ears over the keeper and half the back four may mean a major reshuffle for the country’s biggest game since 1998 England will look to exploit Croatia’s injury problems if coach Zlatko Dalic is forced into a reshuffle of personnel for their World Cup semi-final.
The Croatians have doubts over goalkeeper Danijel Subasic, central defender Dejan Lovren and right-back Sime Vrsaljko heading into Wednesday’s Moscow showdown.
Monaco keeper Subasic started and finished the quarter-final win over Russia, despite going into the game nursing a hamstring problem which flared up just before the end of normal time in the Sochi clash.
He stayed on and helped Croatia win the penalty shoot-out, but was unable to take goal-kicks during extra-time and missed training on Monday, along with Lovren and Vrsaljko.
If Subasic does start against England, he will certainly not be 100 per cent fit.
Gareth Southgate’s side could look to exploit that by using the pace of Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard to force him out and off his line, which he is likely to be reluctant to do.
If Vrsaljko does not make it – and all the signs are he is unlikely to play – one option for Dalic will be to bring former Tottenham and Manchester City defender Vedran Corluka into the side and push Domagoj Vida from the centre-half role he’s been playing out to right-back.
That again would be a boost for England, as 32-year-old Corluka, who these days plays in the Russian capital for Lokomotiv Moscow, likely to struggle with the pace and movement of Sterling, Lingard and Harry Kane.
Even if Lovren is fit to start, he is not blessed with pace and has struggled against Kane in the past, notably when Liverpool lost 4-1 to Tottenham at Wembley last season.
In what amounted to a public humiliation for Lovren, Jurgen Klopp hauled him off after 31 minutes following a calamitous display from the 29-year-old in which he was at fault for Spurs’ first two goals.
Croatia’s defence is certainly their soft spot, particularly with the injury concerns they now have at the back and the unreliability that brings when going into a game of such significance.
Atletico Madrid full-back Vrsaljko has been one of their most consistent performers en route to the semis and his loss – and the reshuffle it would entail – would be a huge blow for Croatia, and a major plus for England.