DALIC: WE’RE ON RIGHT TRACK
Victory would see Croatia emulate the achievement of their 1998 side in reaching the last four.
Dalic said: “That was a great success for Croatia as a nation. We are on the right track to repeat that feat but it is not going to be easy.”
FEW CLUES ON CROATIA GAMEPLAN
Dalic hopes his team can maintain the standards they have already set in the tournament, most memorably in their group-stage win over Argentina.
He said: “I can’t tell you their gameplan or tactics – but I know our gameplan. We have to repeat what we have been doing in the last four games, be well organised and defend well.
“We have to be united, go forward and apply pressure. We have the strength and quality to do that.”
CROATIA UNFAZED BY HOSTS
Now then, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic is confident his side can handle the atmosphere as they take on hosts Russia for a place in the World Cup semi-finals.
Croatia will come up against a partisan Russian crowd in their last eight-tie in Sochi on Saturday evening.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Dalic said: “They will have vociferous fans but every week our team plays with opposing fans howling at them. It shouldn’t be a problem.”
FRANCE FANS GO WILD
Check out these scenes at the fan park in Nizhny as France fans celebrated their opening goal in the 2-0 win over Uruguay.
France are through to the World Cup semi-finals for the first time since 2006.
They’ll now play the winners of tonight’s second quarter-final between Brazil and Belgium.
‘STILL A LONG WAY TO GO’
Harry Kane, who has already scored six times at the tournament don’t forget, was asked whether the team saw themselves as possible winners.
“We’re not really thinking about being world champions yet.
“We’ve still got a long way to go.
“If anything, this is the second half of the tournament now. This game is going to be massive. We’ve done great up until now but it’s another step we’ve got to overcome.”
KANE APPRECIATES EUPHORIA
No doubting that Harry Kane is aware of the wild scenes back home and the lift the players are getting from the support. This is what the captain has been saying in the last few minutes: “It’s massive,”after the games we always see the videos going round on social media. I was one of those fans not too long ago getting drinks thrown over him, jumping about, going wild. “It’s what we want, we set out to make the country proud and we feel like we’ve done that so far. We want to keep seeing those videos, hopefully we can do the same tomorrow and we’ll see a few more. “It’s about bringing the whole country together and to see them enjoying it like they are is fantastic for us.”
BEWARE THE SWEDES
So what does Mr Southgate make of tomorrow’s opponents Sweden.
“They are a very strong team, I’ve played against Sweden many times.
“They always have better players than we give them credit for, this team is the same.
“Beating France, Italy, knocking out Germany, we’ll have to play well to beat them.”
‘ALLI GIVES US OPTIONS’
Southgate has also been having his say about the contribution coming from Dele Alli:
“In terms of Dele, I thought his performance against Tunisia was as good as he’s had since I’ve been England manager. He is at his best when he’s making those forward runs and really threatening opponents with those forward runs from midfield.
“The other night, the game was a little bit different but he did a really diligent job without the ball for us. I think maybe we need to encourage him a little bit more to get into those areas where I think his strengths lie. Where he can have the biggest impact on the game.
“That is something I need to think about tactically but like I say, he did a fantastic job for the team. Sometimes in those matches when you’re playing top opposition, it is the balance of doing both. We had good controlled possession but we do want to create more clear chances and I think we can.
“It will be tough tomorrow. I think we’ll have more possession but Sweden have proved that they have got results with 30 per cent possession. It is about creating good chances. Dele is a player that gives us a different option in doing that.”
Okay, Gareth Southgate has been speaking in the last few minutes after England touched down in Samara and first up was that thorny subject of Jamie Vardy’s fitness:
“In terms of fitness, we need to check Vardy again in the morning. He completed what we hoped he would today but slightly separate to the team.
“We will just check whether there is any reaction to that. Everybody else trained.”
FRANCE INTO SEMI-FINALS
France are the first team into the semi-finals of the World Cup after beating Uruguay 2-0.
Raphael Varane put them ahead five minutes before half-time.
Antoine Griezmann doubled their lead in the second half after a howler from the Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.
They will play the winners of this evening’s quarter-final between Belgium and Brazil.
FRANCE TAKE THE LEAD
France have gone in front against Uruguay in their quarter-final.
Raphael Varane putting them ahead five minutes before half-time.
WHAT WERE THEY INKING OF??
Are these the most confident fans in the country?
England are still three wins away from World Cup glory but they have already got their celebratory tattoos. I have an ink-ling they might be right!
SWEDISH FA FINED
The Swedish Football Association has been fined more than £50,000 after representatives wore unauthorised commercial branding during their last 16 victory over Switzerland.
The Swedes have been hit with a penalty of 70,000 Swiss Francs – around £53,342 – and a warning after an earlier request had gone unanswered.
MILNER’S WALL CHART WOES
England’s progress to the World Cup quarter-finals may have surprised some people – causing clashes with long-planned events.
Well, footballers aren’t immune to clashes either.
Liverpool face Chester in a pre-season match on Saturday at 2pm and former England player James Milner has tweeted:
Excited about pre-season kicking off… It’s ruined my World Cup wall chart, though.
SOUTHGATE SETS THE TREND
Have you got one?
If you haven’t, chances are you’ll be getting one if England win the World Cup.
Gareth Southgate’s penchant for waistcoats has sent sales of the distinctive garment soaring in the last few days.
Check out master tailor Craig Featherstone.
TOLISSO STARTS FOR FRANCE
France coach Didier Deschamps has also had to make a change to the side that beat Argentina in a 4-3 thriller in the last round, with Corentin Tolisso coming in for the suspended Blaise Matuidi in midfield.
France’s attack will be spearheaded again by Olivier Giroud withKylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann alongside him supplying pace and flair.
CAVANI MISSES OUT
So injured Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani has failed to make the lineup against France, with Cristhian Stuani replacing him up front alongside Luis Suarez.
Cavani scored two goals in the round of 16 win over Portugal then limped off with a calf injury, and had desperately sought to get fit for the match at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium.
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez has kept the rest of his side unchanged from the 2-1 win over Portugal.
FRANCE TEAM TO PLAY URUGUAY
‘EASY TO ANALYSE, TOUGH TO BEAT’
Sweden coach Janne Andersson will try to mastermind safe passage to the World Cup semi finals for the first time since 1994 when they face England on Saturday.
The Swedes may lack star power compared to some of the quarter finalists.
But Andersson said: “I think there was a coach who once said about their team that they’re quite easy to analyse but quite difficult to beat.
“I think that’s a right description for us.
“It shouldn’t be that difficult to get an idea of what we do, the surprise is probably that we’re terribly consistent.
“Whether or not you take us seriously and how they perceive it, that’s very difficult for me to say. We’re really strong in our beliefs and we really have been from the outset.”
GOOD LUCK GUYS!
The England squad are on the move. They are heading for St Petersburg airport and from there it is on to Samara for their date with destiny.
3pm KO tomorrow – but first we will hear from messrs Southgateand Kane this afternoon.
They will be queuing round the block for tattoos of Gareth Southgate lifting the World Cup once it actually happens – and the prices will probably go right up as well.
This canny punter has got his tat sorted out now, to avoid disappointment. Hats off! (But tats on).
KANE TO JOIN SOUTHGATE
Stick with us this afternoon, England captain Harry Kane will be alongside manager Gareth Southgate when they speak to the media at around 4.15pm.
The England coach has just left Repino en route to the airport!
GRANQVIST JNR IS HERE!
Fabian Delph and his family have just welcomed a baby daughter into the world and now the Swedes have equalised! Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist has become a father again, one day before leading his team into World Cup quarter final action.
Granqvist’s wife, Sofie, announced on her Instagram account their daughter’s birth at 00:36 a.m. on Friday in Sweden.
She wrote: “And she arrived and made our life complete, baby Mika #babymika #finally.”
Granqvist has his wife’s blessing to stay in Russia until the end of Sweden’s run in the tournament. Congratulations to the Granqvists!
RIGHT SAID ED
We have already had predictions from psychic sausage dog R2D2and now Sky Sports News presenter Ed Draper has weighed in!
Remarkably, Ed has had the audacity to take issue with the nation’s favourite canine, opting for Uruguay and Belgium.
Who will prove the shewder forecaster – a simple but loveable creature, whose life revolves around food and walkies OR pyschic dog R2D2?
VARDY A DOUBT FOR SWEDEN CLASH
Don’t forget we will be hearing from England boss Gareth Southgatethis afternoon (from 4.15pm) – and he will be updating us the injury situation no doubt.
SWEDEN: ENGLAND HAVE NO RESPECT FOR US
Sweden have been enjoying a fantastic time of it in Russia and there seems to be a quiet confidence among the camp that they can knock England out tomorrow.
Sweden’s assistant coach Peter Wettergren believes England have “no respect for them” and added: “I don’t think people think that we are going to win, the pressure is on England I think.”
ENGLAND’S NEW DAWN
Check out this fantastic feature on how England manager Gareth Southgate has installed a new way of playing, an open media policy and re-connected the team with the fans.
WILL FRANCE BE HOUNDED OUT OF THE WORLD CUP?
He’s back! You would have to be barking to try and predict results at this unpredictable World Cup – and we have just the man. Yes, it is R2D2 the psychic sausage dog!
The crystal-ball gazing canine has emerged from his kennel to run the rule over today’s quarter finals and it is good news for fans of ….. come on, as if I would spoil the fun!
All I can say is that out favourite pooch predictor thinks one of today’s matches will be very close while there could be a convincing winner of the other, so click on the video for today’s results in advance. Every dog has his day!
VARDY TO SIT OUT TRAINING
Jamie Vardy was only able to take part in warm-ups but it is all systems go for Dele Alli and Ashley Young, who were considered slight doubts immediately after the Colombia game.
ZLATAN: SWEDEN CAN WIN IT
Sweden have reached the quarter finals of the World Cup even without their record goalscorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who retired from international football after Euro 2016.
The great man is backing his countrymen to deliver and said: “Now, it’s not just about how good you are.
“Now there are a lot of emotions in the picture, because it’s about quarter-finals. The team that can handle their feelings best will have an advantage..
“Yes, I think Sweden can become world champion, just like I said before the World Cup started.
“They beat Mexico, which was strong, and then they defeated Switzerland as well. So they have had success, as nobody thought they would.”
Forward Jamie Vardy is set to sit out England training today and must be considered doubtful to take part in tomorrow’s World Cup quarter final against Sweden.
However, the fact he is OK to take part in pre-training warm-ups suggests the Leicester man is on the mend and could feature in the latter stages if England continue to progress.
WALKER LIVING THE DREAM
Seems Kyle Walker cannot wait for Saturday’s match clash in Samara as he continues to live out “every little boy’s dream” with England.
“First and foremost, it has been a fantastic year for me personally, to achieve the things I have achieved – but this is the top thing that I want.
“Obviously the Premier League is done now and I’ve ticked that off, but to do something for your country and for your nation I think blows everything out of the water.
“Obviously you work all season with your club to get sat in this seat, but to represent your country I think there’s nothing better. “Seeing the reaction from the people at home and stuff like that – shops are closing in Sheffield to go and watch the game! It’s crazy.
“You half want to be there to join in with the atmosphere but I am glad I am sat here and hopefully we can continue having a few more parties, eh?”
GRANQVIST BABY DILEMMA
Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist says he will play against England, but could fly home before the match to attend the birth of his child.
The defender’s wife Sofia is due to give birth, which had left him a doubt for Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final.
But the former Wigan player is adamant he will play in the game, even if he has to fly home first.
“I’m planning to stay,” Granqvist told SNTV.
“My wife is a very strong person and we knew the situation before I came here.
“Nothing has happened so far.”
‘WORLD CUP WIN WOULD DO WONDERS FOR UK ECONOMY’
A Three Lions win at the World Cup would be an “unalloyed, unadulterated absolute good” for the UK economy, the Bank of England governor has said.
Speaking in Newcastle, Mark Carney joked that he will start wearing waistcoats like Gareth Southgate.
Mr Carney, who was wearing a Three Lions lapel badge, was asked by a delegate about the economic impact of an England win.
He replied: “It would be an unalloyed, unadulterated absolute good. “Everything would be good.”
Mr Carney praised the England team’s work ethic, humility and its innovation, adding: “This is a pleasure to watch right now, so we are all behind them.”
When the event host said “In Gareth we trust”, Mr Carney replied: “I will get my waistcoat this afternoon.”
CAVANI A DOUBT
Uruguay could be without striker Edinson Cavani against the French due to an injury that forced him off in the round-of-16 win over Portugal.
The Paris St Germain striker had scored both of the goals in the victory and Hugo Lloris admits his threat is well known to the French camp.
“Cavani has been a historical figure for PSG.
“He’s scored so many goals. He’s a winner, he’s a leader, he’s very much respected in France as a player but also as a man because of his values.
“We’re getting ready for anything – whether he plays or does not. We know what he represents but we also know they have other players that could also play at a high level.
“It’s true that Cavani and (Luis) Suarez are amongst the most beautiful attacking pairs on earth.”
LLORIS SALUTES POGBA
France (and Tottenham) goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has hailed Manchester United’s Paul Pogba as a “true leader” who can rise to the occasion for France in the World Cup’s latter rounds.
“I think he’s maturing, he’s growing,” Lloris said.
“He’s accumulating experience, be it with Manchester United, Juventus – now he’s lining up more seasons, more caps.
“He’s starting to grow in the locker-room also and that is a good thing because he’s a true leader. “He’s a very ambitious player. We all know he’s extremely talented and he has a lot to offer the team and his team-mates.
“I think that these big competitions are also good to reveal the talent of players and I’m sure it’s going to be the case for Paul.”
ENGLAND-SWEDEN STAT ATTACK
Sweden are the older of the two squads with an average age of almost 28.
England’s average age is 25.6
Sweden have seven players over 30 while England have just three in Gary Cahill, Ashley Young and Jamie Vardy.
There are a total of 538 caps in the England squad while Sweden players have a whopping 776 caps between them.
MARCELO BACK FOR BELGIUM CLASH
Coach Tite has confirmed that Real Madrid full-back Marcelo will return to the Brazil side to face Belgium in their World Cup quarter-final on Friday.
Marcelo was forced off early on during Brazil’s final group game, as they beat Serbia to assure themselves of top spot in Group E, before the same back problem cost him a place in the team that beat Mexico 2-0.
A soft mattress at the team hotel has been blamed for aggravating the issue but Tite revealed during his press conference in Kazan on the eve of the quarter-final that the 30-year-old will replace Felipe Luis against Belgium.
“I talked to Marcelo and Filipe Luis,” said Tite.
“Marcelo left (against Serbia) because of a clinical problem and he has not been back because of a physical problem, he only had 45 to 60 minutes.
“Filipe Luis played very well in those matches but Marcelo is coming back.”
SWEDEN EASIER THAN COLOMBIA?
Another question for Mr Stones.
“There are no easy games. You’d be stupid to think there are easy games at the quarter-finals of a World Cup.
“They have a lot of quality and a lot of resilience as a team.
“They play very structured from the back and sit quite deep from what we have seen. We know what we are up against.
“These kind of teams can go under the radar but there is no question they are a good side.
“They wouldn’t be where they are if they weren’t. We will give them the respect they deserve.”
STONES ON SOUTHGATE
Let’s get back to that John Stones presser and the Man City defender has been talking about his boss:
“He’s a very genuine guy, I’m sure you (journalists) would say the same about him having spoken to him.
“There is a fine line where the manager has to be. Having his football brain in gear and talk about football when we are working. Then also knowing about when we should relax. He balances that as good as anyone I have seen.
“That’s credit to him. He’s brought in a lot of new ideas in the two years since he first came in. We are seeing the results of those ideas now. The togetherness, the spirit and the hunger for spots.
“These are all things that the players have bought into. Credit to him, the more we train and play the better we will get.
“He’s a great manager and a great human being.”
MARADONA SAYS SORRY
Remember our story yesterday?
Diego Maradona criticised American referee Mark Geiger’s handling of England’s win against Colombia.
The FIFA ambassador said Colombia had been the victims of a “monumental theft”.
Maradona also said Geiger should have penalised Kane in the build-up to England’s second-half penalty, and criticised Pierluigi Collina, head of FIFA’s referee committee, for allowing Geiger to officiate the match.
FIFA responded by saying it “strongly rebukes” the comments and today Maradona has taken to social media to say sorry.
‘Taken by the excitement of bloating for Colombia the other day, I said a couple of things and, I admit, some of them are unacceptable.
“My apologies to FIFA and its president: as much as I may sometimes have opinions contrary to some arbitration decisions, I have absolute respect for the work – not easy – that the institution and the referees do”
IS IT COMING HOME?
Here’s our man Stones again:
“I’ve said it from the start – I’d love to win the World Cup. I’ve dreamt about it.
“That’s what we want to do. I said before the tournament that if we can’t come here just to get through the games and see what happens – there is no point in doing that.
“You need to have something there you can grab with both hands. I’d love to win a World Cup, England would love to win a World Cup. It’s been a long time and we want to make people proud of the team.
“We are one step closer to doing that but still games to go starting with Sweden.
“As I said, there dream is there – why not?”