In the second semi-final match of the FIFA World Cup, England try to continue their incredible run so far in the competition as they face Croatia.
Ahead of the competition, neither of the two teams were heavily favoured to move deep in the event, with many initially believing that they would be eliminated in the early parts of the knockout stages.
However, with favourable draws and impressive performances, they two teams see themselves in the final four of the competition and expect both teams to battle to feature in the final.
Betting lines show that the Englishmen are favoured to win but the Croatians have some players who can turn the tide to their favour when needed.
Here are some of the talking points for both teams ahead of their clash.
OVER-ACHIEVING THREE LIONS
Heading into the competition, England fielded in a relatively young squad and many expected them to reach the knockout stages but the semi-finals were a lofty expectation.
They started off well by winning the first two group stage games to secure their spot in the round-of-16 before losing 1-0 to Belgium in their last group stage clash.
Against Colombia, the Three Lions faced stiff competition as the Colombians were physical in their approach to the game. It was a tense affair and the match ended 1-1 after 120 minutes of play. Facing their dreaded penalty shootout curse straight on, the Englishmen kept their nerves and eventually eliminated Colombia and went on the quarters.
In the final eight, England were tasked against Sweden and that match appeared to be England’s best game to date as they were now more direct in their approach and were not afraid of attacking the Swedish defence. It eventually paid off with a 2-0 victory.
England have surpassed all expectation and their impressive performances in set-pieces may play a big part if they are to beat Croatia. With players like Harry Kane and Dele Alli, they have the capacity to move on to the final.
Ninety minutes separate them from the final and English fans can now start dreaming of the World Cup trophy “coming home.”
CROATIANS FLYING UNDER THE RADAR
Heading into the competition, Croatia were given a chance to reach the knockout stages thanks to a favourable spot in the group stages.
Placed with Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland, many predicted the Europeans to finish behind the 2014 runners-up. However, Croatia had other plans and went unbeaten to win the group impressively.
In their knockout stage opener, they faced Denmark and it was a nervy contest which ended 1-1 after regular and extra time.
Needing a penalty shootout to move on in the competition, Ivan Rakitic converted his spot kick to blast Croatia to the quarterfinals against the host nation Russia.
In their quarterfinal match-up, it was another tough contest for Croatia as they faced an inspired Russian squad and the dramatic contest also ended in a draw as they settled for a 2-2 score line after 120 minutes.
Another penalty shootout was needed and the Croatians converted four of their five penalty kicks to now set a match against England in the semis.
These hard-fought victories show Croatia’s grit and determination which should come in handy as they face another tough battle against the Englishmen.
Expect both teams to battle throughout 90 minutes to try and get the victory. These squads have the opportunity to play in the final of the biggest international competition and it should easily be an interesting battle.
England have the advantage on paper, but Croatia have proven in the competition that they can perform whether winning comfortably or in a tight match-up where the pendulum can swing easily in a moment’s notice.
With that said, it appears that the Englishmen are inspired and that along may help them reach the final in the competition. If they continue to play the way they did against the Swedes, it is possible that the Three Lions may roar their way to the final.