England has 3 massive advantages heading into the Croatia clash — and it could determine who makes the World Cup final

John Stones and Harry Maguire, England at the 2018 World Cup

England and Croatia contest an all-European 2018 FIFA World Cup semifinal on Wednesday evening.
Croatian players like Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, and Mario Mandžukić have all impressed at the tournament in Russia, but some of the team may be suffering burnout.
Croatia has been forced to play more soccer than England, it has older players, and recovery may be an issue ahead of this evening’s encounter.
Croatia defender Dejan Lovren also has a poor history when it comes to handling World Cup top scorer Harry Kane, as the pair have gone head-to-head in the Premier League — a battle Kane resoundingly won.
With key advantages favouring England, Gareth Southgate’s men may well be poised to teach Croatia an historic lesson.
Read all of Business Insider’s World Cup coverage here.

Croatia has a lot to thank England for when it comes to soccer. After all, it was the English who introduced the country to the sport, in its modern form, in the late 19th century.

The first soccer match ever recorded in Croatia was in 1873, according to The Palgrave International Handbook of Football and Politics, and was played by English workers who were building a factory in Rijeka, a coastal town approximately 160 kilometres west of Zagreb.

English sailors helped popularise the sport in Croatia over the decades that followed, in seaside cities like Zadar, Trogir, and Split. English engineers then helped push soccer further into the country and professional soccer clubs began to form. Eventually, a league was founded and a set of rules was needed. So, Croatians naturally turned to the English Football Association, the oldest FA on the planet, to establish the laws that helped the game gain structure.

A lot has happened between that first recorded soccer game in Croatia and today. But 145 years after that random game in Rijeka, the Croatia national team is set to embark on its most significant match in its history — a crucial 2018 FIFA World Cup semifinal at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. The team is just one game away from a momentous World Cup final.

But Croatia is set to face England — and the English may well be poised to teach them yet another valuable lesson in soccer.

This is because England has three massive advantages heading into the Croatia clash — and these could all be key in determining which team progresses to Sunday’s final.

1. Croatia’s key players are the wrong side of 30.

Croatia’s three top-performing attacking players, Luka Modrić (32), Ivan Rakitić (30), and Mario Mandžukić (32), are all the wrong side of 30.

This would not normally be an issue. Not when they have the talent that they clearly posses. But matches are coming around thick and fast (every four days), Croatia has been dragged into extra-time and sudden-death penalty shootouts in both of its knockout matches, and has not won a game in normal time since the group stage.

England, in contrast, is the youngest team left in the tournament and its key players, …read more

Source:: Business Insider – Sports

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