Nation goes bonkers as England progress into last four



A few months ago, if you said you would see fully grown adults up and down the country belting out an Atomic Kitten tune in pubs, clubs and basically anywhere with a TV screen you would have been ridiculed. But that is the summer we are in the midst of, a simply ridiculous one.

Along with Three Lions, a reworded version of Atomic Kitten’s Whole Again has been reverberating around the country as the sun beats down on England and the Three Lions romp their way through Russia. Their latest test was passed with minimal fuss as they despatched a hard-working, yet limited Sweden side on Saturday, ensuring a World Cup semi-final spot for the first time since 1990.

Gareth Southgate’s side will now travel to the cavernous Luzhniki Stadium where Croatia will attempt to extend our 52 years of hurt that has wracked the nation since the triumph in 1966. It is a golden opportunity for the Three Lions, but of course, they cannot underestimate Croatia with the Vatreni making their second appearance at this stage of the competition since their first World Cup adventure in 1998.

Blessed with a golden generation, many see this as Croatia’s last chance of success for a little while with world-class talents like Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic both in their 30s. Away from the midfield duo, Mario Mandzukic will be a physical presence up top with Ivan Perisic always a lively option on the flank.

There will be plenty of familiar names for English football fans in the Croatian team with a number of the squad spending some part of their careers over here. Vedran Corluka’s was at Spurs at the same time as Modric, while the veteran centre-back also turned out for Manchester City. Fellow defender Dejan Lovren was a mainstay of the Liverpool side that blitzed their way to the Champions League final earlier this year, with former Blackburn Rovers man Nikola Kalinic kicked out of the squad for refusing to come on in the group stage clash with Nigeria.

Zlatko Dalic’s side have reached this stage of the competition following successive penalty shootout victories over Denmark and Russia respectively and at times, the Balkan nation have ridden their luck. While they have plenty of good players to look out for, England should not fear them too much as if you are able to stop Modric and Rakitic from playing (which is admittedly easier said than done) then you are effectively able to stop Croatia.

The one game in which the duo were afforded plenty of space was against Argentina when they blew the South Americans off the park with a 3-0 win in the group stage. Wednesday’s game with the Three Lions will likely be a much tighter match and it could be settled by the odd goal.

Ahead of the match, England have been made favourites, yet they are probably a little shorter than their actual mark as bookies fear a rush of money on the Three Lions. Betfred have England at 11/8 to win in 90 minutes and 8/13 to make the final. Croatia meanwhile are 5/4 to take to the field on Sunday with a win inside 90 for the Vatreni at 13/5. That is probably the value pick, but you don’t want to be betting against England do you – unless you’re Scottish of course?

After all, Southgate you’re the one, you still turn me on, football’s coming home again!