Croatia vs England – Nations League preview

World Cup finalists Croatia entertain England in their second game of the Nations League at the Stadion HNK Rijeka. The teams are expected to play the match in closed-doors on Friday night after UEFA sanctioned the hosts for the swastika sign spotted during their Euro 2016 qualifier against Italy at the Polijud stadium three years ago.

Form:

Croatia are yet to win a game since the World Cup semi-final against England. During the last international break, they played out a 1-1 friendly draw against Portugal on the road before suffering their worst-ever defeat in history after a 6-0 thumping by Spain in their Nations League opener.

England, on the other hand, also suffered a 2-1 defeat to Spain in their opening game of the Nations League but they managed to end a three-man winless run after securing a close 1-0 triumph over Switzerland in an international friendly at the Wembley Stadium.

Previous meeting:

The last encounter between the countries was during the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup where Croatia came out victors by a 2-1 scoreline. England appeared on course to reach their first final in 52 years after Kieran Trippier scored via a sublime freekick within the fifth minute.

However, they thereafter could not find the creativity to dislodge the opposition and this cost them dearly with Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic scoring in the second half of normal time and added extra time respectively. Croatia thereby reached their maiden World Cup final where they lost out to France.

Players to watch for:

Ante Rebic – Croatia:  The 25-year-old made the headlines before the World Cup after bagging a sublime brace during Eintracht Frankfurt’s shock 3-1 win over Bayern Munich in the DFB Cup final. Thereafter, he was a regular presence in the Croatian line up in Russia after being benefited by Nikola Kalinic’s removal due to disciplinary reasons and he made his presence felt with his excellent workrate in the frontline. With Mario Mandzukic no longer serving Croatia, Rebic could be one of those tasked with the role of leading the line with the physical presence and aggression which kept the opposition backline on their feet in Russia. Rebic missed the previous round of internationals through injury but has returned in fine form with three goals from four appearances.

Marcus Rashford – England: Rashford has had an ordinary season with Manchester United this term but this has not been the case with the national side where he has excelled with goals in back-to-back matches against Spain and Switzerland. One thing in common with both club and country has been the marksman’s tendency to creep into goalscoring positions, only to struggle to convert his chances. This cost the Three Lions during the Nations League opener versus Spain where the youngster was guilty of squandering two other scoring opportunities but he should nevertheless be expected to start with Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard on the sidelines. He has bagged a solitary goal for Manchester United this campaign.

Prediction:

Croatia 1-2 England

Image – Getty

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