England vs. Croatia: Expert Predictions, Betting Odds, Preview for World Cup Semifinal Match

If it's going to come home, first it must go through Croatia. 

England is battling for a shot at winning its second-ever World Cup title—and its first since 1966. But they'll need to get past Croatia, a nation that has never won a World Cup and has been playing remarkably well in the 2018 tournament in Russia. The two countries are scheduled to face off in a World Cup semifinal matchup scheduled for Wednesday. The winner will play France in the final following their defeat of Belgium in the other semifinal match on Tuesday.

Folks in England—where the modern game was invented—are, to put it mildly, quite excited by the squad's success thus far.

"Our country has been through some difficult moments recently in terms of its unity, and sport has the power to do that [unite people]," English manager Gareth Southgate said in a press conference, via the Press Association. "Football in particular has the power to do that. We can feel the energy and feel support from home and it’s a very special feel, a privilege for us. ... The enthusiasm they have for these players, not only because of the way they’ve played but how they’ve conducted themselves…they’ve been brilliant ambassadors for our country, everybody can see they are proud to wear the shirt."

croatia/russia This combination of pictures created on July 09, 2018 shows Croatia's midfielder Luka Modric (left) in Sochi on July 7, 2018, and England's forward Harry Kane (right) in Moscow on July 3, 2018. Adrian Dennis, Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

The English side—led by the tournament's top scorer Harry Kane—will likely be expected by most observers to win the match. But Croatia—led by Real Madrid's Luka Modric—might prove a difficult opponent. In the quarterfinals, they outlasted host-nation Russia in penalties after a tough match. Manager Zlatko Dalic described the physical toll of such a long, stressful game.

"We ran out of gas at times, and then we found the energy again," he said, according to ESPN. "Man, I don't even know how many of our guys are injured or tired ... we've been to war. We have to recover now. But what I can assure you is that yes, we have some energy left to deal with England. We got this far. We're not going to stop."

While Croatia might expect to win on Wednesday, the oddsmakers expect England to come out on top. According to Odds Shark, England's money-line odds were set at +138 while Croatia was +200. 

The experts seemed to largely think England would win as well. BBC Sports' Mark Lawrenson predicted they would win 2-1 after extra time. Ahead of the match, data-centric website FiveThirtyEight gave England a 57 percent chance of winning and Croatia a 43 percent chance. Sports Illustrated's Planet Fútbol, however, predicted a 2-1 victory for Croatia. The Telegraph predicted a 2-1 victory for England while Sky Sports' Paul Merson predicted a 2-0 win for the Three Lions. Four of five experts at ESPN, meanwhile, predicted England would win.

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