Published: Wed, July 11, 2018
Sports | By Brooke Harris

Gareth Southgate says England face toughest World Cup test against Croatia

Gareth Southgate says England face toughest World Cup test against Croatia

But the dearth of England supporters means chants of soccer anthem "Three Lions" and its catchy chorus "it's coming home" may be hard to discern in Moscow despite a last-minute dash to the Russian capital by some supporters.

Fears of violence and racism ahead of the World Cup, bolstered by memories of clashes between England and Russian Federation fans Marseille during the European Championship in France in 2016, may have put supporters off travel to Russian Federation for the tournament.

This is a proud nation and a proud football team, and to reach a World Cup final would represent a truly remarkable story. "Why would we change given how far we have come playing as we have?" Southgate wants to break stereotypes, and not just on the field.

Former England manager Glenn Hoddle is concerned with Harry Kane's fitness ahead of Wednesday's World Cup semi-final against Croatia.

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"I'm rare breed. I'm an Englishman that doesn't drink tea, " he said. In the other four games, Croatia's only variable to its 4-2-3-1 formation was whether to start captain Luka Modric in a deep midfield role and Andrej Kramaric more advanced, or to move up Modric and start Marcelo Brozovic.

"But we enjoy to play against big teams, as we showed against Argentina, and have nothing to lose".

With an average age of 26, England is one of the youngest teams at the World Cup. "We know what's at stake and at such moments you forget fatigue you may feel because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity - it may never repeat itself again".

The Tottenham man returned to the side for the last-16 and quarter-final clashes against Colombia and Sweden respectively, but Hoddle says he did not look 100 per cent fit.

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"I think Raheem has been fundamental to the way that we have played - his movement, the positions he takes up, his pressing of the ball, his work-rate for the team, the winning of free-kicks and corners, his speed to stretch teams". Their last appearance ended in a 2-1 defeat by eventual winners France in 1998.

"It's completely irrelevant, " he said through a translator.

They have been taken to penalties in both their knockout games and while they would probably have preferred not to have played an extra hour of football, they did so after coming from behind. "You are just nitpicking my poor performances".

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