FIFA World Cup 2018 Semifinal Preview – The tournament is four games away from curtain fall – Semifinal matches, 3rd place and the final. It’s an all European affair, never mind Brexit. The penultimate round before the final features Belgium, France, England, and Croatia. Belgium, Croatia, and France are yet to lose a game at this year’s finals with Belgium and Croatia boasting a 100% record – all wins, no draws. One question persists, Who will make it into the final?
FIFA World Cup 2018 Semifinal Preview – France vs Belgium
Venue: St Petersburg stadium
France started their World Cup campaign with one of the youngest squads at the tournament, after Nigeria. The relative lack of experience in the team might have been a cause for concern at the start, but that’s almost forgotten now as they head into the semifinals. Les Blues showed courage and determination as they overcame a wobbling Argentina in their round of 16 tie, then put on an effective display as they dispatched Uruguay 2-0 in the following quarterfinal match. These victories, coupled with their group stage encounters are sign of a young side gradually realising it’s potential. Speaking of potential, there is a host in the squad from Kylian Mbappe to Ousame Dembele and Paul Pogba. These players are a reflection of a collective, that’s on the brink of achieving what might have been deemed impossible at the beginning if they book a place in the final. That remains to be seen though, as Belgium have so far proved resilient in this tournament.
This is Belgium’s make or break season. Their shambolic 2014 World Cup campaign, where they were regarded as dark horses – outsiders that seemingly had the tools to progress to the latter stages or even win the title, comes to mind. Belgium was the opposite, as their performances showed a serious lack of chemistry and overall, experience. Given that disastrous outing, many categorized them as a one for the future, a tag the red devils are living up to right now. Majority of that squad are present in this current setup with the likes of Hazard, Mertens, Lukaku, Fellaini, Vertoghen and Axel Witsel, who have shown that they’re more than up to the task. Belgium’s performances in the group stage showed maturity as they took their time to secure victory against Panama and England. Furthermore, the performance with Japan was a textbook display of never say never, as is it was in the subsequent defeat of Brazil. Belgium’s golden generation have to deliver the goods now or be left to rue what could’ve been.
Expectation: A Belgium win. They have the pedigree, talent, and experience.
FIFA World Cup 2018 Semifinal Preview – Croatia vs England
Venue: Luzhniki stadium
Croatia would be aiming to go a step further than the revered class of ’98, that saw Davor Sukur become a household name. Their current setup has the quality, in Modric, Rakitic, Perisic and Mandzukic, a quartet of talent, industry, and guile. The overarching question is, Can they do it? That remains to be seen as they face a young England squad brimming with belief. Croatia has been rather fortunate in their knock out fixtures and will do well to realize the need to step up several notches in terms of performances if they’re to book a spot in the final. The Croats have a strong central midfield with the ability to keep the ball and dictate the tempo of the game, appropriate use of their midfield talents could see them overcome a young and energetic England.
Football coming home? The now popular phrase, started off as a quip by a jaded English fan base that has seen too many false dawns, but their run at this year’s World Cup has given them reason to believe that the unimaginable could be achieved. England has a very young squad with Gary Cahill the most capped player in their ranks. The overall inexperience is yet to let them down, as the Three Lions have been astute in securing victories so far their campaign. One might argue that they’ve been rather lucky with the draw as they’re yet to face a formidable opponent at the finals. Regardless, players like Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, and Dele Alli need to be firing from all cylinders come Wednesday if England are to go all the way to the last game of the tournament.
Expectation: Croatia to dominate as they have a superior midfield but could come undone to England’s pace and penchant for long balls. A narrow win for whichever team comes out on top.