Ivan Rakitic reveals clever strategies behind Croatia's win over England in the WC semi-final

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No one would have blamed the neutral fan for being disappointed when France raised the World Cup aloft in the summer.

Plucky Croatia’s run to the final had captured the imaginations of so many and they were so close to putting the most epic cherry on top of the cake.

In the end it wasn’t to be for the Croats, but their contribution to the Russian showpiece can never be forgotten.

Croatia survived three stints of extra time and two penalty shoot-outs as they clawed their way into the Moscow final.

They completely dashed England’s dreams of bringing football home after ending their own fairytale run in the semi-finals.

England had taken an early lead through a sublime Kieran Trippier free-kick but Croatia grew into the game, equalising late on before winning it in extra time.

Now, Ivan Rakitic has revealed the unusual strategy his team implemented in order to stifle England at the famous Luzhniki Stadium

“The most important thing for us was not to let them play out comfortably,” Rakitic said.

Luka Modric celebrates Croatia's semi-final win over England at the World Cup

“We knew that Stones was their most important player in terms of playing out. We had analysed him a lot.

“Whenever there is a line of three central defenders, the one in the middle is the focal point. He is the one that comes out and looks to draw the centre-forward in so he can then release someone else.

“We also knew that Stones, after various years with Pep Guardiola, knew how to do that job very well.

“At Barca there are plays [out from the back] that are rehearsed and trained and I could see that England also had those plays very well-worked.”

Ivan Rakitic wrestles with Dele Alli during an altercation the World Cup semi-final

It is not often that John Stones can claim to have been the number one target attracting the attention of the opposition.

With the likes of Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling on the field, it is surprising to hear that Croatia invested their training time in finding ways to stop Stones.

It worked a treat in the end though as England struggled to create many clear-cut chances after Trippier’s goal.

Rakitic controls the ball v England

Croatia showed they were smarter of the two teams, and they pounced as soon as they sensed England getting nervous.

Reading Rakitic’s comments makes you realise it really was a tactical masterclass from Croatia.

Football will have come home another time.

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