England v Croatia: Can Three Lions Overcome Tired Croats in Final Push?
Following Saturday’s epic Quarter Final games, England and Croatia head to Moscow for Wednesday night’s showdown – kick-off: 19:00 GMT with a place in the World Cup Final against either France or Belgium at stake.
Gareth Southgate’s England side were widely expected to make heavy going of disposing of a dour Swedish team, but the reality was completely opposite. England sauntered to a 2-0 victory, without having to play at their peak it seemed.
Croatia, by contrast, needed extra time and a penalty shootout for their second successive game to advance over tournament hosts, Russia. Ivan Rakitic scored the decisive spot-kick to give Croatia their first appearance in a World Cup Semi-Final since 1998.
Early Team News
Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson left the game late on against Sweden, with a tight hamstring. Initial reports suggested that he was doubtful for Wednesday night’s crunch game. Henderson has taken a full part in England training on Monday however, and is expected to continue in his pivotal midfield role. Jamie Vardy is also making good progress from his groin strain and also participated in recent training sessions.
Croatia have injury worries over goalkeeper, Daniel Subasic and defender, Sime Vrsaljko, who both face a race against time to be fit for the big game. Subasic tweaked a hamstring in the final minutes of extra time against Russia, but completed the game despite his injury, while Vrsaljko exited the game with a knee complaint during extra time. Croatia boss, Zlatko Dalic could be forced into a defensive reshuffle if the Atletico Madrid man is not able to recover in time.
England are the favourites with the bookmakers to reach their first appearance in a World Cup Final for 52 years. Black Type offer the best industry price at the time of writing of 11/8 on the Three Lions winning the game in normal time.
The Draw is next best at 28/13 with Unibet, while a Croatian victory can be taken with MarathonBet at the top price of 133/50.
In terms of progression to the final by any means, England can be backed again with MarathonBet at 33/50, while 188BET are the top price on Croatia at 15/11.
England look to have most things in their favour in the build up to this game. Southgate’s men are likely to be in better fitness condition than their Croatian counterparts after their two consecutive energy-sapping shootout wins. England will have a likely full complement of players to select from, while Croatia has significant injury concerns amd the Three Lions could well take advantage of a fatigued opponent to reach Sunday’s final.
Individual Goal Scorers
Leading the race for the Golden Boot, Harry Kane is the obvious starting point for this game in First Goalscorer calculations. England captain Kane has six goals to his name in the tournament and MarathonBet has the Spurs striker as their 71/20 favourite to open the scoring on Wednesday night. Kane was marshalled admirably by the Swedish defence on Saturday, but England’s talisman could come to the fore once again.
Croatia’s main striking threat is likely to come from Juventus’ Mario Mandzukic. MarathonBet are yet again top price on the 32-year-old forward at 81/10, who has a knack of scoring goals in the most important fixtures.
Raheem Sterling has been a cause of real debate during the World Cup campaign and will have another opportunity to silence the doubters on Wednesday night. The Manchester City forward made several key opportunities without finding the net against Sweden, but his intelligent, probing attacking play is key to Southgate’s formation. Unibet and 888Sport go 8/1 on Sterling to open the scoring.
The main strength of Croatia’s team is undoubtedly their midfield corps of Luka Modric (12/1 Sun Bets), Ivan Rakitic (16/110 10Bet), Marcelo Brozovic (18/1 SportPesa) and Ivan Perisic (21/2 MarathonBet). This area will be the key battleground of the whole game and whoever gets the upper hand will likely progress. All of this quartet are more than capable of breaching England’s rear-guard if given too much opportunity.
Once again, we are on Kieran Trippier watch in this game and Sun Bets go 66/1 on the Tottenham wing-back to open the scoring, with William Hill going 22/1 on a goal at any time, that is definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Other Side Bets
One bet at short odds that interests me is for England to win the game, with stakes returned if the game is level after ninety minutes. MarathonBet go the best industry odds of 16/25 on this particular selection and rates as a strong bet.
England to win the game and Both Teams to Score is generally available as a tempting 9/2 shot that should appeal to punters. Both England and Croatia have attacked their way to this stage of the tournament and goals do look likely in this contest. England could just have too much for their Croatian counterparts ultimately in this game and the 9/2 on offer is reasonable value.
We are going for a 2-1 win for the Three Lions in normal time for our Correct Score offering at the juicy odds of 39/4 with SportPesa as England hope to continue their progress to the World Cup Final.
- England to win the match with Draw no bet at 16/25 with MarathonBet
- England win and Both Teams to Score at 9/2 With Betway
- England 2-1 Croatia Correct Score bet at 39/4 with SportPesa.