Before FIFA World Cup 2018 started, it was all for Germany, Brazil, Argentina and Spain. Even this writer in preview rated the above four as firm favorites.
My younger son Khondkar Shafayet Shariaz( Avro) of all persons told me watch out for Belgium and England. They will surprise you and all. I took little notice. But as the tournament progressed, they started flourishing. Now Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Portugal, Uruguay are all gone. Belgium, England, France and Croatia are alive to fight out whether one of the past champions France or England or any new king is crowned as new Champion of the World. Thanks Avro for your realistic advice.
Four inform better performing teams of the 32 top football teams of the world after over a month of excitements, dramas, mouth watering contests are expected to produce blockbuster matches. It was beyond all analysis and forecasts that Brazil, Germany, Spain, Argentina, Portugal can not reach the stage. 8 Countries – Brazil (5) ,Germany ( 4), Italy ( 4) ,Argentina(2), Uruguay(2), France (1) ,England (1) and Spain(1) won the top honor in 20 previous world cup events . Only France and England of them are left now. Belgium and Croatia for the first time would crack at the trophy, if they manage to win their matches against France and England. In a matter of few days, world would see whether WC will welcome crowning of the new king or stays with one of the previous winners joining Argentina and Uruguay. This is the first time any WC semi final in the recent times would see Brazil, Germany and Argentina not featuring among the semi finalists. No South American, African or CONCAF region countries also could go that far. World Cup is now an all European affair. It is France Vs Belgium and England Vs Croatia meeting in the semi finals to decide which two reach the final in Moscow on 16 July in the curtain dropping event of WC 2018 epic contests. WC has already witnessed joys and sorrows, smile and cry of so many people. Football brings all in the same level. Nothing else in the world sparks to0 much; nothing creates so much flashing meadow.
The way the groups were drawn it could be Germany and Brazil progressing from one half and Argentina and Spain from the other. But all meteors have fallen and new stars are in the horizon.
How The Teams Reach Semi Finals?
France Topped group C which had Denmark, Australia and Peru. Belgium and England qualified from Group G. Croatia is there from group D. Belgium remains the only team which has won all matches so far within the 90 minutes. Croatia also won all but the last two of its win went to tie breakers penalty shoot out. France drew the last match of their group against Denmark. England lost to Belgium in their group match. Croatia and France accounted for the exit of Messi and Argentina. Belgium beat tournament favorites Brazil in the quarter finals ending its HEXA mission.
When France meets Belgium and also England takes on Croatia there will be very little to choose. England is the only team to have lost a match on the road to semi final. Many think it was a strategic move for them in the last match of the group G not to win in efforts to avoid Brazil and France on the roadblocks. Belgium did not care and played superbly to shock the favourite Brazil in the quarterfinal. Belgium would now put their perfect record on the line against the informed and balanced France in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday .Les Blues are sharp at the back and skilled up to the front, while Red Devils are creative with their movement and passing in the third.
Stylish passing is also Croatia's forte thanks to a clutch of gifted technicians in midfield. It's something England must over power with pace, strength and width when the two nations meet at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Wednesday.
France Vs Belgium.
They are the two informed high quality teams of the tournament. Most of the players of either team play in Major European league clubs. Many play in the same teams. They know one another’s game very well.
France is one of the pre tournament favorites. They started the mission very slowly. They started the world cup journey with a hard fought first match against Australia winning it 2-1 .Peru stretched them also in the 1-0 win and finally they shared points with Denmark in 0-0 drawn match. In the group of 16, they found a listless Argentina on the way. Fast moving furious Mpabbe out gunned Argentina in 3-2 win in a fascinating contest. France knocked out another South American giant, another world cup winner of the past Uruguay in the quarter final 2-0. France is looking good for another title after Zinaden Zidan inspired team got them the first prevailing over Brazil.
Belgium was considered dark horse of the tournament. They played the dynamic and fluid football knocking the memory of the great Netherland team of 1970s. In Lukaku, Debruyen and E Hazard Belgium posses the most dangerous trio of the present day football. Up against their formidable neighbor Belgium is poised to raise their game to another level. They adjusted their game so well against Fancied Brazil. They topped the group G winning all their matches. In the group of 16, they overcame strong Japanese Challenge recovering from 0-2 to 3-2. Their defense all thrusts and threats of Brazilians in 2-1 Quarter final win. It remains to be seen how much wind is left in Belgium sail after two energy sapping matches. The golden generation of Belgium desperately needs a glory to crow their efforts.
France Vs Belgium match is expected to produce fascinating contest of power and strength.
France Lloris, Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Lucas, Kante, Pogba, Mbappe, Griezmann, Tolisso, Giroud
Belgium:Courtios, Vermaelen, Kompany, Alderweireld, Meanier , De Bruyen, Witsel, Carrsco, Mortens , E Hazard and Lukaku.
England Vs Croatia
Croatia topped Group D which had Argentina. They put three goals past Argentine goal keeper and shook Messi and his mates. In group of 16 match against Denmark and Quarter Final against host Russia, they got better of in the tie breaking penalty shoot out for reaching the semi final. In 1998 when Croatia appeared for the first time in world stage they surged into Semi Ginalsuprising Germany 3-0 in the quarter final. This time much matured Croatia triggered the demise of Argentina and buried the dreams of host Russia.
England progressed to the round of 16 from Group G just behind Belgium losing to them 0-1 in the last match. It was a match which neither team wanted to win. Both played most from the bench after securing the knock out stage with two wins in the group against Panama and Tunisia .England beat Tunisia 2-1 and Panama 6-1. Harry Kane scoring 5 including a hattrick has already emerged as a potential winner of golden boot.
Head to Head
The Three Lions have met Croatia in five competitive games since the turn of the century. Of these, England have won three and lost two. It is almost a decade since the last clash, which came in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.England thrashed the Croatians 5-1 thanks to braces from Frank Lampard and Steve Gerarrd, and one from Wayne Rooney.
But Steve McClaren won't want to be reminded of his famous 'wally with the brolly' when England failed to reach Euro 2008 after a 3-2 defeat at Wembley. History seems to count for little in this tournament - and especially with this new look Croatia.
England is favourite but none can guarantee a win against Crotatia, which has earned appreciation of many in this world cup for playing consistently well.
Probable Starting XI:
England; Pickford, Maguire, Stones, Walker, Trippier, Rose; Henderson, Loftus-Cheek, Lingard; Sterling, Kane
Croatia :Subasic; Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic; Modric, Rakitic, Rebic, Brozovic, Perisic; Mandzukic.
BDST: 1305 HRS, JUL 09, 2018