Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions navigated a tricky quarter final encounter with relative ease in the end. Jordan Pickford was on hand to thwart the few chances Sweden managed on goal, whilst England stuck to a solid game plan to press home their ascendency.
Taking the lead from a well worked set piece threw a spanner into the works of a well oiled Swedish machine. From there it was a routine display for England, as they rarely looked rushed or panicked, adding a second from open play, before comfortably seeing the game out.
England haven’t fallen for any of the obvious pitfalls that fans are used to seeing them fall for this summer. The favourable draw has thrown up some arguably less talented teams, but no worse than some of the nations who have stung the Three Lions at previous tournaments.
There are no easy games in a World Cup semi final, everyone is there on merit and they have all won their games one way or another to get to this point. Still, form suggests England should be confident going into this one and Southgate is unlikely to tinker with the formula unless forced to do so at this crucial stage.
Here’s the likely England line up for the semi final clash:
11. GK – Jordan Pickford
There was a lot of debate over who should get the number one jersey prior to this tournament, and Southgate made his choice with Jordan Pickford. It has proved to be the correct decision after the penalty heroics against Colombia and some outstanding saves in the Sweden tie.
Pickford has been one of the standout players for England, he’s quick off his line, he commands his area and his reflexes are excellent. He’s growing in confidence with each game and it starting to look like one of the best keepers England have had for a long, long time.
10. RWB – Kieran Trippier
Probably England’s best player at this World Cup, Harry Kane would be a very close second for his goals, but Kieran Trippier has been everywhere for England. A frequent threat down the wing with his intelligent runs and his whipped crosses but also incredible on the recovery, he gets back so fast and has produced some world class defending.
Add to that he takes the corners from that right hand side which England have profited off so much this summer, he’ll be the first name on the team sheet.
9. CB – Kyle Walker
Kyle Walker looked a little exposed in a more central role in his the group stages but he has grown into that role during the knockout rounds. England have been much tighter at the back in those two games only conceding one very late goal across the two games.
Another of Southgate’s decisions that has bore fruit this summer, they’ll be tough to break down for Croatia.
8. CB – John Stones
John Stones has looked a lot more like the £50m defender that Manchester City paid for at this World Cup; he’s been the rock in the middle of that backline. Agile, strong and dominant, there isn’t a striker left in this tournament who’ll fancy their chances up against Stones.
He added two goals in the Panama game to prove he’s a threat at the other end too, which has been crucial for the Three Lions who have scored so many goals from set pieces.
7. CB – Harry Maguire
Harry Maguire also proved himself a threat in the box with the opening goal against Sweden, which again will only boost England’s game plan, the more threats there are to mark the harder it will be for opposition teams to keep track.
He’s done his fair share of quality defending too but may still need to watch his positioning against the tougher sides, he likes to surge to forwards and better players will look to exploit that, to be fair to Maguire he hasn’t really been tested in that department yet.
6. LWB – Ashley Young
Ashley Young looked a little leggy towards the end of the 120 minutes against Colombia, as one of England’s older players he was tipped to be rested for the Sweden encounter. But Young did in fact start and put those fears to bed as he never once looked off the pace, the slower tone to the game helped Young contribute to comfortable 90 minutes so he should have no problems for the semi final.
The whole back line has been performing at an incredibly high standard so it would be a shock to see Southgate rotate that now and risk upsetting the chemistry.
5. CM – Jordan Henderson
Jordan Henderson is a doubt for the fixture after coming off with a suspected hamstring problem towards the end of the last game. Early reports are that the player is hopeful of being fit in time for the Croatia match and has been involved in light training this week so touch wood, he’ll be fine.
Few would have begrudged Eric Dier a starting spot before the tournament, but after his display against Belgium, he certainly looks a significant downgrade in that role, Henderson is also unbeaten in his last 30 games for England. If he’s fit, he will get the nod.
4. CAM – Jesse Lingard
Jesse Lingard is one of the unsung heroes of this impressive side with an average 93.6% pass completion at the World Cup so far. He is a prominent link in midfield and rarely wastes possession, he’s also had a more direct impact with one goal and one assist in four games.
Manchester United fans will know the threat he poses around the 18-yard box, he’ll definitely give Croatia something to think about.
3. CAM – Dele Alli
Dele Alli has had something of a stop start tournament due to an small injury sustained in the opening game. As such England haven’t really seen the best of him yet but he remains one of England’s best attacking players.
He got on the score sheet against Sweden which will do his confidence the world of good, he has the talent to produce more moments of magic and he could be a difference maker between now and the end of the tournament.
2. ST – Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling has received some unwarranted criticism at this World Cup especially after missing two big chances in that Sweden game, one of which he could have put across for Alli. Sterling created those chances out of nothing though and was outstanding in a supporting role for England against Sweden.
It’s easy to ignore things like Sterling pulling his marker behind the path of Maguire’s run, blocking off the defenders and creating a free header for the centre half in the build up to the first goal. That’s the attacking intelligence he offers to this team and that’s why he’ll continue to start over Marcus Rashford.
1. ST – Harry Kane
Is there any doubt? Harry Kane is the current top scorer at this World Cup and England’s joint all-time top scorer at a single tournament. England’s captain has been on fire and will have a huge role to play still if England are to lift the World Cup on Sunday.
He’s arguably the best forward left in this competition and his strike rate is second to none, he’s a huge boost to England’s chances and like Trippier he’ll be one of the first names on the team sheet.