Federation Internationale de Football Association 2018: Finally, England and Croatia have to banish semifinal blues

Croatia after they beat Russia on penalties during their quarter final match

England are dreaming of a first World Cup final since 1966 but first they must come through Wednesday's semi-final at the Luzhniki Stadium against Croatia in what looks like their toughest test yet in Russian Federation.

As excitement builds in England in the run-up to the country's first World Cup semi-final for 28 years, midfielder Dele Alli insists Gareth Southgate's team are keeping a cool head in their tournament "bubble".

"What they did was impressive but we want to keep writing our own history and enjoy what we are doing which is very positive", he added.

The mission? To support England's bid to win a first World Cup since 1966.

They had to go through extra time and penalties in both knockout matches against Denmark and Russian Federation but emerged successful in the end to reach the semifinals.

"We know our academies at club level are producing really good players, technically good players".

Kieran Trippier has been one of England's "unlikely heroes" at this World Cup. I am tempted to say we'll score three but I'll stick with two.

Southgate admits he sees similarities between the run to the 1996 semifinal and this one in Russian Federation although it's best not mention to him that football is coming home.

Croatia have shipped four goals in their last three matches, with Lovren playing a full part in two of those and coming on as a sub in the other. Their first encounter, in 1996, ended in a goalless draw.

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A much tougher test is expected in Moscow on Wednesday against a Croatia side that swept past Argentina in the group stages and boasts the midfield talents of Real Madrid's Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona. He has the best dribble defence in his team with an average of just 0.4 dribbles making it past him per-game.

Here, Sportsmail's expert columnists give their views on whether England can beat the Croatians and make it all the way to the final.

Juventus striker Mandzukic is Croatia's main goal threat and although he has only scored once in Russian Federation, his game is about a lot more than just finding the net.

"We've got a core group of young players in this squad that we believe can take us forward and there are obviously others coming through our age group teams with good experiences who have belief that they can win".

Stones, and his defensive partners Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker, will need to be on their toes for the whole game against Croatia's lone striker, particularly when the ball flies into the area from a set piece.

England's matches so far in Russian Federation have attracted huge television audiences at home and wild celebrations, with affable coach Gareth Southgate and his vibrant young squad capturing the hearts of a nation.

England: Here's something no one expected: England, the most neurotic of worldwide soccer teams, might actually have reason to be confident.

England have already won a shootout in Russian Federation, against Colombia in the last 16.

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