S2 SCORE with theSun JULY 13, 2018

7.30pm Daily i 14 June - 15 July 2018 . i e - July 2018

Tactical switch transforms Croatia from zeroes to heroes Dalic’s stratagem



Sterling and there was precious little support forMarioMandzukic in attack. For a team who have been consistently well-organised and effective throughout this tournament, itwas a strange stateof affairsbut crucially they were able to turn it around and Englandhadno answer. Rebic and Perisic were pushed higher and with Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic clearly under instructions to feed them quickly, Trippier andYoung suddenlyhad their hands full. The early success of the wide-men in pushing back England’s wingbacks, also gave the opportunity to Croatia’s fullbacks Sime Vrsaljko and Ivan Strinic to get forward more. With Trippier and Young facing a double threat,England’smidfieldbegantobestretched with Jordan Henderson taking on an unmanageable work-load and Jesse Lingard andDeleAllimorepre-occupiedwithhelping out the defenders than asking questions of Croatia’s backline. The momentumof the game had changed and when Perisic equalised for Croatia in the 68thminute itwas no real surprise. England had no answer – neither on the field as their passing game was replaced by hastyclearances and longballs forwardnoron thebenchasSouthgatewasunabletomakethe switches thatmight have changed the game. “Thegeneral all-roundperceptionwas that this is a new-look Englandwho have changed their ways of punting long balls upfield but whenwe pressed them it turned out that they haven’t,”Croatia fullback SimeVrsaljko said. When things clicked for Croatia they had the quality of Modric and Rakitic, who finally began to dictate the tempo and flow of the game asmany had expected theywould. Southgate’s only response was to take off Sterling for Marcus Rashford, keeping the same formation and failing to tackle the areas inwhichCroatiawere dominating. England’s lack of a genuine creative midfielderisnotanewproblemandSouthgate has done well to devise a system that can compensate for thatweakness. But his inexperienced teamwereunable to recapture the passing and movement and it was simply their fight that took them into extra-time. Croatiawerelookingliketheteamwhobeat Argentina 3-0, their tails were up and Mandzukics’s opportunist finish secured a victory fewcoulddenywas deserved. Theynowtheyhave thechance touse their tactical intelligence and mental strength against a formidable France teamon Sunday. –Reuters volleyed cross halfway through the second period was sublime, while his delivery from set-pieces was consistently on point. It is not an exaggeration to say that in Eng- land’s best tournament since 1990, since the days of Paul Gascoigne and Gary Lineker, their best player was Kieran Trippier. England’s new dawn When the pain subsides and the montage fades, this will be remembered as a campaign when England came together to achieve far more than anyone could have expected. Yes, it was a missed opportunity, but perhaps the bigger picture is that this was the start of something greater, something new. A shift to trust technical football and technical footballers. A change of mindset, no longer fearing penalties, or failure, or anything at all. It will take a while, but there is a silver lining somewhere. France are the favourites This was an opportunity not just to reach a World Cup final but to send out a message that the tournament could be won. England went out and Croatia struggled on, but neither looked like a side capable of beating France. Croatia will go to the final in Moscow, but they will go as huge underdogs. THE INDEPENDENT


C ROATIA ruthlessly exposed England’s limitations in the second half of the World Cup semifinal yesterday as Zlatko Dalic’s side fought back to secure a famous 2-1 extra-time victory. While it is players who winmatches there can be little doubt that a tactical switch from the cannyDalic transformed the game. Pushingwide players Ante Rebic and Ivan Perisic intomore advanced roles was not the most complexmovebut itwasone that turned thematch on its head. Gareth Southgate’s Englandhadmade it to

the last four by playing a brand of progressive passing football and there was enough of that in the opening 45 minutes, after Kieran Trippier’s fifth-minute goal, to keep them comfortably on top. Croatia struggled from the outset. They gifted England a huge amount of space in midfieldandallowedwingbacksAshleyYoung and Trippier to push forward and provide options. More worryingly for Dalic, the basic qualitiesof his side simplywerenot there.The passing was too often inaccurate, the defence struggled to cope with the pace of Raheem

VS 1 2

Trippier5’ England


Perisic68’ Mandzukic109’


Croatia’s Ivan Perisic scores the equaliser against England during yesterday’s Russia 2018 World Cup semifinal match inMoscow. – REUTERSPIX

Oneunhappy Croatian IF THERE is one Croatian who isn’t happy they beat England to reach the World Cup final then it might be Nicola Kalinic (below) . As they slouched to the turf and broke down in tears, it was hard to think of anyone feeling worse than England’s players, de- feated by Croatia in a World Cup semifinal. And then you remember Kalinic. The ACMilan striker, once of Blackburn, was supposed to be vital back-up for Mario Mandzukic in Zlatko Dalic’s squad but when he was called upon against Nigeria in the group stage at 2-0 up, he refused to come on. Kalinic, 30, said he had a back injury and thus couldn’t play but the coach and medical teams did not believe him and the veteran forward was sent home from the tournament. “During the Nigeria encounter, Kalinic was warming up and was supposed to come on in the second half,” Dalic said at the time. “However, he then stated that he wasn’t ready to come on due to a back issue. The same thing happened during the Brazil friendly in England, as well as before the practice session on Sunday. “I have calmly accepted that, and since I need my players fit and ready to play, I have made this decision.” Even a man short and with two-hour knockout games and penalty shootouts being thrown at them, Croatia continued on through and overcame England after extra-time to reach the World Cup final. Kalinic will be watching on from home, you’d guess, but a penny for the thoughts of the man who turned his back (problem) on the smallest country to reach a World Cup final since Uruguay in 1950, a time when football was barely even the same sport as it is today. – The Independent

Could Southgate have shuffled his pack? It is easy to say with hindsight, but Eng- land finished this match with the look of a teamwho ran out of puff. It would have been a brave call by Southgate to change a winning team, a teamwhich almost went 2- 0 ahead before halftime, but in the second half it seemed clear that Dele Alli was stretched, that Ashley Young was being pulled this way and that, that Raheem Sterling’s influence was dwindling. Harry Kane could barely move in extra time and Kieran Trippier hobbled off. Could Southgate have made changes coming into this game? Could he have used some of the fresh legs from his bench? Had he done so and lost he would have faced criticism, so perhaps there was no way of winning. But there was no denying that England left this World Cup a shadow of the energetic side that started it. Croatia deserve credit Croatia had been something of a basket case heading into this World Cup. There is the court case hanging over Luka Modric and Dejan Lovren, the change in manage- ment during qualifying, the constant tinkering of tactics before Russia. In the tournament they have changed personnel and formation throughout, as Zlatko Dalic searched for a combination

we learned fromthe Englandvs Croatiamatch

that worked. He seems to have found that in this 4-3-3, but the players should take most of the credit for adapting to every- thing thrown at them in this World Cup, and earning their place in the final. Trippier masterplan What was Trippier’s first professional goal? A curling freekick from 25 yards. His second? A curling freekick from 25 yards. His career has been a slow burner, showing promise at Barnsley, quietly impressing at Burnley, patiently waiting at Tottenham, and it is hard to conclude anything other than that this must have been another one of Gareth Southgate’s cunning plans, a stroke of genius to scurry away the best right foot in English football for the past eight years in order to unfurl it in all its glory in the fifth minute of a World Cup semi-final. And what a right foot. He doesn’t drive his foot straight through the ball, nor does he wrap it round. Instead he finds a sweet spot between the two, a furious whip that imparts bend and dip. The first-time

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