Semi Finals

France v Belgium
Croatia v England

Brazil let me down, as they did for the whole of tournament and of course Brazil. Halfway through the match with Belgium I was thinking they might be a better team without Neymar. Neymar stopped diving so much, but he also stopped playing as well, he won’t be missed. Brazil might well be a better team without him and it will be interesting to see if they decide that building the whole team around him was not such a good idea after all.

France v Belgium

France looked less formidable against a workman like Uruguay. Uruguay did indeed try to catch them cold early on, but without Edinson Cavani they looked less than half the side they had been.
Belgium outplayed a disappointing Brazil, though the Belgian weakness at the back nearly let Brazil back into it at the death.

France and Belgium are very similar in style of play, also being both strong and weak in the same parts of the pitch. Strong attacking down the right and weak on the left side of defence. This match might be a classic with both of them going for it. Let it not be forgotten that traditionally they are bitter rivals of old, though like England v Scotland, the bitterness is mostly from the smaller nation. If they play an open game, there should be lots of goals and it is impossible to decide who is the favourite let alone who will win. Extra time and or penalties will be what England and Croatia are hoping for. If the occasion gets to them it might be a cagey battle, but I doubt it. I am expecting a classic World Cup match with either side more than capable of winning.

Croatia v England

After the Lord Mayor's Show on Tuesday comes Croatia v England on Wednesday. Croatia lost some energy and direction against Denmark and looked even more tired against a rejuvenated if limited Russia. England on the other hand had an easier time controlling a clueless Sweden. Harry Kane failed to score, but it is good for England that other players are finding the net. If England can stifle the inventive Croatian midfield they stand a great chance of winning. 

The key man for England is Raheem Sterling. If one of his runs at the heart of the Croatian defence comes good, a goal is the likely result. England carry far more threat than Russia or Denmark, giving Croatia more problems than they have had to deal with so far. England should do it for the first time since 1966. If England get to the final, that’s where their problems will multiply.

Expected Final - France v England

Preferred Final - Belgium v England

We shall see

David Coalman 09/07/2018