There is a little bit of props for D.C. United to sign Wayne Rooney, even if Rooney has retired from international team duty with England. And in a strange way, England to the World Cup is like the Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup. Both teams had a sniff of the Final a couple (or more in England’s case) decades ago, both teams generally didn’t get far in the playoffs, both teams flamed out at some point in their recent past; the Caps failed to qualify for the playoffs in the 2013-14 season, weeks later, England didn't make it out of group play in Brazil.
And this year? Both teams had modest expectations coming into their respective tournaments, both teams overcame a narrative/psychological hurdle (the Caps’ was the Pittsburgh Penguins, England’s was defeating Colombia in penalty kicks in the Round of 16), and both teams appear to be favored against their last opponent before the Final, where the winner will play France Sunday.
What to watch for: Next to Les Bleus, England could make a pretty good case as one of the most consistent teams of the tournament. Barring a hat trick by Antoine Griezmann Sunday, Harry Kane has the tournament Golden Boot sewn up, the defense has held up well, goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has had a minor coming out party with some ten-bell saves, including the Colombia win, England hasn’t been this close to the Cup since 1990. All the right things are going.
Consider that Croatia have been spreading the wealth offensively (9 goals scored by 8 players), the defense has been generally stout when they’ve had the legs, as both their knockout stage games have gone to penalty kicks. Luka Modric has done what he can with this group, but the dry spells of Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Perisic need to end but quick today for the Croats to have the chance to get to their first final, despite being in the semis for the first time in 20 years themselves.
This could get very ugly very quick, but let’s hope for tension and drama throughout.
Location: Luzhniki Stadium (Moscow)
Kickoff time: 2:00pm Eastern
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey)
Available TV: Fox, Telemundo
Available streaming: Fox Sports Go, Telemundo
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.