England have proven themselves as an attacking force, smashing the nation’s previous goalscoring record at the FIFA World Cup™, spearheaded by current top scorer, Harry Kane. They have also shown versatility in defence, with their three-man backline anchored by the impressive John Stones, in front of their fearless, agile goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford.
Yet it is England’s creative, dynamic and intelligent midfield that will need to be on the top of its game against Croatia. Zlatko Dalic’s side boast some of the best midfielders in the world, according to Gareth Southgate, who will be studying their movement and positioning very carefully.
“They have some very good players,” the England coach said. “Their midfield players in particular are some of the best in the world, so we know their strengths. We know they are a very proud nation, similar to Sweden: their identity as a team is very strong so we have to be extremely well-prepared for the game and play at our top level to have a chance of winning.”
Croatia’s captain is Real Madrid star and midfield dynamo, Luka Modric. Along with Ivan Rakitic, the pair are lynchpins in the team’s most deadly territory, and defender Harry Maguire identified them as players which England’s defenders will also have to keep an eye on.
Maguire, however, insists that the Three Lions are mainly focused on themselves. “We know they’re top, top players but we have top players too,” he said. “I am sure we’ll be looking at ourselves more than the opposition but they’re a top team and they thoroughly deserve to be in the semifinal, as do we.”
With so much creativity and speed available, Southgate may opt to introduce Eric Dier alongside Henderson to firm up the spine, at the expense of an attacking midfielder.
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