Croatia v England – Second Semi Final battle for a place in the Final
Three Lions can go all the way against weary Croatia
Croatia v England – So, remarkably, here we are. England are 8/13 to reach the World Cup final for only the second time ever. And what’s more: they’re value.
We’ll go further still and back England to get this done in 90 minutes at 11/8. We haven’t completely swallowed the It’s Coming Home Kool-Aid, but any assessment of these sides since the serious business of knockout football has begun can only lead to an England victory.
The Three Lions are improving game by game while Croatia – the standout side of the group stage – now resemble a punched-out boxer desperately holding on for the final bell.
Plenty has been made of England’s kind route to this stage, and there’s no doubt the cards have fallen kindly for them. But it’s nothing compared to Croatia’s run. Both teams England have knocked out are better than either side Croatia have faced in the knockouts, and the Croatians have been taken the full distance in both games. They were second-best against Denmark and never truly convincing against Russia.
England, meanwhile, were seconds away from beating Colombia in normal time and swept Sweden aside with an uncharacteristic minimum of fuss. This is a Sweden side, remember, that beat France during qualification and eliminated Holland, Italy, Germany and a Switzerland side ranked sixth in the world on their way to the quarter-final.
Croatia’s 3-0 victory over Argentina remains perhaps the best performance of the World Cup, but how relevant is that now? Less relevant, we’d contend, than the 240 minutes they’ve spent slogging their way past two limited opponents.
England will never, ever have a chance like this again. Gareth Southgate’s boys look absolutely ready and able to take it.
There seems little prospect of England changing the formula that has served them well thus far, and that means both John Stones and Harry Maguire are overpriced in the anytime scorer market.
Eight of England’s 11 goals at this tournament have come from set-pieces. Two have come from Stones and one from Maguire. In their last two games Croatia have conceded from a long-throw into the box and a header from a free-kick. Both have been converted by defenders.
Stones and Maguire are each on offer at 16/1 to score anytime and there’s just no way this is an accurate reflection of either man’s chances of adding to his haul.
· England to win in 90 minutes at 11/8
· Harry Maguire to score anytime at 16/1
· John Stones to score anytime at 16/1
Croatia v England – where to watch
Tuesday 10th July 2018
Wednesday 11th July 2018
Friday 13th July 2018
Betfred Cup First Round – Kilmarnock v St Mirren – 19:45, BT Sport 1
Saturday 14th July 2018
Loser Semi-Final 1 v Loser Semi-Final 2
FIFA World Cup 2018 Third Place Play-Off – 15:00, TBC
Sunday 15th July 2018
Winner Semi-Final 1 v Winner Semi-Final 2
FIFA World Cup 2018 Final – 16:00 BBC One / ITV