Thursday 13 December 2018

The key battles to look out for in England’s semi-final against Croatia

The last-four clash takes place on Wednesday night.

England play Croatia in the semi-finals (Tim Goode/PA)
England play Croatia in the semi-finals (Tim Goode/PA)

By Andy Hampson, Press Association Sport

England face Croatia in the World Cup semi-finals on Wednesday.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at some potential key battles ahead of the game in Moscow.

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 scorer so far with six goals.

Ivan Rakitic v Jordan Henderson

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Jordan Henderson has been England’s preferred choice in central midfield (Aaron Chown/PA)

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 Rakitic is among the finest in the game, although he has played more of a withdrawn role in this tournament while Modric has attacked.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.

Luka Modric v Dele Alli

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Luka Modric has been at the heart of Croatia’s run to the semi-finals (AP)

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.

Mario Mandzukic v Harry Maguire

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England defender Harry Maguire is enjoying a fine tournament (Owen Humphreys/PA)

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.

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