England vs Croatia – Sunday, November 18, 14:00GMT/15:00CET – Wembley, London, England
It will be a proper final when England and Croatia meet at Wembley on Sunday. The winner of the match will win the UEFA Nations League Group 4, and the loser will be relegated. A draw, in the meantime, would see Spain finish top of the group and Croatia relegated to League B.
UEFA wanted to get rid of meaningless friendlies when they introduced the Nations League and regarding drama on the final matchday of UEFA Nations League A Group 4 the continental football association may have succeeded.
While relegation from the top level at first glance would not be the end of the world, there is the fact that it could also mean not being seeded as one of the top ten teams at the Euro 2020 draw that will take place later this year.
Hence, this is a match that does not only determine the group winner and relegation but also has an impact on the Euro 2020 draw. On top of that, there is, however, another storyline.
The two countries met in the semifinal of the 2018 FIFA World Cup where Croatia eliminated England in extra-time. The two countries have since met drawing their first game 0-0 in Rijeka in October. But that game was played in front of empty ranks and, therefore, did not have the proper satisfaction of a replay that many in the English public have been graving.
Since that tournament England head coach Gareth Southgate has continued to develop an England side that shows plenty of promise. On Thursday England dismantled the United States 3-0 in Wayne Rooney’s testimonial match. Talented players like Jadon Sancho, Callum Wilson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Lewis Drunk and Alex McCarthy all played their role in what was the most inexperienced England side since 1980.
It is a sign of changing times. England seem to be committed to continuing the rebuild with Southgate not being blinded by a World Cup run that was in many ways not representative of the true strength of the Three Lions.
For Croatia, in the meantime, there is still a belief that the core of the World Cup squad has at least another tournament in them. “We are a small country. After the World Cup, Mario Mandžukić, Vedran Ćorluka and Danijel Subašić retired, which was hard for us to compensate,” assistant coach Ivica Olić explained in an interview with the German magazine kicker earlier this week.
Despite losing those key players, Croatia, however, recovered from their heavy 6-0 defeat to Spain earlier in the competition and managed to take revenge with a surprise 3-2 victory over Spain on Thursday, setting up a wonderful final against Spain. Tin Jedvaj’s game-winning goal in the 93′ minute highlights that the Balkan nation should never be counted out and with the backs to the wall do not be surprised if Croatia emerges with the three points to finish top of the group.
England vs Croatia – Players to look out for:
Jadon Sancho #7 – England (Borussia Dortmund)
Jadon Sancho is one of the most exciting players in Europe at the moment. The 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund winger started against the United States on Thursday but will likely come off the bench against Croatia. Sancho, however, is a weapon when he comes off the bench. The 18-year-old is a master in playing knots into the legs of tired defenders and has scored five goals and eight assists in 17 games for Dortmund this season.
Andrej Kramarić #9 – Croatia (Hoffenheim)
Mandžukić’s retirement has left a bit of a hole up front. But in Rebić and Kramarić the Vatreni have two players that eventually could fill the void up front. As explained ahead of Croatia vs Spain match, however, neither are centre-forwards and like to operate coming from the wing. But Kramarić, who scored against Spain, has scored 42 goals and 23 assists in 106 games for Hoffenheim, highlighting that he can be a danger man up front.
England vs Croatia – Match Stats
- Winner tops group and reaches Finals
- Loser finishes bottom and are relegated
- If they draw then Spain win group
- Sides drew 0-0 in Rijeka in October
- England’s record against Croatia is W4 D2 L3
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: England vs Croatia – 0-2
England vs Croatia – Lineups
Pickford – Walker, Gomez, Maguire, Shaw – Alli, Henderson, Barkley – Sterling, Kane, Rashford
Head Coach: Gareth Southgate
Kalinić – Jedvaj, Lovren, Vida, Vrsaljko – Rakitić, Brožović – Perišić, Modrić, Rebić – Kramarić
Head Coach: Zlatko Delić
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.