Is football “coming home”? Well, that’s what England fans are hoping for from the 2018 World Cup, starting with tonight’s semi-final against Croatia.
London has been gripped by World Cup fever, with even Gareth Southgate’s unassuming waistcoat becoming a much sought-after fashion accessory – so much so that today has been dubbed #WaistcoatWednesday.
But on the field is where it counts, and Croatia have to be the favourites…
8pm: England v Croatia
One would think that Croatia’s attacking force will be too much too handle for England.
Luka Modric has been in inspired form, his lieutenants Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Perisic have not been far behind, and Mario Mandzukic is a handful upfront.
Add in goalkeeper Danijel Subasic and Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren, and they are hard to beat.
But England are the sum of their parts – and what a sum it is. Yes, they have a star striker in Harry Kane, but he has a hard-working supporting cast.
Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has been a penalty shoot-out hero, Harry Maguire has been an unsung hero, and Jordan Henderson has provided the drive from midfield.
#ENG #ENG #ENG
Gareth Southgate says @England’s semi-final against Croatia is an opportunity to make history.
Will the Three Lions reach their first #WorldCupFinal since 1966?#CROENG pic.twitter.com/sPEQVywNnH
But will Raheem Sterling play to his potential? England can’t afford the Manchester City striker to be anything less than at his best.
Marcus Rashford will also look to make an impact in support of Kane.
England’s biggest challenge, though, will be about keeping conductor Modric and Co at bay.
The Croatians play a flowing style of football, but could some of the zip have gone out of their legs after being taken to extra time and penalties by Russia in the quarter-finals?
It’s going to be close…
Prediction: England 1-1 Croatia – England win 5-4 on penalties!