England's first World Cup semi-final since 1990 attracts few fans

Tanya Simon
July 11, 2018

England play Croatia in Moscow on Wednesday night with a place in only their second major tournament final on the line.

England has gone with a 3-5-2, and the only change was to start Ruben Loftus-Cheek in midfield after Dele Alli injured a thigh.

Modric started that match at Wembley and remains integral to Croatia's game 11 years later, the captain having been widely hailed as one of the best players at the finals in Russian Federation.

"They aren't in the semifinal for no reason", he said at a news conference. "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".

Croatia have yet to lose at this summer's World Cup, having blitzed through the group stage with wins over Nigeria, Argentina and Iceland, before edging past Denmark and Russian Federation on penalties.

"But if we're ready to give our all on the pitch like we did when we played Argentina, if we will be compact, then I don't believe that there will be problems". The most-cherished national team memory remains the 1966 World Cup final victory at Wembley over West Germany, a demarcation point in the island's history as much as 1066 (the Norman invasion) and 1707 (union with Scotland).

"They have a lot of quality, they play well, well organised and a physically strong, but we are also aware of our quality".

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Vida has quietly been one of the standout performers at this World Cup, and Croatia will be relieved he avoided a suspension for a rather ill-advised video published online after the win over Russian Federation.

There are a number of key battles that may well decide the game; how John Stones copes with the physicality of Mario Mandzukic will be one, as will how Jordan Henderson can cope playing against Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic.

The names of Sir Alf Ramsey and his players - still the only 11 Englishmen to play in a World Cup final - will be recalled forever and their stories told whenever the nation's landmark moments in sport are revisited.

Croatia's squad has an average age of 27.9 while England, along with France, are the second youngest squad at the World Cup behind Nigeria at 26.

"I'm a little bit anxious about Harry Kane". Even Ashley Young, the oldest of England's players, was a couple of days off his fifth birthday. But when England face Croatia in Russian Federation on Wednesday, there may only be only a few thousand England supporters present.

Victoria Lopyreva, an official ambassador for the World Cup and a former Miss Russia, called on Britons on Monday to come to Moscow for the match.

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