FIFA World Cup: Day Twenty Three column

talks about the trifling matter of a first World Cup semi-final in 28 years

It’s happened, its actually fucking happened, for the first time since I was 8 England aren’t shit anymore. I’m not really sure what to do anymore, how to celebrate or how it feels to proud of your countries national team.

In England’s biggest game of the tournament they provided their best performance as of yet. A spectacular display from every England player, as England controlled the match from start to finish. Jordan Pickford provided some comforting relief with a few great saves to maintain England’s lead.

Reaching only their third ever World Cup semi-final and their first since 1990, their semi-final opponents, Croatia were not yet a nation the last time England made the last four. Of course, the break-up of Yugoslavia ensued the year later. Given that England’s semi-final bogey team, beating us at our last two semi-finals (1990 World Cup and the 1996 Euro’s), Germany were eliminated at the group stage, there is cause for optimism simply for the fact that Croatia are not Germany.

However, in spite of the fact that Croatia are not Germany, they will be a stern and strong test, let’s hope that 240 minutes and two penalty shoot-outs will have took their toll on our opponents.

Croatia, with a population of only 4 million are a great example and complete antithesis of football culture in larger nations such as China and America. What those countries have in population size Croatia exceeds them in football culture. What your huge population cannot manufacture is the culture and meaning of a footballing hotbed such as Croatia. With their production line seemingly never ending, they have players at some of the world’s biggest clubs, from Barcelona, Real and Atletico Madrid, to Juventus, AC Milan and Internazionale. This golden generation of Modric, Rakitic, and Mandzukic look to go one step further than their previous golden generation of Billic, Šuker and Prosinecki, who finished third at the 1998 World Cup. But for this current generation, it’s their last hope at a final, Modric, Rakitic, Mandzukic, Perisic, Subasic, Vida, Corluka, Lovren will all be in their mid-thirties by the next World Cup, Russia 2018 resembles their last hope to achieve the biggest prize of them all.

Much like the France Vs Belgium match up, Croatia Vs England sees the last chance of a golden generation and the coming of a new generation.

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