After having defeated FIFA World Cup 2018 hosts Russia in a dramatic penalty shootout in the quarterfinals, Croatia will face England in the semifinals on Wednesday.
The Vatreni have had memorable victories against the “Three Lions” already, having beaten them on both occasions in qualifying for EURO 2008 and thus ensuring that the national team from the country that invented the game did not make it to the continental tournament.
Two years later in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, England not only returned the favor in the head to head games, they also lost to Ukraine when their qualification was in the bag, to ensure that the Ukrainians finished the group ahead of the Croatians.
That meant that the Vatreni missed out on South Africa. It was their only failed World Cup qualification to date.
One can easily argue that both counties are currently enjoying a golden generation of a national team. The difference is that England’s is new and young, while Croatia’s is reaching its peak.
The same is more or less true of the other semifinal. In it France is filled with young talent, while Belgium’s promising squad is slowly but surely getting older.
The winners of both matches face off in Sunday’s title game, while their losers meet on Saturday in the dreaded bronze medal match.
Winning the latter in 1998 was the thus far biggest success for Croatia. Their current coach Zlatko Dalić was recently quoted as saying that, had he been offered bronze before the tournament, he would have taken it, but now he would not.
Croatia failed to play their best in their last two matches. There is no doubt that they must get back to top form, if they are to beat this English team. But then again, they are known for rising to the occasion.