The 2018 FIFA World Cup has become a distinctively European tournament now. All four of the semi-finalists will hail from Europe, and the last six teams surviving ended up being from there as well. This isn’t exactly a huge surprise, due to the fact that nearly half of the field is comprised of European teams and that club football cannot be touched in that region. Yet, it is a little surprising to not see Brazil or Argentina in there, simply due to their big-name superstars.
The semi-finals will have a very interesting feel to them. In the first match, Belgium will take on France. Belgium took on Brazil on Friday, and they proved that this generation of players was indeed for real with a complete performance to win 2-1 over the five time winners. They used a bit of luck to score an own goal and had some lucky breaks go for them, along with some great saves from goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, but every team needs a little luck to win a tournament. Kevin de Bruyne’s counter attacking goal was one of the finest in the tournament, and they only gave up one late to a desperate Brazil. They will take on France, a team that assistant coach Thierry Henry will know all about.
France came through after a very routine 2-0 win over Uruguay, who had knocked out Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in the previous round. France had to wait a while to score, but they broke through after 40 minutes via Raphael Varane. From there, they were in control. 15 minutes into the second half, they sealed victory when Antoine Griezmann scored from distance after a mistake from goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. That took the air out of the ball for the South Americans, eliminating all hope that a European team would not win.
The other semi-final will be one from out of left field as England will take on Croatia. England have not been to a semi since Italia in 1990. But they reversed the curse with a relatively drama-free cruise over Sweden on Saturday. It wasn’t a very pretty game, but the Three Lions did what they had to do in order to advance. They used goals from defender Harry Maguire, on yet another corner, and then a second header from Dele Alli to win it. Jordan Pickford was impervious in goal, but they never looked like losing.
They will face off with Croatia, who had plenty of drama to deal with against hosts Russia. The Croats were forced into a second straight penalty kick shootout after a 2-2 draw following extra time. Their golden generation of players knew they had one more shot, and they still have it thanks to that. This is a team that do not stay down long, giving up goals and instantly responding. It might just take that kind of fight to outlast a very hungry England side who have waited eight years more to reach this stage than the red-and-white clad side.