Dalic's tactical masterclass | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 13, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 13, 2018

Dalic's tactical masterclass

Croatia ruthlessly exposed England's limitations in the second half of the World Cup semifinal on Wednesday as Zlatko Dalic's side fought back to secure a famous 2-1 extra-time victory.

While it is players who win matches there can be little doubt that a tactical switch from the canny Dalic transformed the game.

Pushing wide players Ante Rebic and Ivan Perisic into more advanced roles was not the most complex move but it was one that turned the match on its head.

Gareth Southgate's England had made it to the last four by playing a brand of progressive passing football and there was enough of that in the opening 45 minutes, after Kieran Trippier's fifth-minute goal, to keep them comfortably on top.

Croatia struggled from the outset. They gifted England a huge amount of space in midfield and allowed wing-backs Ashley Young and Trippier to push forward and provide options.

More worryingly for Dalic, the basic qualities of his side simply were not there. The passing was too often inaccurate, the defence struggled to cope with the pace of Raheem Sterling and there was precious little support for Mario Mandzukic in attack.

For a team who have been consistently well-organised and effective throughout this tournament, it was a strange state of affairs but crucially they were able to turn it around and England had no answer.

Rebic and Perisic were pushed higher and with Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic clearly under instructions to feed them quickly, Trippier and Young suddenly had their hands full.

The early success of the wide-men in pushing back England's wing-backs, also gave the opportunity to Croatia's full backs Sime Vrsaljko and Ivan Strinic to get forward more.

With Trippier and Young facing a double threat, England's midfield began to be stretched with Jordan Henderson taking on an unmanageable work-load and Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli more pre-occupied with helping out the defenders than asking questions of Croatia's back-line.

The momentum of the game had changed and when Perisic equalised for Croatia in the 68th minute it was no real surprise.

England had no answer -- neither on the field as their passing game was replaced by hasty clearances and long balls forward nor on the bench as Southgate was unable to make the switches that might have changed the game.

When things clicked for Croatia they had the quality of Modric and Rakitic, who finally began to dictate the tempo and flow of the game as many had expected they would.

Croatia were looking like the team who beat Argentina 3-0, their tails were up and Mandzukics's opportunist finish secured a victory few could deny was deserved.

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