ENGLAND VS. CROATIA
Time: 11 a.m. PDT
TV: Fox, Telemundo
The buzz: Although Croatia wasn’t even an independent country until 1991, it has actually been to a World Cup semifinal more recently than England, the country that claims to have invented soccer. Croatia made the final four in 1998, in its World Cup debut, but didn’t get out of the group stage again until this summer. England last reached the semifinals in 1990 – before 16 players on the current team were born.
Croatia arrived in the semifinals unbeaten although it wasn’t an easy trip. After breezing through group play, Croatia needed 120 minutes, then penalty kicks to beat both Denmark and Russia, making it just the second team to advance in a World Cup knockout stage on consecutive penalty-kick shootouts. Argentina did it in 28 years ago, reaching the final exhausted and losing to West Germany, 1-0.
Croatia’s offense has been spread around, with eight players contributing to the scoring and only Real Madrid’s Luka Modric scoring twice. Danijel Subasic has been outstanding in goal, especially in the two shootouts.
England, meanwhile, has piled up the goals; only Belgium has scored than the Three Lions, who have 11 goals. More than half that offense has come from captain Harry Kane, whose six scores lead the race for the Golden Boot.
England’s only loss came to Belgium in a group-play finale that proved advantageous since it sent the team to the easier side of the knockout bracket. There England needed a shootout to get past a physical Colombia team before brushing aside Sweden in the quarterfinals.