How England and Croatia booked World Cup semi-final meeting

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Both of these teams have got better as the tournament has gone on, and they have both claimed notable scalps too - France by beating Argentina in the last 16 and Belgium knocking out my tip, Brazil, in the quarter-finals.

England, meanwhile, are yet to beat any of the so-called bigger teams in the tournament and yet find themselves in the semifinals - such is the unpredictable nature in which the World Cup has unfolded.

Their quarter-final exit on penalties to Croatia, among the most skilled teams here, on Saturday was further proof that Russian Federation never meant to just playing along. France will face Belgium in St. Petersburg on July 10, while the England vs Croatia match will be played at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on July 11. "There is pressure but also enjoyment of being in the World Cup semi-finals", Mandzukic said.

OPENING SALVO Russia had delivered the ideal opening salvo, firing five goals past the Saudis in the World Cup opening match that instantly gave the home crowd a reason to turn their attention to football.

In the shootout, Mateo Kovacic missed his kick for Croatia, but two misses by Russia's Fedor Smolov and Fernandes handed The Blazers passage to the semis where England await. "But I'm sure one of us will find a way to surprise him".

"The Russia team fought well".

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"They showed from the games I've seen so far that they play direct football and they are very fast".

Southgate said it vindicated his decision to play a weakened team in the final group game against Belgium. In the knock-out stages, the Red Devils came from two goals down against Japan to win 3-2 before dumping favourites Brazil out of the tournament at the quarter-final stage with a fine 2-1 win.

Adding a little more to the stats trivia package, the Croatian win yesterday was the highest MM result for any event on Fox or Fox Sports since the 5.1 that the Daytona 500 raced to on February 18.

"There were times when we lacked energy: 240 minutes of football in six days takes its toll on you", said Modric who, like Mandzukic and Rakitic, is into his thirties.

Mr Hurley continued: "We're all really looking forward to cheering on Harry Kane and the boys".

Despite defeat, the home fans broke into heartfelt applause as they cheered their beaten side long and loud after the final whistle in recognition of their achievements against the odds. "We have everything needed to do that, a great team, great staff and I hope we will make the extra step", he said.