Heartbreak for England as they crash out 2-1 to Croatia in the semi-finals. Despite a valiant performance, there were key areas where the Croats got the better of the Three Lions. Our guest analyst from the EFL takes a look at the statistics.

Croatia stifled England's build up play

A key strength of England's play has been their ability to build from the back. The hard work of Croatia's midfielders made sure that this approach was as hard as possible.

Jordan Pickford struggled to play out from his own box, completing only 75% of short passes and 67% of long passes. Against Sweden these percentages were 92 and 93 per cent respectively.

Croatia also won the ball in the tackle 17 times. England only managed to do this twice.

Our Sportscode head to head output below shows a direct comparison between Ivan Perisic and Raheem Sterling in terms of workrate in this match,

Both players operated in advanced positions, but Perisic completed 8 defensive actions, attempted 10 crosses, seven shots, and 31 passes.

Sterling completed two defensive actions, two crosses, one shot and 13 passes in comparison.

Perisic's workrate exemplified the Croatian effort in both attacking prowess and limiting England's play in workrate and defence.

This meant England failed to dominate the ball

For the first time in the tournament, England failed to enjoy an advantage in possession, our Sportscode output window below shows the Three Lions controlled 47.9% of the ball, while also holding the ball for a shorter time per possession.

Despite only holding 4.2% advantage, Croatia were much more resourceful with the ball, completing 98 more passes and generating 12 more shots.

Croatia were also the more positive playing team, moving the ball forward 51 more times than England.

Our Sportscode output window shows Croatia were more resourceful than England in possession.

Croatia caused problems for England's wingbacks

Kieran Trippier and Ashley Young have flourished as wingbacks in England’s 3-5-2 formation, constantly creating width for their team.

As Croatia's 4-5-1 allowed for an extra man in either midfield or defence, they often rendered England's fullbacks ineffective by pinning them in their own half. 

With only Mandzukic in attack, and Perisic switching flanks at will, Croatia had an extra body on the overlap on several occasions.

In this instance, an England fullback had two men to cover and an inability to focus on attacking duties.

Croatia's 4-5-1 allowed for extra width to occupy England's fullbacks in Southgate's 3-5-2 system.
Ashley Young is caught defending two players as the Croatian winger pinches inside while the fullback overlaps.

Star player

Luka Modric again exemplified everything about this Croatian team – hardworking, creative, and efficient.

Modric completed 88% of his passes. This included 100% of passes in the attacking third, while he also attempted four crosses.

He outplayed his counterpart Dele Alli, who completed 27 less passes in total, six less passes in the attacking third with no crosses attempted.

The hard-working Modric, who was out on his feet when substituted in extra time, also won the ball back for Croatia three times, compared to only once by Alli for England.

This information can been seen in out Sportscode head to head output window below.

Modric was head and shoulders above his English counterparts in both creativity and guile.

Post-match review

A valiant effort from England who looked to play positively, but were defeated by a Croatian team that essentially worked much harder than they did.

Despite playing three consecutive 120 minute matches, the Croatians were still pressing until the final whistle and executed the decisive plays when they mattered most.

However, it's not all heartbreak for England as they have produced a team that are comfortable in possession and capable of playing some great football.

With one eye on Qatar 2022, one would hope that England continue to play positively, as the approach of building play from the back was undoubtedly one of the key successes of the tournament for this Three Lions side.

For Croatia, they will have to face France with an extremely fatigued team.

Technically, Croatia’s midfield can go toe-to-toe with the tournament favourites, but it will be interesting to see how their defenders fare against the likes of Mbappe and Griezmann as legs tire in the second half.

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