It seems the English clamor for its football team to win the has reached the ears of their semi-final opponents ‘No, it’s not just another game,’ said the former Manchester City and Tottenham defender Vedran Corluka ‘We have been watching England in all their games. They are confident and have a young team But before they didn’t have any pressure. ‘You all just said to them, “Just do what you can”, but now even you are hoping that it can “come home”, yeah? We have never won the so we can’t say the same thing, can we? ’Corluka — laying claim to his country’s second goal in Saturday’s protracted, nervous victory over Russia — understands the English football mentality as well as anybody in his team He spent five years in the.
More importantly, he also understands what a game against England in a semi-final means to Croatia. He was part of the team that beat England at Wembley in 2007 to deny them qualification for the following summer’s European Championship and that game is still talked about If the English are burdened by history, then Croatia feel it too. That victory over Steve McClaren’s team is still talked about, for example, while the current squad only have to watch the great Davor Suker glad-handing his way round Russia and talking to any journalist who wants his time in his capacity as president of the Croatia FA to be reminded of the team that reached the last four of them in France 20 years ago this month ‘This is something we have been dreaming about,’ nodded Corluka. ‘Ten years ago we had a famous generation and also 20 years ago Now we are close to them because we are in the semi-final again.
That is something special for us The whole country is celebrating and all the team is very proud. Now we want the same result as in 2007 ’ Croatia couldn’t beat host nation France in their semi-final two decades ago. On Saturday in the heat of Sochi, they took out Russia in a shootout on a night that didn’t see them at their best The Croats will be dangerous opponents for Gareth Southgate’s team in Moscow. They will be the first team England have met in this tournament — apart from the Belgian second string — who will be prepared to take the game to them and play on the front foot Fatigue will be Croatia’s enemy. Saturday’s game was emotionally and physically sapping They will also need to work out how to combat England’s aerial power at set-pieces Russia scored one goal — a late extra-time equaliser — from such a situation in the Fisht Stadium and passed up good opportunities to score a couple more But when they have the ball, Croatia can certainly play. Luka Modric — also once of Tottenham — is the heartbeat of the team, their captain and their best player Watching the Real Madrid playmaker charge down an attempted clearance in the 117th minute on Saturday and then chase desperately after the loose ball was indicative of both extreme fitness and desire ‘England are looking strong as a team,’ said Modric late on Saturday night.
‘They are very strong on set-pieces They’ve scored a lot of goals that way and we’re going to have to pay attention in those details because today we conceded one that we shouldn’t allow It’s football but thank God, in the end, we are in the semi-final. We were a much better team than Russia, especially in the second half and extra time, but we cannot do it without drama, it seems ‘Yeah, England maybe have an advantage because we have fewer days to recover than we did before this match but I’m sure that we will recover well And it’s a semi-final.
We will find extra motivation, extra everything. We will find what is necessary ’Having beaten Argentina 3-0 in the group, Croatia have not subsequently been as fluent Against Denmark — who they also beat on penalties — Croatia were passive while against the hosts at the weekend they were only sporadically fluent One problem is the modest form of forward Mario Mandzukic and midfielder Ivan Perisic The latter has interested Manchester United, but was taken off here after hitting the post with a chance he should have taken ‘England have a great team and it will be a really difficult game but in some ways, this game will suit us,’ added Corluka ‘We like to play against teams like this because we have fast players and it will be a really open game, not like today’s or the game against Denmark ‘We will not defend, we will attack.
Someone asked me if we are too small a country to be world champions I said we are not. All four countries now are hoping to win it and everyone has equal chances Hopefully it will be us.’ CROATIA’S DANGERMEN Croatia’s captain and spiritual leader, the Real Madrid player is involved in just about everything his team does that is good Begins the play, takes corners and penalties and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty in his own half either Seems to be on a personal mission to win this. Modric’s partner in crime at the heart of the team, Barcelona’s Rakitic has a superb range of passing and his first thought is always to go forward when he receives the ball Will look to play passes into the area between England’s midfield and back three and will bring Croatia’s surging full-backs into play when possible The Juventus striker is an enigmatic figure.
Talented and physically impressive, only during his two years at Bayern Munich has he ever really been prolific. Here in Russia, he scored Croatia’s equalizer against Denmark in the last-16 game but that was only his fifth goal for club or country since the turn of the year.