Rio Ferdinand: Magnificent England will have too much for jaded Croatians

Harry Maguire
Harry Maguire is having a dream World Cup
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Betfair Ambassador Rio Ferdinand is in confident mood ahead of Wednesday night's test against Croatia and is backing the Three Lions to put on a show to make their first World Cup final since 1966...

"Croatia have gone through two extra times and two penalty shootouts - they must be shot, physically and mentally. You can't underestimate how draining that is, trust me. I think we can blow these away by two or three goals and my prediction would be a 3-0 victory for England with Raheem getting off the mark at this World Cup with the opening goal."

I think it's coming home

Get excited and embrace the moment because I think we are going to win the World Cup.

Yep - football could well be coming home.

To win a trophy you have to expect to win it. In my career, whenever I picked up silverware, I expected to win I and I sense the same mindset with England right now. Whenever I speak with the guys in the camp, they are calm and focused and to me they look ready to go out and put in another win to reach the World Cup final.

These guys are a couple of games away from being immortalised, I bet they can't wait for the next game to start.

Confidence must be sky-high right now. The Three Lions come into the semi-final on the back of their best team performance in this World Cup. It was a controlled and composed showing against Sweden and we handled everything they threw at us (which wasn't much) and just did everything that was asked of us.

That game epitomised how calm and cool these guys are under immense pressure. They turned in their best team performance at this World Cup in the quarters, and there was loads to enjoy right across the park.

Maguire the man again

We'll start at the back because Harry Maguire again caught the eye. International football just seems to suit Harry, he's composed and enjoys that extra time he has on the ball. It's less of a basketball game than the Premier League where the ball goes back and forth up the pitch.

Harry scored a great header against Sweden to give us the lead and he's become dominant in both boxes. England's possession play really suits him and as a defender and an England fan it's great to see.

And when the Swedes managed to get in on goal and Jordan Pickford was called into action he pulled off some unbelievable saves.

Recognise Raheem for the key player he is

Raheem Sterling may have caught a bit of flak for not scoring but, trust me, he ran the Swedes ragged. Raheem brings so much to the team. He is not just an out-and-out attacker, he regularly drops into midfield and creates overloads and that really troubles the opposition. He didn't get the goal he was looking for but he did just about everything else.

When England finish a game I guarantee you that the opponents will be saying 'Wow, he was hard to play against.'

One man who did get a goal was Dele Alli. The Tottenham man may not have played particularly well in any game yet, but he does what he does better than any kid his age in the world - scores goals, and big goals at that - and getting off the mark in this World Cup will do his confidence no end of good.

By his standards, Harry Kane had a relatively quiet afternoon but he worked hard, was efficient, holding the ball up well and drew plenty of fouls again.

There is a nice balance to the squad, especially in attack. Kane, Sterling, Alli and Jesse Lingard all have different strengths and bring different aspects to the attack, and it's a tough puzzle for our opponents to work out.

Have Croatia got anything left in the tank?

Croatia must be absolutely drained right now after twice being taken to penalties and I'd go so far to say that England's games against Sweden or Colombia will be tougher than this.

Croatia have gone through two extra times and two penalty shootouts - they must be shot, physically and mentally. You can't underestimate how draining that is, trust me. I think we can blow these away by two or three goals and my prediction would be a 3-0 victory for England with Raheem getting off the mark at this World Cup with the opening goal.

People will point to Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic but I'm not worried about the extra experience Croatia have - yeah, they might have a few more caps but none of them have won a World Cup or been in a World Cup final. It's a level playing field.

This is a last chance for Croatia's 'Golden Generation' to win a World Cup, but for us it's just the start and I expect Southgate to keep faith in that familiar first XI here. Winning teams are consistent teams in terms of lineups and I don't think the boys will have been tested too much physically by Sweden. They'll be raring to get out there and win again.

I genuinely don't think they'll fail the test. I speak to a couple of the lads in the squad and they seem calm and composed. Gareth Southgate sets the tone very well with the team and in interviews - they don't get too high when it's going well or too low when it isn't. It's a balanced way of looking at it and that's clearly transmitted itself into the squad.

Enjoy this moment, let the lads go out there and play without pressure. I remember Italia 90 and it was just crazy, so enjoy this semi-final and have fun. It's been 28 years since we were last here, if you can't get carried away now, when can you?

Expect goals when France take on Belgium

I cannot call the first semi-final. It will probably come down to whichever defence plays best. Raphael Varane needs to step up, Vincent Kompany needs to step up because the team whose defence nullifies the other's attack will find themselves in the final.

If the game gets stretched either team has the talent to destroy the other. There is an abundance of attacking talent on show - crazy pace in Kylian Mbappe, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku; guile in Kevin de Bruyne and Antoine Griezmann.

I hope it's an open game, and I don't want to tempt fate but it should give us goals.

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