BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
Working towards a possible match-up with France in the final on Sunday, England manager, Gareth Southgate has made more than passive impression as the Russia 2018 World Cup gets into the home stretch.
Not only has he evoked the memories of the theme song of Euro 1996, ‘Football’s Coming Home’; he is also making a fashion statement.
He is the arrowhead of the revival of waistcoats, attire that has become his trademark as he stands at England’s dugout in the five Russia 2018 matches.
Written all over the suit is the phrase: ‘It’s Coming Home’. Information has it that English fans are suddenly crazy about the navy blue waistcoat that it is being suggested that they should dress like Southgate when going for Wednesday semi-final match with Croatia.
Gareth Southgate’s suit that has become the rave of the moment.
Apart from the success so far at the World Cup, the coach is becoming a fashion icon for the youths.
According to an English publication, “Express & Star”, supplier of England’s attire, Marks & Spencer are running short of the waistcoats which each cost £65.
Information has it that shops in Staffordshire and the Black Country have sold out the sleeveless garment.
Team supplier Marks & Spencer only had three of the waistcoats at its Merry Hill store. Stores in Walsall, West Bromwich, Birmingham and Telford have also sold out. Nationally, the company has seen a 35 per cent surge in the sales of the waistcoat.
The frenzy rush for the waistcoat is directly linked with the Wednesday World Cup fixture as England have a date with Croatia which have remained unbeaten at Russia 2018.
This clash is the eighth involving the two sides. But England have the overall head-to-head edge having won four of the past seven clashes while another match ended goalless leaving Croatia with two victories.
Both last crossed path nine years ago when England had a massive 5-1 win at Wembley in a qualifying duel for South Africa 2010. Great thanks to braces from Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard and a goal by Wayne Rooney.
The defeat accounted for the absence of Croatia from the 2010 World Cup, the only time the country had failed to qualify since the debut and impressive entry into France ’98.
Croatia are in the semi-finals of a FIFA World Cup for the second time, after qualifying for the last four on their competition debut in 1998 in France.
On the other hand, England have qualified for the World Cup semi-finals for the third time, doing so on European soil just as in 1966 and 1990.
But Croatia are breaking national records with two unprecedented runs in the World Cup, having gone five matches unbeaten, with three wins and two draws (games that they subsequently won on penalties), and scored in nine successive matches.
The Balkan team last failed to find the net in a 0-0 stalemate with Japan in 2006. In their quarter-final victory over Sweden, England kept a clean sheet for the first time in this campaign.
FACTS AHEAD OF THE SEMI-FINAL CLASH
- Danijel Subasic became the third goalkeeper to save four penalties in World Cup shoot-outs after Harald Schumacher (1982-1986) and Sergio Goycochea (1990). Coincidentally, all three have saved at least one penalty against the host team and advanced from that tie (Mexico-Germany FR in 1986, Italy-Argentina in 1990, Russia-Croatia in 2018).
- In beating first Denmark and then Russia, Croatia became the second team to win two penalty shoot-outs in the same edition, after Argentina did it in 1990.
- England boast three wins, one draw (in 1954, before the introduction of penalty shoot-outs) and one defeat in games decided in extra time. Against Colombia the Three Lions finally won a World Cup penalty shoot-out at the fourth time of asking, after losing their first three.
- Both Croatia and England have already contested a World Cup fixture on A 11 July date. Croatia edged the Netherlands 2-1 in 1998 in the Play-Off for Third Place, whereas England drew the Opening Match of the 1966 tournament 0-0 with Uruguay at Wembley.
- If Luka Modric plays, this will be his 11th World Cup appearance, taking him level with Dario Simic as the joint-highest-placed Croat in the competition’s all-time appearance ranking.