Croatia play down fatigue fears as they eye England scalp

Florence Fletcher
July 11, 2018

"It's been a long season, but you play in a World Cup semi-final once in a lifetime and there's no point giving up now".

"But we enjoy to play against big teams, as we showed against Argentina, and have nothing to lose". They'll be one game from being World Cup winners. "We can't concentrate too much on them, we have to concentrate on ourselves and that's exactly what we will be doing going into the game".

"We're really proud of the support we're receiving", he said.

After a weekend of dramatic quarterfinal action that saw each game decided in a completely different manner, the 2018 World Cup is down to its final four.

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.

He will have a central role to play against a Croatia side that relies heavily on the creativity of Real Madrid's Luka Modric and Rakitic, who plays for Barcelona.

The captain was the man of the match again in the penalty shootout win over Russian Federation in Sochi at the weekend.

"There is still a lot to play".

England have not won a major trophy since the World Cup in 1966 and have only reached two semifinals since: in 1990 and at Euro '96, when Southgate became a poster boy for the tournament for the wrong reason after missing the decisive penalty in the shoot-out defeat against Germany.

"We will enjoy this victory but then we will prepare".

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Whether that is fair or not, given that Ivan Perisic doesn't provide him with much cover, is up for debate but it was clear that Russian Federation targeted that area as they forced Croatia to penalties in their quarter-final.

He said: "They of course have a very strong midfield so, (it is about) denying them space and making sure awareness of distances and coverage of the pitch is correct and (knowing) the right moments to press".

"The biggest pressure came against Denmark in the round of 16 (which also went to extra-time and a penalty shootout)".

Although Croatia are the most hard opponent England will have faced in the tournament, Southgate has suggested he will stick to his gameplan.

Per the Mirror's David McDonnell, Dejan Lovren and Danijel Subasic are doubts for Croatia, but full-back Sime Vrsaljko has been ruled out, according to Robert Cottingham of MailOnline.

However, Southgate refuses to accept the idea that England will be significantly fresher.

Perhaps even more significantly, most of the team have been together for a decade but are peaking now and brimming with motivation for their first semi-final since 1998.

"We have made several pieces of history in the tournament and we're just looking to keep breaking those barriers down".

"We know we have some unbelievable players and a great manager and everyone is clear on what we want to do".

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