Gallant Croatia undone by France’s star quality

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Football is a game of clichés. Indeed, one of the oldest ones in the book suggests that intelligent coaching and tactical systems can only take a team so far; world class players are the real difference makers. And so it proved tonight as France secured a second FIFA World Cup trophy after defeating Croatia 4-2 in Moscow. For the best part of an hour, the Vatreni were definitely the superior side and were extremely unlucky to find themselves 2-1 down at half-time thanks to a dubious penalty in the opening 45 minutes. Continue reading

France are favourites but Croatia may be destined for glory

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Regardless of what happens in tomorrow’s FIFA World Cup final between France and Croatia, the Vatreni have already made history this summer. Indeed, they are the first team in the tournament’s history to reach the final after each of their three knockout matches went to extra time. Denmark, Russia and England have all taken Zlatko Dalić’s side beyond 90 minutes, which many fear could take its toll on them physically in the Luzhniki Stadium. Continue reading

Why Croatia must grasp glorious opportunity with both hands

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Fans of the Croatian national team have spent much of the last 20 years pining for a side to do them as proud as the ‘Class of 98’ did at the World Cup in France. Unfortunately for them, no group of players has ever come close to matching the third-place finish earned by Davor Šuker, Zvonimir Boban and their colleagues. Comparisons between Miroslav Blažević’s squad and the Vatreni’s current crop of stars are inevitable, especially now that they have reached the semi-finals where they will face England, another country which has struggled to live up to billing in recent years. Continue reading

Why Russia and Croatia both fancy their chances of reaching the semi-finals

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England will never get a better chance of reaching the World Cup final. That has been the rhetoric among fans and journalists for over a week now. While Gareth Southgate and his players are determined to remain humble, there is already a certain arrogance creeping into the mind-set of many people around the Three Lions camp. Amid the battle cries of ‘It’s Coming Home’, it seems to have been forgotten that none of Sweden, Russia or Croatia will simply roll over and give England a free pass to the final, where they would face one of Uruguay, France, Brazil or Belgium. Continue reading

Euro Fantasy League Podcast – #22 – Round of 16 Review, Quarter-Finals Predicted

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Dave and Jamie return to round up what’s been going on in those seven long days since they last darkened the airwaves. The group stages have finished, the round of 16 is now also done and dusted and now we look ahead to the quarters, and beyond.

#It’sComingHome #DareToDream

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Best Goalkeeper of the Week – Alisson Becker (Brazil)

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With the group stages of the Russia 2018 World Cup now firmly in the history books and the round of 16 having begun in earnest, let’s take a look at which goalkeeper has been the best over the past few days. There have been some notable performances of course – Jordan Pickford‘s outing for England against Belgium brought some harsh criticism despite the fact that Belgium’s goal, scored by former Sunderland team-mate Adnan Januzaj, was a belter. Otherwise the Everton stopper had a solid game as usual. Kasper Schmeichel had a great game for Denmark even though the former European champions crashed out at the hands of Croatia, and Hyun-Woo Cho deserves credit as South Korea kept a clean sheet against world champions Germany to send them home.

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Subašić the hero as Croatia set up quarter-final clash against Russia

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Make no mistake, Croatia were far from their best last night as they struggled to break down a stubborn Denmark defence. Indeed, the Vatreni could have had no complaints had they been eliminated after turning in such a poor performance in Nizhny Novgorod. As it turned out, Zlatko Dalić’s side prevailed by three goals to two after a tense and nerve-wracking penalty shootout which saw veteran Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subašić emerge as a national hero. Continue reading

Mario Mandžukić is an elite striker: he has nothing to prove

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Despite the fact that Croatia reached the knockout stage of this summer’s FIFA World Cup with maximum points, having conceded just one goal in the process, Mario Mandžukić has been subjected to a degree of criticism from his own fans. Indeed, the 32-year-old is yet to open his account in the tournament so far, but that is, quite frankly, besides the point. After all, Mandžukić’s reputation for being one of the best strikers in the world is built on far more than just being a pure goalscorer. Continue reading

Nullifying Eriksen threat pivotal to Croatia’s World Cup mission

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Having collected maximum points from their three Group D fixtures against Nigeria, Argentina and Iceland, it is unsurprising that Croatia are now regarded as one of the favourites to win this summer’s FIFA World Cup. The Vatreni entered the tournament as ‘dark horses’ – of course they did – but, with a series of impressive performances on the pitch, they have now earned the right to be considered much more than rank outsiders. Continue reading

World Cup Preview

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After the first break of the tournament, the World Cup is ready to proceed with what promise to be four great days of football. The round of 16 will kick off later today with two of the most interesting match-ups on paper: France-Argentina and Uruguay-Spain.

Les Bleus have won two out of three matches in the group stage, but they have been rather uninspiring so far, squeaking by Australia and Peru and drawing with Denmark. The Albiceleste is the poster child of not playing up to their talent: they showed great character in the thriller against Nigeria, but their manoeuvre is still way too discombobulated. Both teams need to improve to go far, but they have an excellent launching pad early because eliminating a contender always gives you a big boost. Continue reading