WORLD CUP 2018

Mandzukic warns Pickford to expect a 'surprise' from Croatia

Mandzukic warns Pickford to expect 'surprise' from Croatia

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Jordan Pickford has been one of England's standout performers in Russia, but Mario Mandzukic thinks Croatia have the key to beat him.

Mario Mandzukic has been impressed by Jordan Pickford's performances at the World Cup but has told the England goalkeeper to expect a "surprise" in the semi-final against Croatia.

Pickford, 24, has been one of the standout performers under Gareth Southgate during the Three Lions' run to the last four of a World Cup for the first time since 1990.

Soccer Football - World Cup - Croatia Press Conference - Luzhniki Training Centre, Moscow, Russia - July 9, 2018 Croatia's Mario Mandzukic during the press conference

The Everton keeper made a brilliant penalty save in the shoot-out win over Colombia in the last 16 and continued that form into the 2-0 victory over Croatia in the quarter-finals.

However, with Croatia having had eight different goalscorers at these finals – fewer only than Belgium – Mandzukic thinks his side will have the weapons to beat the former Sunderland man.

"We've seen he's doing really well," the Juventus striker told a media conference. "We've shown all members of our team are dangerous, so I believe someone will find a way to surprise him.

"He's shown great potential and I'm sure he has a bright future."

It has been suggested Croatia should be favourites given the experienced players they boast in their squad, thereby increasing the pressure on them to reach the final, but Mandzukic says they are enjoying their time in Russia now more than ever.

"Our biggest pressure was the Denmark game in the last 16," he said. "We're enjoying it more at this stage. When the game starts, there is a little bit of pressure, but we're really enjoying being here at the semi-finals."

Former Leicester City striker Andrej Kramaric has noted a more positive style of play from England under Southgate and compared their approach to that of Brazil, who beat Croatia 2-0 in a friendly prior to the World Cup.

"England play a bit different to previously," he said. "They look very attack-minded and play attractive football. Both teams will go into the game with caution because it's a semi-final and these matches can be decided by a mistake or great individual goal.

"Playing Brazil was a useful test for Croatia. Brazil are a top team, like England, they have a similar style in some ways in terms of attacking football."

Kramaric struggled for playing time at Leicester before leaving for Hoffenheim, making only two appearances in the Premier League during the Foxes' shock title triumph in 2015-16.

However, the 27-year-old insists he enjoyed his spell in England.

"It's a great story for me, it was my first time outside Croatia, everything was really new," he said. "It turned out I didn't play much, it was difficult to break into the team because they were playing great throughout the season and no coach would change a winning team, but it was a great experience.

"I could talk about it for days, but I hope to talk about Croatia and this World Cup for years."

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