England could finish third in the World Cup with a victory over Belgium in Saturday’s playoff but manager Gareth Southgate believes they are not yet amongst the elite teams in global football.
Russia’s first-ever FIFA World Cup kicked off on June 14 and will end on Sunday, with the final set to be held at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.
The Tottenham forward would be just the second England player to scoop the award, after Gary Lineker was the top scorer in 1986.
“You’ve got to understand how huge this is”, said Veljko Bosnic, president of the Dalmacija Sydney Croatian Club in Australia, home to one of the largest ex-pat Croatian communities in the world outside of Europe.
England captain Harry Kane did not feature in England’s loss to Belgium in the group stages but he will go into the game looking to add to the tournament-leading six goals he has already scored.
Following the semi-final win over England, Dalic blasted the English media for “not showing enough respect” to his team when reports before the clash said Croatia were too exhausted after two matches that went to extra time and penalties.
The England game was actually pretty straight forward, a 2-0 win and comfortable, which just felt a bit unusual. We want to make everyone happy.
“It’s been an incredible experience, a life experience”, he said.
England have spent the days since the defeat to Croatia preparing for today’s third place play-off game with Belgium, who they came up against earlier in the tournament.
Despite boasting the attacking prowess of Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, Roberto Martinez’s men fell short in their semi-final against France, losing 1-0.
“The wars were not so long ago, so people view things not just as sports”, he said of the conflict that tore the former Yugoslavia into pieces and in which more than 100,000 people were killed.
Pitana is no newcomer to World Cup action, having also officiated four games at Brazil 2014.
So it was a mad 24 hours but we saw the sides of Russian Federation that Vladimir Putin doesn’t want the world to see – there certainly wasn’t too much Fifa fairy dust on the wooden shacks and dusty towns we saw.
“I think that such a relationship is very important in a national team because we are together for a brief time”.
Dalic revealed his team are being driven on by the support back home in Croatia and regardless of the result their run to the final will be a joyous occasion. The team have played very well throughout the tournament, he said, noting that its chief players now played in some of the best European football clubs and leagues. They will concede they are not fit.
“I expect them to do so, they need to have such an attitude”.
However, he insisted that will not alter England’s approach as they look to achieve their best finish since they won the competition in 1966.
The quality of Zlatko Dalic’s side shone through in an ultimately comfortable win over the two-time world champions that saw Ante Rebic, Modric and Ivan Rakitic find the back of the net.