Modric’s composure could expose England’s adventurous midfield setup

As World Cup semi-final opponents go, Croatia fall into the category of tricky, as opposed to outright scary, which should encourage Gareth Southgate that he really could guide his side into the tournament’s final.

There are solid players throughout the side that is looking to prevent England making their first World Cup showpiece since 1966, but it is Luka Modric who really gets the side ticking.

The playmaker, valued at £22.5m by Transfermarkt, can adapt his game based on Croatia’s demands, just as comfortable collecting the ball from deep as he is dictating proceedings from higher up the pitch.

Alongside domestic rival, Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic, Modric sets the tone in midfield and England must ensure they are not placed on a passing carousel by the gifted duo in Moscow on Wednesday night.

Advertisement

It is something of a mystery why Croatia have been unable to fully dominate games in the centre so far out in Russia, as Zlatko Dalić tinkers with the attacking system to add penetration.

Nevertheless, the emphasis will be on Jordan Henderson to get to grips with Modric because Southgate’s adventrous midfield setup leaves him as the sole holding midfielder, often with a huge amount of ground to cover.

Modric, along with Rakitic, will be looking to overwhelm the Liverpool man, who has performed admirably this summer, and pin England back.

Fabian Delph, Eric Dier or Ruben Loftus-Cheek coming in to help Henderson may ease the situation, but England must ensure they do not cede too much in the way of goal threat.