The long and winding road that is the World Cup has led us to here, the semifinals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. What once was a tournament of 32 nations is now a tournament of just four, all playing for immortality. France and England have both raised the trophy in the past in tournament played on their home soil. Belgium and Croatia have both been to this stage but never further.
All four nations are in the midst of a golden generation just at different stages. France and England are entering a new golden generation of players and arrived in Russia as the two youngest teams in the field. For them, this could just be the beginning of a great international run. Belgium and Croatia on the other hand are in the latter days of their respective golden generations, knowing this could be the last time they ever get an opportunity as grand as this one.
There will be loads of talent and great football on display across these two semifinal matches in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Who comes out on top of either match is really anyone’s guess and there is no wrong answer. It all begins later today with France and Belgium squaring off for a spot in the World Cup Final. Make sure you don’t miss a second of the action.
Only four teams remain standing at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and it’s an all European affair in the semifinals. Many expected France and Belgium to reach this stage but not everyone was as hot on England and Croatia. Two past champions and two searching for a first title will be on the pitch over the next two days fighting for a spot in the World Cup Final.
In the World Cup semifinals for the first time since 1986, Belgium and its golden generation are just two wins from winning its first World Cup. A near dead even matchup with France awaits on the the horizon and beating Brazil in the last round sends a message to the remaining teams that Belgium is afraid of no one.
How they got here: def. Brazil 2-1 in Quarterfinals
What to expect: We may not know the full starting lineup for Belgium until the last possible second when match sheets are due from the managers. Roberto Martinez made a few major changes for the Brazil match and it paid off. We will have to wait and see what tricks he has up his sleeve for France. Whatever the case, expect the Red Devils to be fully loaded at all positions.
As the youngest team in the tournament, there were some questions to just how far this France side could go even with plenty of talent to go around. Well, they have proven good enough to reach the semifinals and could potentially put themselves in position to win a second World Cup. It will be a border rivalry with Belgium in the semifinals with a spot in the World Cup Final on the line.
How they got here: def. Uruguay 2-0 in Quarterfinals
What to expect: Relentless attacking options give France the ability to play on the front foot and control possession. Problem with that is, especially in this match, is Belgium are just as strong and can matchup with France’s talent. Look for France to get the ball into space and allow its creative playmakers the opportunities to make something happen.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget just how much hard luck England have had on the international stage since winning the World Cup in 1966. Between penalty shootouts and just plain bad teams, England have made it to the semifinals for the first time since 1990. If you remember back to the final day of group stage play, England did everything in its power to lose to Belgium and fall to the easier side of the bracket. Well the plan worked and now England are on the cusp of bringing the title back home.
How they got here: def. Sweden 2-0 in Quarterfinals
What to expect: England should have opportunities to take the game to Croatia who tends to lay back and hit on the counter. Controlling possession and creating chances for Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling up front is a good way for England to press the Croatia back line. Possession also means England can tire out an already exhausted Croatia side who is coming off consecutive extra time matches to get here.
It has taken two penalty shootouts in the knockout rounds but Croatia has successfully advanced to its first World Cup semifinals since 1998. Entering the twilight of a golden generation of its own and finally broke through on the international stage. Luka Modric has been maybe the best player of the tournament and they are getting scoring from a variety of different players. If there was ever a year a small country like Croatia were going to hoist the trophy, it’s right here in Russia.
How they got here: def. Russia 4-3 on penalties in Quarterfinals
What to expect: Common sense says no matter what lineup Croatia puts on the field on Wednesday it will be loaded with tired bodies. In two knockout games, Croatia has played 240 minutes of football and that is not counting the two additional penalty shootouts. Look for them to sit back and take chances on the counter to preserve as much energy as possible and catch England off guard.
That brings to a close this brief look at the eight teams who will be taking part in the Quarterfinals at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. All eight have battled to get here and sit on the brink of at worst a fourth place finish on the game’s biggest stage. Unfortunately, for four of them, this will be the end of the line.
A look at the 2018 FIFA World Cup bracket as it stands heading into the Semifinals.
Just four matches remain at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and it all kicks off on Tuesday with France and Belgium. From there, the weekend brings us the Third Place game on Saturday followed by the main even on Sunday where two sides will battle it out for the World Cup title.
Just four teams left standing from the original 32 that began the tournament just four weeks ago. France and Belgium will kick off the semifinals festivities on Tuesday followed by Croatia and England going on Wednesday. The two winners advance to the World Cup Final to be played on Sunday in Moscow while the two losers will meet in the Third Place match on Saturday.
France v. Belgium
- Date: Tuesday, July 10th
- Time: 2:00 PM
- Location: Saint Petersburg Stadium (St. Petersburg)
- How to Watch: FOX
- Players to Watch: Paul Pogba (FRA), Eden Hazard (BEL)
On paper, this looks to be the best of the two semifinal matches at this World Cup. Both France and Belgium entered the tournament as two of the favorites to win the World Cup and have only further established themselves through five games in Russia. Wealthy attacking options on both sides coupled with depth everywhere else means this should be one of the best games of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Prediction: France 3, Belgium 2 (A.E.T.)
Croatia v. England
- Date: Wednesday, July 11th
- Time: 2:00 PM
- Location: Luzhniki Stadium (Moscow)
- How to Watch: FOX
- Players to Watch: Luka Modric (CRO), Harry Kane (ENG)
One of these sides will be ending a long World Cup Final drought with a victory on Wednesday. Croatia has never been to the Final in 20 years of competing as an independent nation and England have not made the trip since winning it all in 1966 on home soil. Coming off two extra time games, Croatia will need to muster whatever energy it had left in the tank to keep up with a mostly fit England side.
Prediction: England 2, Croatia 1
That completes just a very brief look at the pair of matches that will compromise the semifinals stage at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Check back on Wednesday afternoon to see how bad our predictions turn out to be.
Golden Boot Outlook
The Golden Boot Award goes to the top goal scorer at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Only four of the top ten goal scorers at the 2018 FIFA World Cup will be in action during the semifinals and Harry Kane still leads the pack with six goals in the tournament.
Once the semifinals begin on Tuesday, we will continuing with our daily World Cupdates recapping the previous day of action along with a preview of what’s still to come as the tournament enters the final few days. Make sure you are checking back with us everyday to keep up to date on the latest news from the 2018 FIFA World Cup.