After both losing to Spain in their opening matches, Croatia host England in their latest UEFA Nations League match.
Stadion HNK Rijeka, Reka, Croatia (Hrvatska)
Key Stat: Croatia have conceded 11 goals in their last three matches since beating England at the World Cup.
Expert Verdict: Croatia beat England in the World Cup semi-finals but were thrashed 6-0 against Spain in their opening UEFA Nations League match - the same team who had narrowly beaten England 2-1. Croatia's strengths were clear in the World Cup match between the two but with a number of players ruled out injured, England's young team can at least claim a point from this match.
Croatia have been struck by injuries, with Lovre Kalinic, Sime Vrsaljko, Borna Barisic, Ivan Strinic, Marcelo Brozovic and Duje Cop all ruled out. Since the World Cup, Mario Mandzukic, Verdran Corluka and Danijel Subasic have all retired, meanwhile. Kalinic’s injury and Subasic’s retirement means only one of the three goalkeepers has won a Croatian cap – Dominik Livakovic having played once, while Simon Sluga and Karlo Letica are pushing for an international debut. Karlo Bartolec is the other uncapped player in the squad. Dejan Lovren returns, meanwhile, having overcome a pelvis injury.
Luka Modric – While several experienced players have retired, World Cup golden ball winner and FIFA Player of the Year Luka Modric remains as captain.
Ivan Rakitic – Alongside Modric in the midfield, Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic – who has now won 100 caps – is also still in the set-up.
Ivan Perisic – Scored the equaliser in the World Cup match between the two – one of 22 international goals in 75 appearances for the Inter forward.
Croatia have not won any of the three matches they have played since beating England in the World Cup semi-finals thanks to Mario Mandzukic’s extra-time winner – after Ivan Perisic had cancelled out Kieran Trippier’s opener. They lost 4-2 in the World Cup final to France – Perisic and Mandzukic again scoring their goals – before a 1-1 friendly draw with Portugal, when Perisic made it three goals in three games. Last time out, however, they came crashing back down to earth with a 6-0 drubbing in Spain in their opening UEFA Nations League match.
Defenders:Marko Rog, Domagoj Vida, Dejan Lovren, Josip Pivaric
Defensive Midfielders:Ivan Rakitic
Attacking Midfielders:Ivan Perisic, Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic, Ante Rebic
England have opted for a young squad to face Croatia and Spain, with seven uncapped players selected. That includes Lewis Dunk, a late addition to the squad after James Tarkowski dropped out injured. Ben Chilwell, who made his debut against Switzerland, has also been recalled after Luke Shaw’s injury. From the last squad, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Fabian Delph, Jesse Lingard, Demarai Gray, Dele Alli and Adam Lallana are also missing, with Nathaniel Chalobah, James Maddison, Mason Mount and Jadon Sancho all looking to make their international debuts. Mount is one of two Championship players in the squad, alongside goalkeeper Jack Butland, while Dortmund teenager Sancho is the only player based outside of England. Ross Barkley and Harry Winks have also been recalled, meanwhile, but there is no place for Joe Hart despite an impressive start to life at Burnley.
Harry Kane – The captain and World Cup golden boot winner has scored 19 times in 32 England appearances in all.
Kieran Trippier – Scored against Croatia at the World Cup and is a key figure to the current system thanks to his tireless performances at wing-back.
Marcus Rashford – Scored in both of England’s games in September and, despite indifferent form for Man United, would be unlucky not to start against Croatia.
Defeat to Spain in their UEFA Nations League match actually made it three defeats in a row for England, who ended what had otherwise been a successful World Cup with semi-final defeat to Croatia after extra time and a 2-0 loss to Belgium in the 3rd/4th-place play-off. Marcus Rashford gave England the lead against Spain, but the visitors hit back through Saul Niguez and Rodrigo and held on to win 2-1 after England had a last-minute equaliser controversially ruled out for a foul. Rashford scored the winner as England got back to winning ways last time out, however, with a 1-0 victory against Switzerland.
Defenders:Joe Gomez, John Stones, Harry Maguire
Defensive Midfielders:Eric Dier
Attacking Midfielders:Kieran Trippier, Ross Barkley, James Maddison, Danny Rose
Forwards:Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford
Croatia’s World Cup semi-final win against England was their third in eight previous games between the two, as Ivan Perisic cancelled out Kieran Trippier’s early opener before Mario Mandzukic’s stoppage-time winner. It was their first match against each other since England won 4-1 away and 5-1 at home against the Croatians during World Cup 2010 qualification – exacting revenge for losing both matches as they were eliminated from Euro 2008 qualifying.
Both Croatia and England have very different squads compared to their World Cup semi-finals, with injuries and retirements hitting the hosts hard and injuries prompting the visitors to turn to youth.
England’s squad looks geared for the future, with nobody older than 28 in the entire selection and seven uncapped players called up. A further four players have less than five caps.
Key players from Croatia’s run to the World Cup final remain, however. Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic are in the middle and Ivan Perisic – who scored the equaliser against England – will be on the wing.
Mateo Kovacic, who has impressed with Chelsea, will also feature, while Domagoj Vida offers experience at the back.
The injuries may indeed have made some selection decisions easier for Zlatko Dalic, given Croatia’s 6-0 pummeling at the hands of Spain last time out.
While Croatia were thrashed, England will feel aggrieved not to have earned a point from their encounter with Spain – a last-minute equaliser controversially chalked off for a foul.
With Harry Kane up front, Marcus Rashford scoring in his last two games and the returning Ross Barkley in resurgent form, there are goals and creativity in this team. James Maddison is an exciting prospect and could make his debut in the middle.
At the back, John Stones and Harry Maguire were commanding in both boxes during the World Cup, while Kieran Trippier was crucial at right wing-back at both ends.
Croatia, with home advantage, still start as favourites – they exposed England’s weaknesses at the World Cup and nullified their attacking threat after a positive English start.
But it is tight between the two, and a draw – while not much good in terms of winning the group, would at least keep both teams in with a good chance of avoiding relegation to the second tier of the new UEFA Nations League.
England made themselves difficult to beat before the World Cup, and indeed it took extra time to separate these two in Russia. A draw could well be on the cards.
The bookmakers seem unable to split England and Croatia, with Bet365 offering a best price of 9/5 on Croatia to win and the same on England to win.
Bet365, Betfair and Betway are all offering 11/5 on the draw, meanwhile – and that looks tempting.
Both teams scored when these teams last met, but both teams to score has been set at evens with 10Bet. A draw and BTTS is 7/2 with Bet365, Betway, and 888sport meanwhile.
Harry Kane is unsurprisingly England’s favourite to score at any time, at 7/5 with Ladbrokes and Betway, but Marcus Rashford has two in two and could be worth a look at a best price of 3/1 with Betfair and Paddy Power.
Ivan Perisic is 7/2 with those two, meanwhile, having scored in the World Cup semi-final against England and added two more since then.
There is very little between Croatia and England, just as there was at the World Cup, and a draw would probably not be a bad result for both teams either.