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Media Watch: Croatia wary of Sterling threat

Media Watch: Croatia wary of Sterling threat
10 Jul
4:45

With a place in the World Cup final up for grabs this week, what more Monday Motivation could you need?

The midweek semi-finals dominate the headlines, as the topic on everyone’s lips, and with seven City stars still in contention, our excitement reaches another level.

So, will it be ‘coming home’…? England face Croatia on Wednesday night in the second last four tie (after Belgium face France) and the country is buzzing with belief.

Fabian Delph has shared his thoughts on the Three Lions’ incredible journey so far, while our opposition have also had their say – and Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic has identified the player he feels poses the biggest threat: Raheem Sterling.

Speaking in a press conference, he told journalists: “I wouldn’t say there are any glaring weaknesses – they are in the semi-finals. That says it all.

“They showed from the games I’ve seen so far that they play direct football and they are very fast.

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“They are really good at set-pieces and their tall players are dangerous at corners.

“Raheem Sterling is an important player because he is really fast and his combination with Harry Kane is really dangerous.”

Writing in his Daily Mail column, Peter Crouch also spoke highly of Sterling. He scribed: “One thing that impressed so much about Raheem last season was his desire to get forward at all times. He scored against Stoke when Manchester City beat us 7-2 at the Etihad in October, a simple tap-in after he charged into the penalty area to provide support.

“If you play as a No 10, you have to score and create and he was doing that all the time for City. Raheem finished the campaign with 23 goals — 22 of them came from inside the area, eight of them were from inside the six-yard box. The numbers were incredible.

“That tally shows how much his game improved — his previous best total was 11 — and I have no doubt it is only a matter of time before he starts rattling them in for England. It didn’t come against Sweden but who is to say it won’t come against Croatia?

“People have become fixated about his finishing at the World Cup but it is crucial to look at the bigger picture — Raheem gives us so much. He is quick, skilful and determined, always provides a threat and Harry Kane, Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli all benefit from the space he creates.

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“He is very much part of the reason I believe Football’s Coming Home and I can’t get over what an amazing opportunity we have. I’m a fan of Croatia and have expressed my admiration for them on these pages but they are beatable.”

Former England striker Geoff Hurst also reserved high praise for Sterling’s performance against Sweden.

“Raheem Sterling was terrific,” he stated, as shared by Sports Mole. “He had a little bit of criticism but he performed well. He did more than the other games – he was key in turning the defence, looked enormously fit right throughout the game.

“The runs he was making, it is a key factor as a front player. When I was under Ron Greenwood at West Ham, he would say to turn defenders around. Defenders are happy if you’re in front; you want to stretch them – do it until their tongues hang out.

“He had chances. He could have done a bit more, but he was terrific.”

Meanwhile, Delph hailed the past week as ‘the most amazing of his life’, after England’s progression and the birth of his third child.

Reflecting with Sky Sports, he declared: “It’s been stressful but it’s also been the most amazing week of my life.

“Nobody wants to miss the birth of their child, so to see that and then to get back and be involved in such a fantastic game and go through to the semi-finals is unbelievable.

“We knew what we were capable of. I think after the Costa Rica game, I said how impressed how I was with the boys and what I thought we could accomplish.

“We’ve managed to do that, so the dream is still alive and the end goal is still there for us. Hopefully, we can keep pushing.”

Delph also revealed he had help from his Club skipper on his return home.

Quoted in the Telegraph, he added: “Vincent Kompany’s family came out for the Belgium game and I am close with him and the family, so I flew back with Vincent’s family on a private plane.

“It was just me, his children and his wife.

“They had just beaten us, so I didn’t know whether to speak to them! He has three lovely kids and they were running about.

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“On my way back, I was just on my own on the plane. Fair play to the FA who looked after me. Now I am really looking forward to Wednesday.”

Elsewhere, Croatia defender Vedran Corluka believes England have Pep Guardiola to thank for their success.

As the Mirror report, the former Blue explained: “You can see that the style of England is a little bit like Manchester City.

“Especially John Stones, who is always on the ball. So hopefully it will be a great game for the fans and hopefully it will be like more like Wembley in 2007 [when Croatia won 3-2]. More like that please!

“It’s a game that we will both want to win. We will both want to have the possession.

“It’s not just another game. We watched England in all their games and they play really well. They are confident and have a young team.

“Before they didn’t have any pressure. You just said to them: ‘Just do what you can’ but now even you [the media] are hoping that it can come home, yeah?”

Too right!

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He continued: “We’ve never won it so we can’t say the same thing. But you have a great team and it will be a really difficult team.”

Perhaps surprisingly, United legend Paul Scholes echoed Corluka’s sentiments on Guardiola. Discussing the Catalan manager’s impact for BeIN Sports, the former midfielder commented: “He is definitely [an influence on England].

“Especially when you see the way they’ve got the back three, the way they’ve got the goalkeeper playing.

“I don’t think Gareth (Southgate) has made any secret of that. He’s been to see Pep and he’s picked his brain.

“He wants to know how he produces that type of football. As an England fan and ex-England player, we want to see the best possible football.

“Spain played the best football, Manchester City played the best football, so why not try and copy that type of play?”

Amen to that!

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