Croatia and England Battle Past the Quarterfinals to Set Up a Semi-Final Date

The second set of quarter-finals were held on Saturday, July 7th, 2018 between England vs Sweden and Russia vs Croatia. England breezed past Sweden while Croatia squeezed past Russia on post-match penalties.

England vs Sweden

England line up: Pickford; Maguire, Stones, Walker; Trippier, Lingard, Henderson, Alli, Young; Kane, Sterling (3-5-2)

Sweden line up: Olsen, Krafth, Augustinsson, Lindelof, Granqvist, Fosberg, Claesson, Ekdal, Larsson; Toivonen, Berg (4-4-1-1)

England’s line was with their now customary 3-5-2 formation, against a Sweden side who were playing on a 4-5-1 formation with Toivonen supporting Berg as a striker when in possession. The game began brightly with England almost scoring in the first twenty seconds when Raheem Sterling being released by a long ball that he couldn’t connect with and defenders scrambled to recover their positions.

In the 30th minute, the English side got a corner that Ashley Young sent in and Harry Maguire smashed in an unstoppable header into the net.

Harry Maguire Scores for England

England went on to dominate possession in a first half that was low on quality and goalmouth action as it meandered to a boring conclusion.

In the second half, Sweden returned hoping to challenge the England goal more than they did in the first period. Berg came closest when he rose to meet a cross from the left wing but the England goalkeeper produced a brilliant save that nullified Berg’s header.

England was content to sit back and wait for the Swedes to attack their half, as they waited for the opportunity to counter-attack. In the 59th minute, Trippier was left isolated on the right wing and he cut back a short pass to Jesse Lingard who lofted the ball into the Sweden penalty area. Delle Aalli rose highest and unmarked to smash in a rare England goal from open play. 2-0  England and one could sense that a comeback was beyond the plucky Swedish side.

The Swedish coach Janne Andersson brought in a second attacker in John Guidetti for Ola Toivonen as well as Martin Olsson for Emile Fosberg in the 65th minute as they tried to pull themselves back into the contest, but Jordan Pickford was equal to the task as he denied Berg with an acrobatic leap and kept them at bay.

The England coach beefed up his team in the left wing by bringing on Fabian Delph and then Eric Dier for Dele Alli and Jordan Henderson as the Swedes ran out of ideas and luck to exit the world cup having progressed furthest since the 1994 USA tournament. England went ahead to the semifinals for the first time since 1994 too, where they exited the competition to Germany at the same stage.


Russia vs Croatia

Russia line up: Akinfeev, Kutepov, Ignashevich, Kudryashov, Fernandes, Samedov, Kuzyaev, Golovin, Zobnin, Cheryshev (4-5-1)

Croatia line up: Subasic, Vrsaljko, Vida, Lovren, Strinic, Perisic, Kramaric, Rakitic, Modric, Rebic, Mandzukic (4-4-2)

Russia took on Croatia with the hosts bidding to make it to the semi-finals and shock the world. The Croats were hoping to emulate the great 1998 team which made it to the semi-finals. Croatia looked comfortable in possession early on without really threatening the Russian goal, and after thirty minutes of cautious football, Russia went ahead with a stunner. Dennis Cheryshev played a cute one-two with Dzyuba outside the Croatia penalty area and curled a contender of the goal of the tournament in the 30th minute.

However, Russia’s lead only lasted nine minutes as Croatia equalized through a Mandzukic cross to strike partner Kramaric who stooped and headed in an equalizer. The teams would go to the halftime break on level pegging.

The second half began with Croatia in the ascendancy as they sought to make their possession count, and they came close when Inter Milan midfielder Ivan Perisic hit the post with a shot on the hour mark. It was to be his final contribution as he was hauled off for midfielder Brozovic as the Croatia coach sought to calm down the match which was descending into a free for all attacking frenzy. The Russians looked very good on the counter as the match went on, and Aleksandr Samedov was substituted for Aleksandr Yerokhin, and in the 77th-minute goalscorer, Cheryshev made way for Fedor Smolov in the hope of winning the match in regular time.

It was not to be, and after Croatia brought in midfielder Mateo Kovacic for Kramaric, the 90 minutes were up and the game went into extra time. It would be the second straight match that Croatia had failed to win in normal time.

In the 100th minute, the defender, Vida , somehow managed to head in a Luca Modric corner beyond two Russian defenders and the goalkeeper as they led for the first time of the match. He celebrated joyously as the Croatia team thought they had clinched the match.

However, the drama was not over and the Russians came back to draw the game in the 115th minute as Fernandes scored his first ever international goal for Russia with a brilliant header off the freekick that left the Croatia keeper stranded. The teams were exhausted and the last five minutes were over without much drama as the game ended in a 2-2 draw.

Ivan Rakitic
Ivan Rakitic scores for Croatia

Russia missed their first and third penalties and even though Mateo Kovacic also had his saved for Croatia, Ivan Rakitic scored Croatia’s decisive fifth and put Croatia into the semi-finals where they will face England on Wednesday 11th July for a place in the world cup final.

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