Nobody could have predicted a World Cup semi-final between England and Croatia a month ago. Both squads were seen as dark-horses that just didn’t possess the same quality as the likes of Brazil or Spain, for example. Croatia has been carried by the play of their captain, veteran midfielder Luka Modric. He’s been excellent throughout this tournament and a real inspiration to the rest of his teammates.
For England, their path is even more shocking. Manager Gareth Southgate picked a very young squad, one that likely wouldn’t contend in Russia, but would be ready for better things in 2022. However, this squad has been much better than expected and the youth movement within the camp has worked wonders so far. England have a nice blend of size, skill, and speed – and even though their path has been relatively comfortable, they too realize this could be the chance of a lifetime despite it being the first World Cup appearance for so many of their players.
It will be fascinating to watch these sides square off, especially considering the fact that neither likely expected to get this far in the tournament. From the outset, both teams have looked to be steady at the back and dangerous going forward, and that should produce yet another can’t miss match-up at this year’s World Cup. As always, read on below the odds for a full match breakdown and betting selection for England vs. Croatia.
England vs. Croatia Betting Odds:
Over 2 (-110)
Under 2 (-110)
England vs. Croatia Pick:
This match is one of the toughest to call of the tournament. Croatia brings with it an experienced and talented midfield, and one that could given the central midfielders of England some real trouble. That said, it also does seem like these squads are trending in different directions as they approach this match.
The Croatians began this tournament on fire, easily cruising through a tough group stage, but since then they’ve needed penalties just to get by relative weaklings in Denmark and Russia. In both matches, they were the second-best side for long stretches, and despite their talent up top – they can’t seem to generate the chances they should be getting.
Much of that comes down to a real lack of a pure scorer at the striker position. Mario Mandzukic used to be that, but it is now clear that his best days are behind him. This should make things even easier on Kyle Walker, John Stones, and Harry Maguire as they defend England’s goal. Although Croatia might be able to control more of the match and the midfield, it hasn’t resulted into quality chances against in recent fixtures.
Making matters even more difficult for Croatia, is the fact that England’s defensive record in this tournament has been excellent. Rarely have they allowed a goal from open play, and they really limited the Swedish chances in the quarter-finals. When he was tested, keeper Jordan Pickford was excellent in goal – and as a whole right now, Gareth Southgate has his squad playing a complete brand of football.
Where I think the English enter with a big advantage is with their speed and pace of play. When they do have the ball, look for them to steer it out wide to active their wing-backs as much as possible. Ashley Young and Kieran Trippier have both been excellent in that position, and are very dangerous going forward. I anticipate their pace and skill could give the Croatian defenders fits, and allow more space for England’s dangerous finishers like Harry Kane in the box, or Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard through the midfield. Moreover, Raheem Sterling has been doing everything but score for the Three Lions. He still looks creative and quick, and you have to think he should be able to find one breakthrough against the Croatians on Wednesday.
Expect the Three Lions to keep on roaring right into the World Cup Finals. It may have sounded crazy a month or so ago about this untested and unproven squad, but the future is now for the English. Their young studs are ready, and I anticipate their speed advantage going forward will wear down a tired Croatian group that has played back-to-back extra time matches. This isn’t a squad equipped to handle that level of exertion, and I think the youthful energy of the English carry them onward. On the betting market, it’s always tough to predict a 90 minute victory in these crucial knockout stage clashes, as teams rarely chance it toward the end of regulation. For that reason, look toward the ‘England to Advance’ line instead, hovering around -160 at most books. Enjoy the semi-finals!
MY PICK = England to Avance (-165)