No surprise Sterling is Croatian focal point, says Southgate


Among them were father and son Joe and Andrew Settle, from Bolton, who have never travelled away with England but decided they could not miss the chance to see the national side in a World Cup semi-final.

Vatreni did not need penalties this time though.

"That's right, I'm picking England to win another penalty shoot-out".

Croatia's strength of character will serve them well in the World Cup final against France, their coach and players said after they came from behind for the third straight knockout match to beat England on Wednesday.

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

England's unforgettable run at Russian Federation 2018 has come to a heartbreaking end but was underlined by Croatia's ability to smother their primary strengths.

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"It was just a step too far for them", declared Keane. The forwards hadn't the space they have been used to, the wing-backs had retreated and in midfield, battles were physical and play restricted.

"But I like to challenge these strikers and to show to everyone that I'm one of the best defenders".

Real Madrid playmaker Modric has excelled at times in Russian Federation, both on the ball and in terms of his leadership qualities.

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

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As a result of their successive displays of resilience and determination, they become the 13th different nation to reach their first World Cup Final.

"There is still a lot to play".

When things clicked for Croatia they had the quality of Modric and Rakitic, who finally began to dictate the tempo and flow of the game as many had expected they would. But there is less pressure on them now.

The score was precariously-poised at 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes, so the match went into extra-time.

"We haven't said our last word, there is still one more game to go".

Unable to get the second goal while they were on top, Croatia were forced into extra time again.

Goalkeeper Danijel Subasic soldiered on against Russian Federation despite hurting a hamstring, while right-back Sime Vrsaljko is expected to miss the game.

England had no answer - neither on the field as their passing game was replaced by hasty clearances and long balls forward nor on the bench as Southgate was unable to make the switches that might have changed the game.

England's start was emphatic, as they swiftly put Croatia on the back foot through a driving Dele Alli run, which Luka Modric had to stop on the edge of the area by fouling the Tottenham star.

"We thought we were just good enough, we thought we could have done that".

"I think Raheem has been fundamental to the way that we have played - his movement, the positions he takes up, his pressing of the ball, his work-rate for the team, the winning of free-kicks and corners, his speed to stretch teams".