What to look out for in Wednesday’s World Cup semifinal between Croatia and England:
Raheem Sterling has yet to score a goal at this World Cup, continuing a barren run for England. The 23-year-old, who netted 23 times for Manchester City last season, has just two goals in 42 appearances for the Three Lions. The last time he found the back of the net for England was in October 2015.
But despite his lean numbers, Sterling remains an important part of Gareth Southgate’s team with his clever runs from deep that open up rival defences and the chemistry he shares with his fellow forwards.
Sterling’s pace could trouble Croatia centerbacks Dejan Lovren and Domagoj Vida, neither of whom are renowned for their speed.
Lovren might still have nightmares about his sputtering performance for Liverpool in their 4-1 loss to a Harry Kane-inspired Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley last October. Lovren was benched early as Kane scored two goals and set up another.
Speaking of Kane, the forward needs only one goal to stand alone as England’s highest ever scorer in a World Cup. He currently shares that honor with Gary Lineker, who netted six times at the 1986 tournament in Mexico.
The 24-year-old said after England’s 2-0 quarterfinal victory over Sweden that he feels ready “to inspire people” as England bid for their second ever World Cup title and first since 1966.
Rivals at club level, Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic are close friends whose chemistry in central midfield has been vital to Croatia’s success in Russia.
England midfielder Eric Dier said on Monday that England would need to subdue the duo if they are to progress to the final. “[They are] two fantastic players, world-class players in their position,” Dier told a press conference.
By Michael Place, xinhuanet.com