Sport England dare to dream but Croatia to be sternest test yet

11:06  11 july  2018
11:06  11 july  2018 Source:   france24.com

'He gets caught out ball watching' - Roy Keane picks out moment that ended England's World Cup dream

  'He gets caught out ball watching' - Roy Keane picks out moment that ended England's World Cup dream Roy Keane believes Croatia were worthy winners as England's World Cup dream died in agonising fashion in Moscow. England's hopes of claiming a place in Sunday's final against France faded as a second half goal from Ivan Perisic and an extra time winner from Mario Mandzukic left Gareth Southgate's players shattered, with Keane suggesting the English agony should be laced with pride."It was just a step too far for them," declared Keane. "The next step for England is the biggest step and the hardest step by far, to get to the World Cup final.

But to get to their first World Cup final since 1966, when England lifted the trophy on home soil, Gareth Southgate's side will have to overcome their sternest test yet in Russia: a semi-final showdown with a Croatia team packed with talent He is a man who knows how easily dreams can be broken.

France beat Belgium 1-0 to reach World Cup final - as it happened. Read more. England dare to dream but Croatia to be sternest test yet .

It has been 52 long, mostly painful years for the England football team since their last and only World Cup triumph, but both players and fans are now starting to believe that, just maybe, the wait could be over.

But to get to their first World Cup final since 1966, when England lifted the trophy on home soil, Gareth Southgate's side will have to overcome their sternest test yet in Russia: a semi-final showdown with a Croatia team packed with talent, themselves looking to create history by reaching the final for the first time.

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England dare to dream but Croatia to be sternest test yet .

France beat Belgium 1-0 to reach World Cup final - as it happened. Read more. England dare to dream but Croatia to be sternest test yet .

England manager Gareth Southgate salutes their fans after the match © Reuters England manager Gareth Southgate salutes their fans after the match

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The renewed optimism in an England team that has reached the semi-finals of the World Cup for just the third time in their history and the first time since 1990 has been characterised by the reappearance of an old refrain, ringing out in pubs and bars across the country and on social media: that of "Three Lions", a song first released in 1996 for that year's European Championships, and particularly its chorus declaring that "football's coming home".

England fan celebrates after the match © Reuters England fan celebrates after the match For a long time that seemed a fanciful thought but one that now, for England fans, is tantalisingly close to coming to fruition.

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One of Colombia, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia, Croatia or England will be there. Not after Iceland. Yet even had England won in Nice two years ago, the path to 'You have to understand Brazil are the best team in the World Cup': says Belgium boss Martinez His side face stern test to reach semi-finals.

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Not that Southgate, a calming voice of reason at the helm of this young England squad, is getting carried away.

England's Jordan Henderson and manager Gareth Southgate during the press conference © Reuters England's Jordan Henderson and manager Gareth Southgate during the press conference It was he, after all, who missed the crucial penalty in Euro '96 - when "Three Lions" was topping the charts - that saw England crash out at the semi-final stage to Germany. He is a man who knows how easily dreams can be broken.

"'Football's Coming Home' is a song I couldn't even listen to for 20 years, frankly. So for me it has a slightly different feel," Southgate told reporters on Tuesday, before adding: "But it's nice to hear people are listening to it again."

England manager Gareth Southgate during the press conference © Reuters England manager Gareth Southgate during the press conference Nevertheless, there is a quiet confidence about this England squad.

"We were not certain what this team might be capable of," Southgate said.

England boss Gareth Southgate not relying on superstitions to get past Croatia

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"We believed in its potential, and I think the games that we've prepared for, we had belief we would win, but there is still pressure in all of those matches, so I'm really pleased with how the team have emerged and developed."

England's Dele Alli celebrates scoring their second goal with Harry Kane and Ashley Young © Reuters England's Dele Alli celebrates scoring their second goal with Harry Kane and Ashley Young There are reasons to be hopeful: England have the tournament's leading goalscorer in their ranks in the form of Harry Kane and demonstrated a defensive solidity in their 2-0 quarter-final win over Sweden.

Their penalty shootout win over Colombia in the last 16 - just the second time England have won on penalties at a major tournament in seven attempts - has also laid that particular ghost to rest.

Biggest test yet

Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates after the match                                             REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach © Reuters Croatia's Luka Modric celebrates after the match REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach But for all of the optimism around England, perhaps the one major doubt about their chances of reaching Sunday's final with France is that they have yet to come up against one of the really big guns at the World Cup.

Zlatko Dalic feels Croatia full value for victory over England

  Zlatko Dalic feels Croatia full value for victory over England Mario Mandzukic secured a 2-1 extra-time win to propel the country into their first World Cup final.

But they face their sternest test yet in the semi-finals when they come up against Croatia . ENGLAND play Croatia on Wednesday night in the World Cup semi-finals, but what is their head-to-head record like?

"But this time it might be different and we dare to dream . Thank you very much. It's coming home," said Jones. Either hosts Russia or Croatia are all that stands between England FIFA World Cup 2018: England do enough to get past Sweden and make semis, but are yet to be tested in Russia. Firstpost.

Besides the narrow victory over Colombia and straightforward win against Sweden, they beat Tunisia in their tournament opener thanks to a late Harry Kane goal and brushed aside a poor Panama 6-1.

Jordan Pickford enters a hotel © Reuters Jordan Pickford enters a hotel Their one defeat came against Belgium in their final group game, in a match between two essentially reserve sides.

The challenge posed by Croatia is likely to be more demanding, especially as Zlatko Dalic's side features one of the best midfield pairings around, in Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic.

England's Dele Alli with manager Gareth Southgate after being substituted off © Reuters England's Dele Alli with manager Gareth Southgate after being substituted off Real Madrid playmaker Modric, who was at Tottenham Hotspur earlier in his career at the same time a young Kane was starting out, has been a particular inspiration.

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

That allowed Croatia to reach the semi-finals for the first time since the 1998 World Cup in France, which was their first as an independent nation.

Croatia hoping to 'write history'

Croatia's Dejan Lovren celebrates winning the penalty shootout © Reuters Croatia's Dejan Lovren celebrates winning the penalty shootout "Croatia has great players playing at the greatest clubs, but it is true we have not had good results at major tournament for decades," the coach said on Tuesday.

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Dare to dream , dare to fly Dare to breathe the air, the chosen one to touch the sky Dare to reach, dare to rise Find the strength to set my spirit free.

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"The results were below the level and quality of our players. Something had to change to get the results," Dalic said.

"So we should not be surprised that Croatia are in the semi-finals given the quality of the players."

For a country with a population of little more than four million, making it all the way to the final would be a remarkable achievement and like England.

England's Harry Kane during training © Reuters England's Harry Kane during training "There is still a lot to play. England is also one of the favourites to win the World Cup and you need to respect that. But we have nothing to lose, we will enjoy this game, and hopefully we can write history," said defender Dejan Lovren, of Premier League side Liverpool.

The fact that Croatia have had to play so much football could perhaps give England an edge, all the more so given the injury problems faced by Dalic.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Maxim Zmeyev / AFP | England fans in Moscow celebrate their side's 2-0 victory over Sweden in the quarter-finals of the World Cup on July 7th, 2018. © Provided by France 24 EN Maxim Zmeyev / AFP | England fans in Moscow celebrate their side's 2-0 victory over Sweden in the quarter-finals of the World Cup on July 7th, 2018. Goalkeeper Danijel Subasic soldiered on against Russia despite hurting a hamstring, while right-back Sime Vrsaljko is expected to miss the game.

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

"Any team in a World Cup semi-final is going to find the energy and going to find the motivation. So we won't win the game just because Croatia had half an hour more football than us three days ago. We've got to win because we play better."

Ranked: Every England player based on their World Cup performance - Provided by FourFourTwo

Who's impressed for England's quarter-finalists?: It’s been an excellent World Cup so far for England, with the side getting beyond a very tricky opponent in Colombia in the round of 16 to set up a quarter-final match against Sweden at the weekend in Samara, and the prospect of a first World Cup semi-final in 28 years. Every single player with the exception of back-up goalkeepers Jack Butland and Nick Pope has seen some action in Russia as part of Gareth Southgate's side, and we rank them all in order of importance for the Three Lions. Ranked! Every England player based on their displays at the 2018 World Cup

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Klopp hails Lovren's 'fantastic tournament' after World Cup exploits .
Croatia's Dejan Lovren deserves praise for his World Cup exploits, says Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has praised centre-back Dejan Lovren for playing a key role in Croatia's run to the World Cup final.

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