Croatia ace to play through pain barrier against England

Lionel Messi with his head in his hands as Croatia beat Argentina 3-0

"We were not certain what this team might be capable of", Southgate admitted to ITV, mindful of England's many recent failures.

A much tougher test is expected in Moscow on Wednesday against a Croatia side that swept past Argentina in the group stages and boasts the midfield talents of Real Madrid's Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona.

They had won just one knockout match at a major tournament in 16 years before coming to Russian Federation, a 1-0 victory against Ecuador at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

"We will get a good group of us together to watch it - we haven't decided where yet, it might be Crown", Mr Zlendic said.

Lovren, whose nation are into the semi-finals for the first time since 1998, said Croatia could play with freedom.

Excitement has reached fever-pitch levels in England, as the country dreams of Southgate's team emulating the achievement of Alf Ramsey's side more than half a century ago.

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. However, their two knockout-stage games have gone to penalties. - Harry Kane has scored on six of the seven days of the week for England, with Wednesday the exception.

However, Kane's partner in attack, Raheem Sterling, has pace to burn and England's totem will be on hand to benefit if that causes problems for the Croatians.

A victory and a visit to their second ever World Cup would certainly do that, whilst simultaneously whipping up a whole nation into a frenzy. After winning Group D, Croatia beat Denmark and Russian Federation in penalty kicks to get to this point, while England knocked out Colombia in the round of 16 in penalties before taking down Sweden in the quarterfinals.

"Any team in a World Cup semi-final is going to find the energy and going to find the motivation".

The Three Lions' only worldwide title is the 1966 World Cup victory on home soil.

Juventus striker Mandzukic is Croatia's main goal threat and although he has only scored once in Russian Federation, his game is about a lot more than just finding the net.

"I've played against Modric a few times: he's a world-class player, one of the best I've played against".

The big Croatian looks likely to shake off the hamstring injury that hampered him against the Russians and would be an imposing figure between the sticks for England's penalty takers if a place in the final came down to spot-kicks.

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

Monaco goalkeeper Subasic saved three penalties in Croatia's shootout win over Denmark in the round of 16, and another in the quarter-finals as the Vatreni dramatically ousted hosts Russian Federation on penalties.

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