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Saturday, 17 November, 2018

Croatia find enough once more as hosts exit

Drama-filled contest ends with penalties

Croatia celebrate their penalty shootout victory
1 of 1

Russia 1
Cheryshev 31
Fernandes 115

Croatia 1
Kramaric 31
Vida 101

2-2 after extra-time, Croatia won 4-3 on penalties

Three things we learned...

1 Croatia will have to find a change of gear
England are favourites to beat Croatia and, from what we've seen in the knockout stages, rightly so.

Zlatko Dalic's team waltzed through Group D but Nigeria lacked the class to compete, Argentina were simply terrible for the bulk of the competition and Iceland fell apart when forced to chase the game with qualification on the line.

It has been a different story for Croatia in the knockout rounds. They struggled to beat Denmark in the last 16, requiring penalties, and had to go the distance again to down Russia.

They have not impressed. The Danes were arguably the better side for much of the game last weekend and Russia were able to level in extra-time of the quarter-final.

A team with Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic in midfield will always create chances but Croatia have occasionally looked toothless and will need to step it up if they are to beat a Three Lions team who are thriving and filled with confidence.

2 England will be hoping for more set-piece joy
Croatia have conceded three goals in the knockout stages and two of them have come from a set-pieces. Their next opponents England appear at their most dangerous from dead-ball situations.

Denmark bundled home from a long throw in the first minute in Nizhny Novgorod as Dalic's team were caught cold and Russia's Mario Fernandes was virtually unmarked as he nodded home from Alan Dzagoev's free kick.

Luka Modric admitted after the game that Croatia will have to work hard on defending before Wednesday's clash with England and comments like that will have Harry Kane, John Stones and Harry Maguire licking their lips with a World Cup final spot on the line.

3 Hosts can be proud of their efforts
There were plenty of people fearing for Russia before the tournament started but Stanislav Cherchesov's team silenced the doubters with a series of battling displays.

They aren't the prettiest to watch, and they came into the World Cup on a seven-match winless run in friendlies, but the hosts proved their mettle in Group A before knocking out Spain and running Croatia close.

A raucous Sochi crowd, conducted by Cherchesov, helped to drive Russia on and they can consider themselves unlucky to be exiting as the draw was a fair result.

The introduction of Dzagoev in extra-time appeared to spur them on and it might have been different had he been fit enough to be involved from the start.

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A team with Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic in the midfield will always create chances but Croatia have occasionally looked toothless
E.W. Terms
Sky bet