England make it to first semi-final in 28 years


Harry Maguire and Dele Alli scored with headers in a 2-0 win over Sweden on Saturday, earning England's youthful team a match against Croatia for a place in the final on July 15.

Getting past a technically adept Croatia side won't be easy, but the Three Lions have the strength at the back, along with the pace and power in forward areas, to overpower Modric and Co. if they are at their best. Pickford excelled again with another one-handed save to deny Viktor Claesson after he was set up by Berg with a smart flick into his path.

Spain hail La Liga star Luka Modric on their front page, but declare "England are back" after 28 years fighting for a return to a World Cup semi-final.

It was a mature display after the 120-minute slog against Colombia, with Southgate plumping for an unchanged side on an afternoon when those exertions initially took their toll.

Sterling and Harry Kane have formed a far more effective partnership than has been recognised.

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This was England's most complete performance of Russian Federation 2018 in what was a highly-credible team effort.

Only Owen, who netted as an 18-year-old at France 98, has scored a World Cup goal for England at a younger age but rather than basking in the moment, Alli was holding himself to higher standards.

Shortly after being closed out in a unsafe position, the forward was put through and surely relieved to belatedly see an offside flag he was guilty of looking for before being denied one-on-one by Olsen.

Maguire and his fellow defenders - paired with a dazzling performance from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford - helped punch the ticket for the semifinals.

Ambitions appeared to be thwarted for so long by a culture of entitlement as England gloried in the hype and status of being the birthplace of football without backing it up with results.

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Russia advanced to the Round of 16 from Group A after finishing as runners-up while Spain emerged as winners from Group B. Akinfeev pushed away a 109th-minute shot from substitute Rodrigo who ran hard at goal from near the halfway line.

At least England had proved a goal threat, whereas Sweden's blunt attack failed to muster a shot on target until two minutes of the restart.

Maguire's aerial threat has been a feature of England's march into the last four.

Henderson claimed a penalty before Jesse Lingard unlocked the Swedish backline.

The ball was quickly worked back to Lingard and he returned the favour by producing the flawless cross for Dele, who had wandered into space at the back post, to head past Olsen. "Jordan Pickford is breaking all the rules", Germany's reading on England's campaign.

Even at Wimbledon, the home of lawn tennis, updates of England's goals were spread by fans watching or listening to the football match on their cell phones.

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