past, faces a tough challenge to contain England’s prime striker. Kane is the tournament’s top marksman so far with six goals and is 3/1 to open the scoring.
Ivan Rakitic v Jordan Henderson
Further up the field, Croatia are blessed with a number of talented ball-playing midfielders. Rakitic is among the finest in the game, although he has played more of a withdrawn role in this tournament while Modric has attacked. Henderson, the preferred anchor in Gareth Southgate’s side, will attempt to negate his impact and is 4/1 to receive a yellow card during the match.
Luka Modric v Dele Alli
Real Madrid playmaker Modric has excelled at times in Russia, both on the ball and in terms of his leadership qualities. His exact role can be variable – he could spray passes from midfield or be pushed forward to operate in support of main striker Mario Mandzukic. Alli has his own attacking inclinations but there could be onus on him to drop back to prevent Modric taking a firm grip. Modric is 5/1 to score in normal time.
Mario Mandzukic v Harry Maguire
Mandzukic is Croatia’s chief threat in front of goal and has operated both as a lone striker and as one of a pair, with Andrej Kramaric, in this tournament. His prime attributes are his strength and aerial power and England will want Maguire, their strongest defender in the air, up against him as the crosses come in. Mandzukic is 7/1 to net first in this game.