England and Croatia first met back in 1996, a 0-0 friendly draw, and as they prepare to face off in a ‘ghost game’ this evening in Rijeka one might be inclined to think the game will have a similar feel.
With both managers having made a string of changes to the sides that faced off in the World Cup final earlier this summer, it would be easy to pick apart the chances of a Croatian side that have lost top-scorer Mario Mandzukic to retirement.
We expect a fierce encounter though, and after comments have circulated in the media this week from the likes of Luka Modric and coach Zlatko Dalić, expressing their feelings of a lack of respect shown by the English media in the build-up to the World Cup semi-final, they’ll no doubt be out to prove a point.
Despite the changes made by Dalić, it will most likely be a case of familiar foes for England as they face up against a Croatian side that are still rich in talent. An obvious man to look towards to cause damage would be playmaker Modric, who not only won the golden ball at the World Cup, but recently scooped the ‘Best Male Player’ award at the Best FIFA Football Awards.
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Aside from him, Ivan Rakitić is another man that the likes of Kane and Dier will know all too well having seen him drill in a stunning goal past their club side Spurs in the Champions League just last week.
The other side that Spurs have lost to so far in this season’s Champions League though is Inter Milan, and it’s their tricky winger Ivan Perisic that we think could prove a real menacing figure in tonight’s UEFA Nations League clash.
Here GentingBet have taken a deeper look at the stats that define the threat he possesses…
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The 29-year old nabbed a goal and assisted the winning goal against England on July 11th either side of hitting the post, and has been somewhat of a stalwart for Croatia down the years now the top scorer in the side with 22 goals from 75 appearances from the wing.
If his performance against England at the recent World Cup wasn’t enough to strike fear into the hearts of Southgate’s men, his performance across the whole tournament was also exemplary, emphasising his credentials.
The Inter man covered the most ground at this year’s World Cup (72.5 kilometres – 2nd highest ever at a World Cup) and recorded the most sprints (357 – 70 more than anyone else). Through this work rate, he was able to rain down the second highest number of shots on goal at this summer’s tournament (22), with his goal scoring strike in the final making him the first every Croatian to score in a World Cup final.
That goal made sure he’s been involved in more goals at major tournaments than any other Croatian, 11 to be precise, leaving us with no worries about his ability to step up for the big occasion.
Perisic was the second most dangerous player in the 2014 World Cup group stages (Castrol Index), and since then aside from international football he’s also been a figure of consistency in an Inter Milan shirt to earn huge respect from former manager Jose Mourinho.
“He’s different. Normally wingers are just fast and creative, but he’s also physical, very physical. Fantastic in the air.”
The words of Mourinho above should not be taken lightly by England in tonight’s game, as Perisic has combined to be involved in 56 goals for Inter Milan in his past three full seasons at the club. It makes you wonder why United weren’t prepared to cough up an extra £3m to sign Perisic as reports have suggested to be the case in the media in recent days.
With four in his last five for Croatia, Pickford will need to be on red hot form tonight to deny Perisic and Croatia from again taking away the spoils.
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