World Cup 2018 live: Croatia vs England build-up and latest news ahead of semi-final

Luke Slater
The Telegraph
England's World Cup journey continues tonight, with a final potentially 90 mins away - join us here for all the latest - FIFA
England's World Cup journey continues tonight, with a final potentially 90 mins away - join us here for all the latest - FIFA


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Right then, deep breath, and believe

Time to hand you over to the marvellous Alan Tyers who will have all the build-up before kick-off at 19:00 BST, and then the game itself! 

Oh and regarding that chant you've heard a lot of over the last few weeks, Gareth has something to say...


Let's talk tactics

The esteemed JJ Bull has broken everything down so you can impress everyone in the pub/living room/viewing area this evening.

England vs Croatia - the definitive guide


Now there's a stat


Warm those vocal chords up

A pretty obvious number one here, although I do love the desperation in the title of  'This time (We’ll get it right)' from 1982. It's the Best England World Cup songs and chants - ranked.

<span>Credit: UPPA/PHOTOSHOT </span>


Under three hours to go

Hi all, Ben Coles taking over for the next hour or so. Personally I woke up full of nerves but generally the mood at Telegraph towers feels rather relaxed.

A taste of the scenes in Moscow here.


Are set pieces England's best chance of victory tonight?

They have practically weaponised them at this world cup. Croatia also looked vulnerable to them against Russia. 

Chances created from set pieces world cup


Is England's biggest enemy Croatia?

Or is it fatigue?

It is easier said than done and, inevitably, the tournament will have begun to take its toll on all the teams in the semi-finals. Now it is time for the survival of the fittest. 

England have a good injury record at this World Cup. Long may it continue. Three hours and ten minutes until kick-off... 


These fans are actually in Russia for the England match...

...should they be more excited? Or more nervous? Or just more everything. I can feel the tension rise through my body...


Reminder that the winner of tonight's semi-final will face France in the final!

What will they have to fear then? Kylian Mbappe, primarily. 

He is only 19 but already he looks the closest thing the next generation might produce to a player of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo’s gifts.

If England find a way past Croatia in Moscow, Ashley Young, their left wing-back, could be in for one of the longest nights of his life. Young’s best bet is not to call Belgium’s harassed left-back Vertonghen, who would probably have no good news to deliver about the task of trying to shackle a ghost.

A pretty big match for Young to worry about before that, though.  England are one match away from a second World Cup final. Croatia are one away from their first. 


In case you missed it earlier: Do Croatia have something to fear in Raheem Sterling?

Why Raheem Sterling's largely overlooked work for England will scare Croatia


You cannot have England come this far...

...and not have a healthy chunk of optimism. Or at least if not optimism then happiness that England have come this far.  Let's embrace it. 

 Three hours and forty-something minutes to go until kick off in Moscow. Actually typing that made me feel a bit nervous. I was perfectly calm and rational before. 


A blast from the past...

10 years ago Chelsea played Manchester United in the Champions League final at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium. Frank Lampard scored for Chelsea but his side lost on penalties. Will another Englishman find the back of the net tonight?

<span>Frank Lampard scores in the 2008 Champions League final</span> <span>Credit: afp </span>
Frank Lampard scores in the 2008 Champions League final Credit: afp


Your reaction to England's glory run...we want your photos and videos

World Cup 2018 | Your reaction to England's glory run


What does Des Lynam think about the World Cup as a viewer?

It's worse than presenting it, he says. He has a few kind words for Gary Lineker, too.  

In the days when I was presenting the World Cup for television, I never used to suffer in the way I have been over the past couple of weeks.

I was close to cracking up during the penalty shoot-out against Colombia and there were moments against Sweden when a reasonably comfortable victory looked troublesome. I should have known that I could rely on the stupendous goalkeeping of Jordan Pickford.

After the tournament Gareth Southgate should be seconded to the Government to finalise Brexit – someone has to do it – and get the trains to run on time before making his way to the Palace to be dubbed appropriately a knight of the realm. 


It's time...

for this. Have you not had enough? Are you not entertained?


JJ Bull's tactical preview and analysis of Croatia is well worth a read

Modric is the star of the team. He can operate as a six (defensive midfielder), eight (all round midfielder) or a 10 (attacking midfielder behind the striker), with the latter being the position from which he can cause most damage.

He has an electric turn of pace and his vision for finding teammates means he can create chances from nowhere. It makes sense to have him high up the pitch then, but if he is positioned as a 10, it's far easier to stick a man on him and limit his involvement. That's what Argentina did:

Get your teeth into the whole thing and impress your mates with your new-found tactical knowledge. But, seriously, plagiarism is an academic offence and passing someone else's work off as your own could lead to penalties. 


Stat attack!

Seven of England's 11 goals at this World Cup have been scored by someone called Harry*. 

<span>The worst Two Ronnies tribute act in quite some time. Quite good at headers, though</span> <span>Credit: afp </span>
The worst Two Ronnies tribute act in quite some time. Quite good at headers, though Credit: afp

*Or six if you discount the fact that Harry Maguire's birth name is Jacob Harry Maguire. 


Where will you be watching tonight?

Frankie Dettori, champion jockey: 

As Italy went out about four years ago I'm an adopted Englishman for this World Cup. I'm still on a ban at the moment so I'll be watching at home sucking the whole atmosphere in. I watched the quarter-final in a pub but there was too much screaming and cheering and I saw nothing.

Paul Farbrace, England assistant cricket coach:

A lot of the lads have got more and more into the football as the World Cup has gone on and you see a few of them wearing England football shirts now. I think the plan is we will all watch together  in the team hotel in Nottingham [before the first ODI v India]. 

Tom Mitchell, captain of England Sevens squad:

Our training only finishes at 6pm so I’ll be hot-footing it from there to the Leather Bottle in Earlsfield to watch it with my mates (with our own World Cup just over a week away I’ll be on the orange juices!). The pub always has such a great atmosphere in the garden.

Decent pub, that. Nice and old with a country pub feel but smack bang in the middle of Wandsworth Borough. 


Jesse Lingard vs Harry Maguire...eight years ago...

Who was the number 8 whipping in the cross?  Anagram: A Pal Pub Go. 


Lineker's going to the match

Who else will be there?


Dele Alli "opened his account" for England in the World Cup in the quarter final against Sweden...

...but there is more to his game than just a goal threat.

How Dele Alli played England system to prove game more than goals


Prince Harry says football is definitely coming home

 It is, though, isn't it?


The Telegraph's Cycling Correspondent in the thick of the action...

...following France's semi-final victory. Looks tasty. 


Action shots from the last (and first) time Croatia played in a World Cup semi-final...

...they previously defeated Germany 3-0 in the quarters. But they came up against the home nation and eventual winners, France. Could the 2018 World Cup final be a rematch?

<span>Zinedine Zidane doing what he does best</span> <span>Credit: AP </span>
Zinedine Zidane doing what he does best Credit: AP
<span>Zidane challenges Alijosa Asanovic</span> <span>Credit: ACTION IMAGES </span>
Zidane challenges Alijosa Asanovic Credit: ACTION IMAGES


England manager Gareth Southgate has said he found it hard to listen to Three Lions...

...after his penalty miss and England's exit in Euro 96

Football’s coming home, I couldn’t listen to it for 20 years, frankly. It has a slightly different feel for me, but it’s nice to hear people enjoying it again. Of course, the tournament ended in disappointment and it is nice to be able to put a different frame on it now. I still look back on it as an incredible life experience and to be involved with it, I just needed a bit of time to get over it.

Asked how he would avoid the song, Southgate added:

I would just walk out of the room. It is an anthem and has followed the team for a long time but involved some difficult moments as well. 


The best "it's coming home" memes...


Where will Michael Vaughan be watching tonight's match?

Michael Vaughan, former England cricket captain and Telegraph columnist:

It is party time at my house. I’ve been out and bought the flags today, everyone has to wear three lions themed costumes and we have got loads of people coming round. Can’t wait. It will be great.

Francesca Cumani, presenter of ITV Racing:

I'll be at home but it is revision time for me as we're covering the first day of Newmarket's July Meeting on Thursday. So it'll be on in the background while I finish studying the form and looking at the run down for Thursday's racing.

A consummate professional. 

Sir AP McCoy, 20 time Champion Jump jockey:

I'll probably be watering the grass. Joking. I'll probably watch with a few of the lads in Lambourn. It's hard to predict. The two sides of the draw look like different tournaments but that's not their fault and there's nothing wrong with with a bit of luck every now and again. But it could be an even bigger turn up for the books than Mr Frisk winning the 1990 Grand National [ridden by The Telegraph's Marcus Armytage]!


Thinking about it...

...what would the 1966 World Cup have looked like if there'd have been VAR?

<span>VAR in 1966, anyone?</span> <span>Credit: hulton archive </span>
VAR in 1966, anyone? Credit: hulton archive

 That's one off Sir Geoff's hat-trick. I think he'd have got one anyway, though. And of course England would have still won. 


Adam Hurrey has put together a quite incredible piece of work...

...where he re-imagines history (specifically the 1990 World Cup semi-final between West Germany and England) if Twitter had been around. It's really tremendous. And, crucially, quite funny.  

<span>Twitter in the 1990s</span>
Twitter in the 1990s

Read it all here. And you will want to read it all. 


Where will you be watching the game tonight?

A few of the Telegraph's columnists and other sport stars tell us what they'll be up to tonight at 7pm. 

Sir Ian McGeechan, former Lions coach and Telegraph columnist:

I watched the last two games in a very nice bar at the Lakes Resort Hotel Vilamoura. Will be back home to watch semi with family and grandchildren appropriately decked out.

Lovely place, Vilamoura. Excellent golf around there. Speaking of golf...

Lee Westwood, golfer:

I’m playing in the pro-am of the Scottish Open and we are teeing off at 1.30pm, so I’ll be speeding up my amateur partners. If we do it in five hours, I'll be fine. Fortunately I live in Edinburgh, and that’s only 30 minutes away, so I wont have to sit quietly in the corner of a Scottish pub, although it’s not really like that. My son, Sam, will be with me, so we will watch and celebrate together.

Jamie Carragher, former England international and Telegraph columnist:

I’ll be watching at home. I have invited a few mates around so we can watch the game and enjoy a few drinks.

 In our Total Football Podcast Jamie did admit to having a slightly sore head on Sunday morning after England's quarter final victory.  Let's hope he has reason to celebrate again. 


Croatian rider Robert Kiserlovski abandons the Tour de France...

The Croat was involved in a crash on Stage Five and was unable to resume. Is this a good or bad omen? Or is it a meaningless coincidence? You decide. Either way, it could be a very bad day for Kiserlovski if Croatia lose to England. 

In any case, we wish him well in his recovery. It's always a cruel thing for any rider to have to abandon. 

<span>Robert Kiserlovski abandoned the Tour de France on the day that his country play England in a World Cup semi-final</span> <span>Credit: velo </span>
Robert Kiserlovski abandoned the Tour de France on the day that his country play England in a World Cup semi-final Credit: velo


Will Croatia be affected by their two extra time matches?


The Manx Missile predicts an England win

And, frankly, what Mark Cavendish doesn't know about football you fit onto the back of a postage stamp*.

(*Cav may well know more about football than all of us, I am not sure) 


Is the white shirt a bad omen for England?

We crunched the numbers behind the colours. Will it be all white on the night for the Three Lions? Should England get to the final they will also wear white, FYI. But they wore white against West Germany in 1990 (below). 

Was Peter Shilton really that short? Or is it an optical illusion?

<span>England wore the white shirt in their last World Cup semi-final, against West Germany in 1990</span> <span>Credit: getty images </span>
England wore the white shirt in their last World Cup semi-final, against West Germany in 1990 Credit: getty images


Justin Timberlake gets in on the action

...the England vs Croatia semi-final will be screened before his concert at the o2 in London tonight. Sensible decision from the former NSYNC man. 


England might get to the final...

...or they might not but France are already in it. For the third time in their history. James Ducker asks if France's superstar teenager Kylian Mbappe is going to join the list of greats of the game. Looks possible, doesn't it?

<span>France's Kylian Mbappe looks a talent and has demonstrated his brilliance many times at this tournament&nbsp;</span> <span>Credit: AFP </span>
France's Kylian Mbappe looks a talent and has demonstrated his brilliance many times at this tournament  Credit: AFP

The thing about Mbappe is he doesn’t just have the speed of a torpedo, he has the stealth, too, and the pass he slipped in for Pavard was a thing of beauty. Only a fine save from Thibaut Courtois, the Belgium goalkeeper, denied France a goal.

If ever a moment encapsulated the sheer joy of watching Mbappe, and the sheer pandemonium he creates for defences, this was it. His show-stealing, two goal evisceration of Argentina in France’s 4-3 last-16 victory was the moment he truly announced himself on the global stage but this was a performance that cemented his position as the most electrifying young presence in world football.

Read the full analysis of one of the greatest talents in world football.  


The Duke of Sussex offers his support to the Three Lions

Football is "most definitely" coming home, the Duke of Sussex has said ahead of Wednesday's historic World Cup semi-final match.

The Duke, who is visiting Ireland with his wife, offered his support to the England team after being asked by a reporter: "Is football coming home?"

<span>The Duke and Duchess of Sussex in Ireland</span> <span>Credit: getty images </span>
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex in Ireland Credit: getty images


The story of England's World Cup so pictures

England 2 - 1 Tunisia

<span>Harry Kane heads England's late winner against Tunisia in their opening game</span> <span>Credit: getty images </span>
Harry Kane heads England's late winner against Tunisia in their opening game Credit: getty images

 England 6 - 1 Panama

<span>Harry Kane scored his third, fourth and fifth goals of the tournament against Panama as England hammered the Central Americans 6-1</span> <span>Credit: UPI </span>
Harry Kane scored his third, fourth and fifth goals of the tournament against Panama as England hammered the Central Americans 6-1 Credit: UPI

 England 0 - 1 Belgium

<span>But Jordan Pickford was powerless to stop Adnan Januzaj's winner for Belgium in their final group game</span> <span>Credit: getty images </span>
But Jordan Pickford was powerless to stop Adnan Januzaj's winner for Belgium in their final group game Credit: getty images

 Last 16: England 1-1 Colombia - England win on penalties for the first time in World Cup history

<span>Eric Dier scored the winning penalty but Jordan Pickford had a literal strong hand in helping England progress</span> <span>Credit: corbis sport </span>
Eric Dier scored the winning penalty but Jordan Pickford had a literal strong hand in helping England progress Credit: corbis sport

QF: England 2-0 Sweden 

<span>Harry Maguire's bullet header put England 1-0 against Sweden in the quarter-final</span> <span>Credit: AP </span>
Harry Maguire's bullet header put England 1-0 against Sweden in the quarter-final Credit: AP



Shearer knows...


What happened to England's 1966 heroes and what do they think of their modern-day counterparts? 

The boys of ’66. Back in the limelight and, whether funny, moving or tragic, this inspiring and deeply patriotic collection of friends, husbands, brothers and dads each have an extraordinary story to tell. And for the rest of us, including the Football Association, there are also some rather jarring lessons to be learned.

What do the boys of 1966 think of the lads of 2018? 


Premier League dominance of the World Cup at last?


How have the fans of England's rivals fared during this tournament?

It has been a nightmare. There will be buckets of scorn for them to pour if England lose tonight, though. 

I’m okay up to the semi-final. I’d say the majority of Scotland fans are okay with England up to that stage and then all bets are off. Gareth Southgate has come across well and there’s absolutely nothing to dislike about them. It’s rubbish, isn’t it?

But it’s not about that. It’s the way it becomes BBC England and ITV England that’s hardest to take. It’s like the Portuguese watching Spanish TV - you’re listening to lots of talk about another country.

A Scot, a German and an Australian speak about their experiences of watching England's success at the 2018 World Cup.  


Alan Tyers takes an alarmingly deep dive into the TV coverage of England's last WC semi-final...

...28 years ago, against West Germany and Italy. It's funny and excellent. Worth a read, in short. Oh, how times have changed. 

This is really hard to quantify but here goes: the fans on the terraces look more exclusively working class than the fans today since football's explosion of popularity with the middle-classes, something that began around 1990 and gathered pace rapidly with BSkyB. The role of Italia 90 in ushering in the new appetite for football should not be forgotten.

<span>England fans at Italia 90</span> <span>Credit: BBC </span>
England fans at Italia 90 Credit: BBC


Read it all here. 


Gareth Southgate surveys the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow

It has hosted a handful of games this World Cup and also the 2008 Champions' League final between Manchester United, who won on penalties, and Chelsea, who lost on penalties. 

<span>Gareth Southgate surveys the scene of England's impending World Cup semi-final victory/defeat</span> <span>Credit: fifa </span>
Gareth Southgate surveys the scene of England's impending World Cup semi-final victory/defeat Credit: fifa

 It's a big stadium, 81,000 capacity. How many England fans have flown out at the last minute, I wonder?


In London? Want to watch the football somewhere other than your front room? Look no further

22 best places in London to watch semi


Why Raheem Sterling is an important part of the England team

Why Raheem Sterling's largely overlooked work for England will scare Croatia

What can he do tonight? 


Could Harry Kane be swapping this blue and yellow rubber chicken for the World Cup trophy in a few days?

<span>Harry Kane with a rubber chicken, obviously</span> <span>Credit: PA </span>
Harry Kane with a rubber chicken, obviously Credit: PA

 The Golden Boot would be a half-decent consolation prize wouldn't it? Actually, probably not. Not at this point. 


What can we expect from Croatia tonight?

Where will England have a chance and where might they struggle? Croatia, remember, have been in a World Cup semi-final before (in France 1998) but never a final. 

Reason to be optimistic?

Croatia's weakness is England's strength: set-pieces. Croatia have conceded more goals from set-pieces than anyone else, while England have scored more goals from set-pieces than anyone else. Croatia will have to avoid giving away silly free-kicks or unnecessary corners if they want to nullify the now famous threat of an in-swinging ball to Harry Maguire's larger-than-life head. This is a game where Ashley Young and Kieran Trippier could very well emerge as the heroes.

Read the full lowdown on England's semi-final opponents.  Just under nine hours to go until kick-off, by the way. Not that I'm counting.  


Does this photo get you excited?

England are in a World Cup semi-final. A World Cup semi-final. 


A post shared by England (@england) on Jul 11, 2018 at 1:16am PDT


How army camps and scraps with John Salako helped prepare Gareth Southgate for England

Alan Smith, Southgate's manager at the Eagles, tells us more. 

I like to think that the tough schooling Gareth received at Palace helped prepare him for his career. The club was a very different place back then: we trained at Mitcham, on Chelsea’s old pitches, and to say it was basic would be generous. We operated on a skeleton staff of the manager, Steve Coppell, the first team coach, Ian Evans, and myself, who took the reserves and youth team.

Read the full article on an important time in Southgate's career. 


A rallying cry for all England fans

Do not be ashamed. Do not fight it. Don't be embarrassed. This is a day for being proud to be English

It could be a long wait until 7pm... 


It'll be all white on the night

Tonight England will wear all white for the first time in the tournament. Quite apt, really, given Gareth Southgate's nickname at Crystal Palace was Nord because his precise way of speaking reminded his team-mates of Dennis Norden. Norden, I remind you, presented funny clips and outtakes show It'll Be Alright On the Night. 


Belgium's Buck Rogers studio


Race for the Golden Boot

Is it nailed on to be Harry Kane's? Romelu Lukaku of Belgium is two behind Kane with one game left to play. Kane also has two games to play on six. Griezmann and Mbappe would both need a hat-trick in the final to match the Spurs striker's not worth looking beyond that for obvious reasons. 

  • Harry Kane ENG - 6 goals

  • Romelu Lukaku  BEL - 4

  • Denis Cheryshev RUS - 4

  • Cristiano Ronaldo POR - 4

  • Antoine Griezmann FRA - 3

  • Kylian Mbappe FRA - 3

<span>Any more for any more? Can Harry Kane add to his tally against Croatia tonight?</span> <span>Credit: corbis sport </span>
Any more for any more? Can Harry Kane add to his tally against Croatia tonight? Credit: corbis sport


Dele All on ice baths, really old shin pads and megging Modric...


Pro golfer Matt Fitzpatrick thinks it's coming home

Although, as some eagle-eyed people have pointed out, the engraving appears to read "IT'S CONING HOME". I wonder if the small print on his cone-tract means he can get his money back?


In non-England news, France beat Belgium 1-0 in the tournament's first semi-final yesterday...

And if England beat Croatia tonight then that's who they will face on Sunday.  

The top half of the World Cup draw really was best avoided by England and, should they progress against Croatia on Wednesday night to a first final in 52 years, the awaiting challenge will be of a different magnitude to any team they have yet faced.  “Finals have to be won because we have not got over what happened two years ago,” admitted [France] manager Didier Deschamps. “It was so painful that we now really want to taste the victory.”

Read the full match report by Jeremy Wilson. 


Today's Daily Telegraph Sport front page


Gareth Southgate urges England to keep breaking barriers as they take on toughest test against Croatia

On the eve of the monumental encounter here with Croatia, the England manager spoke passionately of the power of sport to heal divisions and urged his young players to keep breaking down “the barriers” as they continue to write their own history. There was even another oblique reference to Brexit and the rift it had caused back home, which again marked out Southgate as a rarity: a football manager with a world view and one not afraid to express that.

Read Jason Burt's full piece ahead of the semi-final. 


Preview: Gareth Southgate not feeling superstitious ahead of World Cup 2018 semi-final

England manager Gareth Southgate found out a long time ago that superstition was not the way for him, and is trusting his side to reach the World Cup final without having to rely on luck or rituals.

The Three Lions have the chance to reach just the second major tournament finale in their history on Wednesday as they take on Croatia in a mouth-watering Luzhniki Stadium semi-final.

Following in the footsteps of the heroes of 1966 had looked a pipe dream this summer, but Southgate has created an impressive bond and shaped his promising team into World Cup challengers.

The former defender suffered disappointment when England last reached the last four of a major tournament, missing the crucial spot-kick as Terry Venables' men bowed out of Euro '96 in a penalty shootout.

That pain that still haunts the manager, but years of English disappointment is not being felt by players ahead of the biggest match in a generation.

<span>Jordan Henderson and Gareth Southgate visit the&nbsp;Luzhniki Stadium before the match</span> <span>Credit: &nbsp;JULIAN SIMMONDS </span>
Jordan Henderson and Gareth Southgate visit the Luzhniki Stadium before the match Credit:  JULIAN SIMMONDS

"I think we feel that is of no bearing to this team," Southgate said. "We've been consistent about that. From the off, that was my problem because I'm part of that history.

"They're getting blamed for what my generation and generations that followed did. But these guys had an opportunity to start from scratch and create their own history. That's what we're focused on.

"Most of them weren't born when a lot of the stories we're talking about happened, so why as a coach would I try and put that at their door?

"They should be judged on them as a team. I think, to be fair, the public have done that.

"They've seen we've got good lads who are incredibly proud to play, and are playing in a slightly different style to the one we've seen for a few years - playing with confidence on a big stage. So, they should - we've got trust in them doing that."

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