Russia 2018 has been declared by a lot of football enthusiasts as the best World Cup ever. This is mostly because of the inability to predict matches as a lot of favourites to win the World Cup have already been eliminated. The World Cup is now in the semi final stage, with only four teams left, and four matches to play. We would be looking at the teams playing in retrospect.
France vs Belgium
This match has been labelled the “final before the final” by football enthusiasts. Without a doubt, these are the two strongest teams on paper, left in the tournament. These two teams are really similar in geographic location (they share borders), in talent (they have numerous star players), and in the fact that the current squad have underachieved regardless of the talent they have.
Belgium exceeded expectations by beating the tournament favourites, Brazil in the quarter final. Although the Brazilians scored a goal, and created numerous chances to take the game into extra time, Belgium held on to their 2 first half strikes that got them 2 goals up. In the end, Belgium came out as 2-1 winners which can be said was well deserved due to their spirited performance.
France on the other hand defeated a very stingy Uruguay side that never seemed to concede a goal. Uruguay had only conceded 1 goal the entire tournament, a header from Portugal’s Pepe. This was expected to be a very difficult game for the French. Frank Leboeuf, a member of the 1998 France national team that lifted the World Cup also predicted the French losing this game due to how strong the Uruguay defence was. However, the French won this game comfortably by 2 goals. It appeared Uruguay did not attempt scoring the French, apart from a header that produced a stunning save by the French goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris. The Uruguay team was missing one of their key men up front, Edinson Cavani due to an injury he sustained. And it seemed the team was lost and short of ideas without Cavani while Luis Suarez was unable to carry them all by himself.
Could this finally be the year for France or Belgium to meet their expectations? This match is so evenly poised that it is almost impossible to predict. One thing for sure is that whoever wins this match, would be considered favourites in the final.
England vs Croatia
After breaking their penalty shoot out against Colombia in the round of 16, England got to the semi final by totally outplaying Sweden in the quarterfinals. This game was one way traffic all the way for the English. A lot of fans and football enthusiasts expected Sweden to make it tough for England but that wasn’t the case. England ended up winning 2-0 but they could’ve easily won by 4 or 5 goals as they squandered numerous opportunities, Rahim Sterling in particular.
Croatia on the other hand have struggled all the way to the semi finals with back to back wins in a draining penalty shootout against Denmark and the hosts, Russia. While the Croatians showed extreme mental and physical strength to win both matches, we are all left wondering if they still have enough in their tank to get to the finals. Croatia has a star studded midfield with the likes of Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric who are able to control the pace of the game.
This encounter is a fascinating one but it is safe to say that whoever wins, would be viewed as underdogs against France or Belgium in the final.