England face Croatia on Wednesday for a place in the 2018 World Cup final.
The two countries have emerged from what is considered the easier side of the draw, with the highly-fancied Belgium and France playing in the other semi final on Tuesday. Nonetheless, both Luka Modric and Harry Kane have a terrific chance of lifting the Jules Rimet Trophy on July 15.
One of the questions heading into Wednesday is; how have these teams fared against each other in the past?
Given that the modern Croatia team was only formed in 1990, these sides have faced each other only seven times, with England winning four of those, Croatia winning two, and a draw.
That draw came in their first encounter in a 1996 friendly, which ended nil-all. They wouldn’t cross paths again until 2003, seven years later in another friendly.
England prevailed 3-1 in Ipswich Town’s ground of Portman Road, thanks to goals from David Beckham, Michael Owen and Frank Lampard.
So far, so insignificant, but their remaining clashes all came in competitive clashes. The last and only time they played each other in an international finals was Euro 2004.
Sven Goran Eriksson’s side ran out 4-2 winners in Group B, with a brace from Wayne Rooney sandwiched by contributions from Paul Scholes and Frank Lampard securing a quarter final place for the ‘Golden Generation’.
Steve McClaren’s tenure as England boss represented the nadir of England’s modern era, failing to qualify for Euro 2008. They could only qualify third behind Russia and Croatia in Group E, thanks in part to two defeats to the latter.
First came a 2-0 defeat in Zagreb in October 2006, as former Arsenal forward Eduardo’s goal was followed by the now infamous Gary Neville own goal, as goalkeeper Paul Robinson kicked nothing but air.
Croatia followed up with a second qualifying win over a year later at Wembley.
Though goals from Spurs’ Niko Kranjcar and eventual Bayern Munich star Ivica Olic were cancelled out by responses from Peter Crouch and Lampard, Mladen Petric condemed McClaren to his inevitable fate as a former England manager.
Having endured that embarrassing campaign, England, under Fabio Capello, were much more convincing in their two remaining fixtures against Vatreni, as the 2010 World Cup heralded their run of impeccable qualifying campaigns.
Less than a year on from the Wembley calamity, England routed Croatia away in Zagreb, with Theo Walcott taking home a hat-trick. Mario Mandzukic got Croatia’s only goal, and he remains in the squad for this year’s World Cup, whereas England have an enitrely new team in Russia.
The last meeting came almost nine years ago in September of 2009, as part of the same 2010 qualification campaign. En route to topping Group 6, England put a further five goals past them at Wembley.
This must have been one of the rare occasions that the two could work together, as both Lampard and Steven Gerrard scored a brace each, topped off by a Rooney strike late on for a thumping 5-1 win.
The omens are good for the Three Lions heading into their most important game in decades, but Croatia have been at the centre of some of English football’s lowest moments this century.