Talking points: England makes set pieces count, Jaded Croats pull through

As we have our final two semifinalist confirmed, we take a look a look at the talking points from the performances of England and Croatia.

England manager Gareth Southgate

Gareth Southgate's England reached the semifinal of a World Cup for the first time since 1990.   -  Getty Images

England’s professionalism shines bright

Against a defensively-disciplined Sweden, Gareth Southgate’s men made sure they got the result by doing the needful. With Sweden set out to defend and counter on opportunity, Raheem Sterling’s movement caused all sorts of problems in the box.

England made good use of set-pieces and looked like scoring two more with ease with Sweden looking in disarray after the opening goal. While the Scandanavians looked short of ideas going forward, Jordan Pickford was once again in place to make two vital saves to see the game out.

Profligacy proves costly

Sweden may not be all that disappointed by being eliminated at the quarterfinal stage. Reaching the last-eight of the World Cup was a fantastic achievement for Sweden, having last appeared at this stage of the tournament in 1994.

The cause for disappointment will be the failure to make the most of the goal-scoring chances it had in the second half to potentially claw its way back from two goals down.

Marcus Berg alone had two chances to score. One was with a header when he out-jumped Ashley Young early in the second half and connected well with his head but couldn't locate the corner of the goal. The second chance came on 70 minutes, when, after receiving the ball from John Guidetti near the penalty area, Berg struck the ball off-balance but managed to get a good amount of power on his shot. However, he failed to find the corner and his goal-bound effort was saved brilliantly, once again, by Jordan Pickford.

Sweden couldn't maintain its attacking rhythm throughout the second half, but it had presentable opportunities at various points of the half to get itself on the score sheet.

Three Lions prosper... without Harry Kane on score sheet

England reminded its semifinal opponent of the threat it carries from crosses into the box, which is how Harry Maguire and Dele Alli scored the goals.

The difference on Saturday was the one who usually gets on the end of those crosses wasn't always where he needed to be.

The Three Lions, though, will be happy to have two new and different goal-scorers ahead of Wednesday's semifinal. Also, Alli's goal was only the third that England has scored from open play at the World Cup.

Weary Croatians march onto semis

England in its quarterfinal defeat of Sweden didn't have to get out of first gear for the whole of 90 minutes. Croatia, on the other hand, had to nearly exert all of its resources to overcome the Russians in an encounter which lasted over 120 minutes.

Croatia's key midfielder and captain Luka Modric was seen on his haunches before the end of regulation time. However, he managed to see his side through till extra-time and the penalty shootout alongside his teammates. 

One could make an argument that come Wednesday, England will start the semifinal as the fresher side. Will freshness be a factor which decides the fate of the Croats?

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