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England a Large Favorite Against Battle-Hardened Croatia

The second of two 2018 World Cup semifinals kicks off on Wednesday at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow when Croatia and England square off with a berth in the final on the line and after the Croats knocked off the hosts, the English will likely receive some unprecedented support from the Russian contingent.

England, +130 favorites on the moneyline at Bovada, cruised against Sweden but the Three Lions will face their stiffest test to this point when they line up against a battle-hardened Croatian side that’s been grinding its way through the knockout stage, winning two penalty shootouts to make it this far.

SHARK BITES
  • Croatia is unbeaten in 9 straight World Cup matches (including qualifiers).
  • Harry Kane leads the Golden Boot race with 6 goals and is the co-favorite to win Golden Ball.
  • In their last 6 head-to-head matches, ENG and CRO have scored an average of 4.7 total goals.

The remaining moneylines at Bovada have Croatia installed at +250 and the draw looking tempting at +220 with three of these teams’ four elimination games needing extra time so far.

Totals bettors will see an OVER/UNDER of 2 with the OVER priced at -115 and considering that nine of England and Croatia’s 10 combined 2018 World Cup matches have had at least two goals, OVER could be the bet to make if you’re not confident in either side.

Croatia Gets Across the Checkered Line

Yes, they’ve needed penalties to resolve their last two matches against Denmark and Russia but this Croatian team just doesn’t seem to lose and they’ve now gone unbeaten in nine straight competitive matches. That last loss was all the way back in September of 2017 when they dropped a 1-0 result in Turkey.

The oldest team remaining in the tournament, the Croatians have developed some serious chemistry – especially through the midfield. Luka Modric and Ivan Rakatic have been two of the best pivots in Russia this summer and represent Croatia’s biggest advantage against England in the semis.

If Croatia wins the battle in the middle of the field and is able to limit service to Harry Kane, England will get frustrated and overextend.

The Three Lions are the first attacking team Croatia has played since that dismantling of Argentina and this game could play out in a similar way if The Blazers get on the board first.

England’s Golden Boy Has to Lead the Way

Arguably the most important player to any team’s success at the 2018 World Cup, Harry Kane is the -700 favorite to win Golden Boot with six goals to his name and he’s the +350 co-favorite with the 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe to win Golden Ball as the tournament’s most outstanding player.

If England is going to qualify for its first final since the nation’s only other appearance in 1966, Kane will need to have an impact against Croatia – on the scoresheet or otherwise. Harry didn’t manage a goal or an assist in England’s 2-0 win over Sweden but his hold-up play was terrific and he opened things up for other players on multiple occasions.

The biggest issue for England at this tournament has been an inability to score from open play and no man knows that better than Raheem Sterling. The Man City forward has been snake-bitten and is still without a goal despite his large number of quality scoring chances.

With Croatia likely devoting most of its resources to Kane in this match, Sterling could be the X factor and he has +300 odds to score anytime in regulation.

Goals Galore in Previous Meetings

While they haven’t met on an international pitch since 2009, England and Croatia have played six times since 2003 and those games had an insane average total of 4.7 goals with all but one of them seeing more than two goals.

It’s a bit difficult to judge from those contests with Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Rakitic the only overlapping players from either team since their last meeting but that history of goal scoring is tough to ignore.

Both sides can put the ball in the net and they’ve both been doing it at this tournament. Will we see four or five? Probably not but it’s not outrageous to project a 1-1, 2-0 or 2-1 final score after regular time and OVER 2 should be seriously considered.

Favorite Bets for Croatia vs England

This game is a coin flip for me and because of that, I’ll back Croatia at +130 to advance all day. I have a lot of stake in Croatia winning the World Cup so why stop betting on them now?

Croatia has the advantage if this one needs penalties with a spectacular stopper in Danijel Subašić saving four penalties through his team’s two shootout wins. No other keeper has stopped that many penalties at a World Cup and I rate him higher than Jordan Pickford if we need spot kicks to find a winner.

Also, England has far too many Tottenham players to win a semifinal.