Gareth Southgate says England players ‘nowhere near level they’ll be capable of’

Gareth Southgate

England are dreaming of a first World Cup final since 1966 but first they must come through Wednesday's semi-final at the Luzhniki Stadium against Croatia in what looks like their toughest test yet in Russian Federation.

For England, tomorrow is their first World Cup semi-final since 1990 and their second ever semi-final on foreign soil. "The higher the level of opponent, if you press in a disorganised fashion, then you will get picked through and we have got to be conscious of that".

"I cannot imagine what will happen if Croatia were to win the World Cup, I really can't".

While Croatian players, who have been asked constantly about the generation of 1998 and never fail to express their admiration for the likes of Zvonimir Boban and Davor Suker, those comparisons are a weight they feel is unneeded. "And we have a great opportunity now to get to a World Cup final".

Southgate has been just the voice of reason England have needed to prevent anyone from getting too carried away.

Kane managed just one shot in that 2-0 success but will relish facing a Croatia defence that have conceded four goals in their last three games, failing to keep a clean sheet in any of them. - Eight of England's 11 goals at the 2018 World Cup have been scored via set pieces - since 1966, the only team to equal that number in a single World Cup tournament are Portugal in 1966 (also eight goals). Their first encounter, in 1996, ended in a goalless draw.

Southgate has tactical decisions to make ahead of the crucial semifinal whether to accommodate an extra holding midfielder in Eric Dier who might prove useful to nullify Luka Modric's threat. In fact, his worst performance of the season for Liverpool came against Kane's Tottenham side - Lovren was substituted after just 31 minutes in a crushing 4-1 defeat for the Reds. Croatia's midfield control depends on the exceptional balancing act done by Luka Modric and Rakitic, and Henderson is the only player at Gareth Southgate's disposal who is well-equipped to disrupt that rhythm.

"We've approached every game in the same way, our preparation for all the matches has been the same and we feel we're in a good place".

But the England boss is well aware of the threat that Croatia pose in the centre of the field.

Croatia's build-up to the tournament was overshadowed by the graft trial of former Dinamo Zagreb chief Zdravko Mamic and charges against captain Modric for alleged false testimony in that case. You will highlight certain players and positions they're likely to take.

Stones, and his defensive partners Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker, will need to be on their toes for the whole game against Croatia's lone striker, particularly when the ball flies into the area from a set piece.

As reported by ESPN FC on Monday, the inflatable unicorn races in the swimming pool at England's Repino base, as well as the Fortnite competitions, darts and 10-pin bowling, have turned this World Cup campaign into what Ashley Young described as a "holiday".



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