England and Croatia seek to end World Cup heartache
THE wounds of England's 1990 World Cup semi-final exit are 28 years old, but still devastatingly raw.
Likewise, the mere mention of their heartbreaking 2-0 defeat to France in 1998 is enough to bring a tear to the eyes of Croatian fans.
Truly, Thursday's semi-final in Moscow is a chance for two success-starved nations to exorcise some World Cup demons.
England has been swept up in the emotion of their surprise charge to the final four, with the country's fans losing their collective minds after the quarter-final triumph over Sweden.
Their progression has been crafted under the watchful eye of coach Gareth Southgate, with the even-handed leadership of Harry Kane inspiring an underrated group to unexpected glories.
Croatia, meanwhile, have the creative genius of Luka Modric to fuel their campaign - but needed extra-time and penalties to dispose of host nation Russia in their quarter-final clash.
Kick-off is at 4am (AEST) on Thursday in at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
CROATIA v ENGLAND
Thursday, 4am AEST
After 90 mins: Vatreni $3.50, Draw $3.10, Three Lions $2.25
Result: Vatreni $2.25, Three Lions $1.65
Luka Modric (Croatia) 2
Harry Kane (England) 6
Dejan Lovren (Croatia) v Harry Kane (England)
This longstanding Premier League duel between Liverpool's Lovren and Tottenham's Kane will resume. Confident Kane has caused havoc with his movement and finishing, but Croatia takes confidence from the fact that Lionel Messi and Christian Eriksen have been muzzled.
Another evenly matched game and while England has a physical edge, Croatia's collective big-game experience at club level could prove the difference.
Coach: Zlatko Dalic
21 Vida, 6 Lovren, 5 Corluka, 3 Strinic
11 Brozovic, 10 Modric, 7 Rakitic
18 Rebic, 4 Perisic, 17 Mandzukic
6 Maguire, 5 Stones, 2 Walker
18 Young, 20 Alli, 7 Lingard, 12 Trippier
10 Sterling, 9 Kane
Coach: Gareth Southgate