What must England do to defeat Croatia without penalty shootouts?

After successfully making it to the semis via the relatively "easier" bracket, England is faced with one of the competition's strongest contenders in Croatia. It's make or break season for Gareth Southgate and his men who seem to have enough reason to believe that "Football is coming home" this summer.

The opponent the Three Lions face now is one they know and have bettered for the most of the time they have met and, on Wednesday, they will hope to serve them another dosage of the bitter pill. Four of the seven previous meetings between 1966 World Cup winners and Croatia have ended in the favor of the former with only one game ending in a draw.

In the last encounter between the two which was a World Cup qualifying game in 2009, an English side with the likes of David Beckham, Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch battered the Vatreni by five goals to one. With that possibly serving as motivation, it will be interesting how the new generation of lions will fare.

Talking of fresh blood, in as much as the upcoming clash has the tendency to serve up a tactical battle, it will boil down to how well England's energetic youngsters will match the experience of the Croatians. The former entered Russia with second youngest squad whereas the latter has 10 of their starting 11 players in the previous game against Russia aged over 26. How does this help Gareth Southgate and his men, one might ask?

In retrospect, Croatia's last two games have ended up in extra-time and subsequently penalty shootouts. England mayhap set out to win the game as early as possible but should the it be forced into extra-time; the abundance of youthful exuberance should be key in turning up the heat on the tired legs of the Croats.

The penalty jinx might have been broken against Colombia in the Round of 16 clash but with Subasic proving to crucial in the wins enjoyed by the Vatreni in the last two games, England will be better off without taking their chances from 12-yards. Afterall, finishing things off without extra-time will only give the players more time to stay as fresh as possible for the final on July 15.

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