Southgate and Henderson preview Croatia

Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric will provide a tough test for England on Wednesday

Before their arrival in Russia, England had not won a knockout game since the 2006 World Cup.

England and Croatia have set up an unexpected semifinal clash.

After making history with England's first-ever penalty-shootout win at a World Cup against Colombia, the Three Lions did what many of their predecessors would have failed to do-get through a quarter-final against a team of Sweden's calibre in relative comfort.

England's campaign can be defined in one line - It's coming home! - England has scored 11 goals at this year's World Cup, tying its record from the victorious 1966 tournament.

"They aren't in the semifinal for no reason", he said at a news conference. Gareth Southgate is being hailed as a national waistcoat-wearing hero after an unexpected successful campaign. - Harry Kane has scored on six of the seven days of the week for England, with Wednesday the exception.

England and Croatia have met seven times previously, with the Three Lions winning four to the Blazers' two, and the fixture has nearly always delivered goals.

"But that team [in 1996] was a lot more experienced in terms of its age and experience of big matches". England went down 3-4 to Croatia that snatched the country's chance of qualifying for Euro 2008.

"We were never quite sure how far this team could go", Southgate said. England hosts the richest football league in the world - English Premier League - but has somehow failed to carry those building blocks to the worldwide stage.

But Southgate thinks talk of that handing a physical advantage to England is being overplayed.

The contribution of Raheem Sterling remains a polarizing debate in England with the Manchester City player without a goal for his country since October, 2015 but Southgate says the forward's contribution in Russian Federation has been essential.

"We know the quality of their players and the spirit they have as a nation".

"It's a massive game for us, we all know that, but there's no need to make it bigger than what it already is".

In Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, Croatia boast two of the finest midfielders in world football, a fact not lost on fellow schemer Henderson. Otherwise, England have no fitness issues going into the last-four.

One only has to look at the roll call of clubs the Croatians play for to understand that: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Atlético Madrid, Liverpool, Monaco.

Croatia, on the other hand, did not have easy wins this World Cup. They may have been forced to overcome Denmark and Russian Federation with penalty shoot-outs, but they cruised through their group with a 100 percent record and possess world-class stars such as Modric and Ivan Rakitic.

Related news: