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Half time: England 0-0 Croatia
Peep peep! An intriguing half – that’s not a euphemism – ends goalless. Phil Foden hit the post early on, and for a while it looked like England might overrun Croatia. But as the half went on Croatia came into it and started to slow the game down in the heat.
45 min Perisic plays a smart give-and-go on the edge of the area, but Mings steps across to make an important challenge. He’s had a good half.
42 min Sterling runs onto another long ball forward, forcing Caleta-Car to handle the ball just outside the area. He is booked and England have a free-kick in a great position: 22 yards out, slightly to the left of centre.
41 min “Hi Rob,” writes Paris Goddard. “It’s 01:35 on Monday morning here in Wellington (New Zealand, not Somerset). If this goes badly it’ll be the earliest my week has ever been ruined.”
Now that’s what I call optimism.
40 min Not much is happening. Kyle Walker, who has had an iffy first half in possession, spanks a cross straight out of play.
38 min “Would you have picked Pickford in goal today?” writes our old MBM friend Eleanor Ward.
I would, mainly because he has tournament experience. I suspect Sam Johnstone might be the best of the three keepers, but it would be too big a risk to throw him in.
37 min Sterling, who has been erratic but lively, zips infield from the left and finds Foden on the edge of the area. He tries to twist away from a couple of defenders and is firmly tackled.
36 min While it’s too early to start playing the theme from Jaws, Gareth Southgate will be slightly uneasy with how the game has drifted in the last 10-15 minutes. The tempo is a lot slower, which surely suits Croatia’s geriatricos.
34 min Phil Foden shows his class with a dainty first touch to kill Phillips’ clipped pass while in mid-air. I don’t know what else to tell you.
32 min “5:07am in Vancouver off to The London Pub and the beer will be flowing,” wrote Dan Mulligan shortly before kick-off. “Love these strange KO times while away. Come on England.”
I haven’t done that enough, but I did watch the 2018 semi-final at 2am in Perth. I got drunk on my own about four times in a 24-hour period, and because of the different time zones they were all guilt free!
31 min One slight concern in what has generally been a good start is that I can barely remember Harry Kane touching the ball. It’s actually the inexperienced players – Phillips, Rice and Mount in particular – who have been most impressive.
29 min “Vindaloo, Vindaloo …!” shouts Ian Copestake, whipping off his fake 1982 Admiral kit and swinging it about his head.
28 min England have had 60 per cent possession overall, but Croatia have definitely been on the ball a lot more in the last 10 minutes or so. Modric is seeing too much of the ball for Gareth Southgate’s liking.
27 min A half chance for Perisic, who slashes over the bar from 17 yards. Vrsaljko’s cross from the right was missed by everyone at the near post and drifted across the area to Perisic, who twisted his body for the shot but couldn’t get over the bouncing ball.
26 min Sterling runs onto Trippier’s throw, 22 yards from goal, but wallops the bouncing ball miles wide. That looks like a deliberate tactic, with Sterling running infield, into space, to receive Trippier’s throws. A similar move led to Foden hitting the post early on.
24 min Vrsaljko’s cross is headed away by Mings at the near post. It’s been an unexpectedly comfortable start for England’s slightly makeshift defence.
23 min Croatia are slowing the game down at every opportunity. They know their experience will become more of an advantage if they can take the game deep.
20 min Sterling again gets behind the Croatia defence, this time on the left side of the area. He turns and flips a cross to the far post that is headed away. At the moment, England’s youth is trumping Croatia’s experience. But then we said the same in the first half of the World Cup semi-final.
19 min Foden tries to snake around the outside but is dispossessed by the diligent Kovacic. England are playing with a really impressive energy and purpose.
17 min Phillips is fouled 35 yards from goal. Trippier flips the ball over the defence towards Kane, who is offside, the end.
16 min “In this searing heat Croatia will regret their black kit in the last 20 minutes,” says Mary Waltz. “Their aging side will melt.”
15 min Sterling went to the last World Cup in great form and had a bit of stinker, so maybe this will be the reverse. He has been really bright so far. One thing Sterling doesn’t get enough credit for is his irrepressibility – he never hides, even if he’s having a rough time. That attitude, combined with his speed and movement, mean he will always be a threat.
13 min Thanks for all your emails, with which I am doggedly failing to keep up. It’s been a pretty frantic start to the game, faster than I expected in this heat.
11 min Kalvin Phillips has started the game really well, with and without the ball. It took four or five minutes for them to settle down, but since then England have been dominant.
9 min The resulting corner is headed away as far as Phillips, whose crisp volley from 20 yards is pushed away by the sprawling Livakovic. This is terrific stuff from England.
8 min Caleta-Car makes a vital tackle on Sterling, although I think he was offside as he ran into Phillips’ clever pass. He tried to turn back inside Caleta-Car, who ensured neither Sterling or the ball would pass.
7 min “Like I always say,” says Mike Mackenzie, “a tournament doesn’t really start until the English fans are annoyed by the manager’s starting XI!”
6 min: Foden hits the post! Almost a dream start for England. Sterling broke through midfield, running onto a clever long throw from Trippier, and found Foden just outside the area. He controlled the ball on the stretch, teased Gvardiol and shaped a lovely left-footed curler towards the far post. It beat the diving Livakovic and bounced off the inside of the post.
4 min It’s been a slightly nervous start from England, with a few loose touches. Croatia, whose team are much more experienced, look pretty assured.
2 min England are indeed playing with Trippier at left back. But the formation is slightly different, 4-1-4-1 rather than 4-2-3-1. Declan Rice is playing in front of the back four, with Phillips and Mount ahead of him.
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