How Croatia can humble England in the World Cup semi-finals

Wednesday is here and with it comes the second World Cup semi-final. France has already booked their ticket to the ultimate game where they await either Croatia or England.

Everyone who has been following this tournament knows of the "It's coming home" campaign. The catchphrase which predicts the Three Lions to lift the title grows in popularity by the day, but the will face a stern test in the penultimate stage.

Croatia made it this far by two penalty shootout victories, but it should be noted that one came against a side that eliminated Spain – Russia. Vatreni hasn't lost a single game and humbled Nigeria and Argentina in the group stage. If Southgate's men are not careful, they could be the next in line to be embarrassed by Modric and Co. through different means.

The first thing Zlatko Dalić must do to guide his men to victory is free up their Real Madrid midfielder. Their national team captain has been one of the standout performers in Russia and could cause havoc when given the freedom.

However, Modric has been forced to play deep on occasions, the quarter-final being the perfect example. Against Russia, the 32-year-old played alongside Rakitic as the pivot in a 4-2-3-1 formation. The introduction of Marcelo Brozovic and a shift to 4-3-3 helped not only the former Tottenham ace but also the Barcelona maestro.

In Luka, Croatia has one of the best midfielders in the world. Giving him more freedom will award him the opportunity to be a threat going forward and to do bits on Jordan Henderson.

One thing Vatreni must not take any chances on are set-pieces. England may not play the most attractive football, but their aerial threat means free-kicks and corner-kicks are where most of their goals have come from.

Dejan Lovren will be key to stopping Harry Kane, but the center-back has struggled against him in the Premier League before. Adding in the fact that the England captain isn't their only aerial threat means they will have to defend in numbers and with height.

Lastly, Croatia must be quick with their transitions. The absence of Šime Vrsaljko and the speed of England's attacker mean they will likely not commit numbers going forward and will rely on counter-attacks.

This is something Southgate's side also implies, but while the Three Lions lack a creative playmaker who can pick the best pass, their opponent has two. Furthermore, since Ashley Young and Kieran Trippier like to push forward to aid in the attack, that will leave gaps and spaces that the Vatreni could benefit from by playing on the wings.

All of this points to one thing: England can bring it home, but Croatia is just as capable of humiliating the Three Lions. If Zlatko Dalić gets his tactics right, they could be staring at a clash with France in the final.

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