England will play their biggest game in decades when the Three Lions face Croatia in the second semi final match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, a match-up very few could have predicted before the start of the tournament.
Both teams have literally punched above their weights in Russia – England’s disciplined and mature display putting the young squad on the threshold of history while Croatia’s effervescent engine have drawn them ever close to surpassing the feat of the legendary class of 1998.
The Luzhinki Stadium, venue of the opening and final games of this year’s World Cup tournament will stage Wednesday’s game and Liverpool star Jordan Henderson captures the mood of his England teammates going into the contest.
“I think we’re just concentrated on what we want to do and what we want to create,” said the midfielder on Tuesday.
“We’ve obviously done our piece so far but we want to keep going on, we want to take each game by game and we’ve got to keep doing that.”
As expected, the English Class of 2018 have drawn lots of admiration and comparisons with the last (and only) England side to win the World Cup, in 1966. Henderson, however says this present crop are hoping to recreate the memories.
“It’s a massive game for us, we all know that and we’re just focused on what we need to do and what the job at hand is.
“There are a lot of good things we’ve heard about the 1966 (team) but it’s a long time ago, not too many people are going to remember that far back.”
Henderson’s manager Gareth Southgate who has been the subject of positive reviews back home among English soccer faithful attempted to relieve his side from any sort of pressure; insisting that are there to enjoy their time.
Ranked one of the youngest squads of the tournament, England’s brave Lions have gone through all sort of testing moments from which they have emerged unscathed.
“We are enjoying the journey. We came here to enjoy our football and we’re one of the youngest teams in the tournament, the least experienced team and we were never quite sure how far this team could go.
“The improvement in the players, the hunger in the players have been apparent for every body to see. We are really proud of the style we have played, with the intelligence that we have played and the performance under pressure,” stated Southgate.
On the possibility of his team going the extra mile, the former Middlesbrough boss alludes that it is only normal that his team keep breaking barriers.
“We’ve dealt with difficult situations in games where we’ve had to wait till the last minute to score or to recover from conceding in the last minute.
“We’ve been through extra time, penalties and so we’ve made several pieces of history so we’re just looking to keep breaking those barriers,” he added.
England have all twenty-three players fit and without any suspension worries when they face Croatia, starting from 9PM local time (7pm in Nigeria) on Wednesday with Turkish Cüynet Çakir the centre referee.
Fisayo Dairo reporting from St Petersburg