When England crashed out of the 2018 World Cup at the semi-final stage, losing 2-1 to Croatia after extra time, a nation was silenced. The England fans, so vociferous in their support for the Three Lions on the shirt and the 11 heroic ones on the pitch, were left gutted. For this one glimmering summer, the optimism seemingly extinguished long ago started to flicker back into existence. Football was coming home, they thought. But it didn’t. However, instead of the usual what-ifs and why-didn’t-theys, this time the team left with their heads held high, falling against a side who, once they grew into the match, were simply the better team on the night.
France have booked their place in the first World Cup final in 12 years at this summer’s tournament. They overcame a talented Belgium side 1-0 to move to within 90 minutes of regaining the status of world champions. In Sunday’s Final they will come up against the winner of the other semi-final, contested between England and Croatia, and whichever side gets through to the biggest match in world football the French will go in as favourites – but needing star striker Antoine Griezmann to be on top form. Griezmann’s World Cup campaign so far has of course been decent – he has bagged three goals for himself while partnering arguably one of the stars of the show, Kylian Mbappe, through the youngster’s first senior international tournament.
France secured their place in the World Cup final with a 1-0 semi final win over rivals Belgium, and Didier Deschamps’ now face their third ever final in the competition.
Les Bleus were earmarked as amongst the favourites to win the World Cup before a ball was even kicked in Russia, however a low key group stage performance dampened expectations.
A VAR-assisted win over Australia, followed by an unconvincing win over Peru and a dull 0-0 draw with Denmark saw the French through as Group C leaders.
However from there on they have excelled, putting themselves a clear favourites to now win their first World Cup since their victory on home soil in 1998.
As you will probably already know, Juventus have confirmed one of their biggest transfer deals since the likes of Gianluigi Buffon and Pavel Nedved signed for the Turin club back in 2001. They confirmed that Real Madrid’s Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo would be wearing the black and white stripes of the Old Lady next season, signing a four-year contract for a fee of around €105M. The deal ends his nine-year stay at the Bernabeu, where he moved from Manchester United in 2009 for a then-world record transfer fee of €94M. His time at Real was laden with glory, though he surprisingly only managed two La Liga titles. 15 trophies were won in total though, including four Champions League crowns, and now he turns the page on a new chapter in his career.
When thinking about everything that has taken place during the Russian World Cup, one simply has to step back and give a round of applause to Belgium. Having been fancied ahead of the tournament kickoff, they secured their qualification from the group stages after just two games, before beating England – who had also qualified – to get into the knockout stages as group winners. While that all sounds great, things could have been more comfortable as that result meant that they entered the knockouts in the half bracket which included a host of former world champions such as Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina and France. Somehow, Roberto Martinez’s side have brushed off the pressure and breezed through to the semi-final, matching their best-ever finish at a World Cup.
As France prepare for their World Cup semi-final clash with Belgium on Tuesday evening, all eyes will be on Saint Petersburg as they battle it out for a place in the 2018 World Cup Final. While Belgium will of course be no pushovers the French are likely to be slight favourites going into the game. Both teams have claimed major scalps in this tournament, with France having eliminated Uruguay and Belgium overcame Brazil to get to this stage. The Belgian national team are enjoying a golden age, however, with several world class players among their ranks. Interestingly enough, the last time Belgium got this far in a World Cup tournament was in Mexico in 1986. They lost 2-0 to Argentina in the semi-final – before losing the third place playoff to France.
The Russian campaign of La Celeste ended in bitter fashion as their main weapon Edinson Cavani was unable to play against France due to a calf pull. Uruguay displayed impressive organization and incredible sturdiness, but could not respond to Les Bleus’ blows in the round of 8. Lucas Torreira, Matias Vecino, Rodrigo Bentancur, Diego Laxalt and Martin Caceres had pretty important roles in Tabarez’s XI.
The defensive phase was the main focus of the Charruas’ not named Cavani or Luis Suarez, even though El Matador still tracked back a lot, and Torreira and Vecino, who started every game as the duo of central midfielders, had a prominent part in that mentality. Continue reading
With the World Cup now having whittled itself down to its final four teams, it is now time to take a look at which midfielders have impressed the most over the past few days. This was a close-run thing this time, as the players played their hearts out in order to help the nation book a place in the World Cup semi-finals. Belgium were arguably the most impressive side in the last eight, overcoming tournament favourites Brazil. Their 2-0 win means they now face a date with destiny against neighbours France in the semi-final this week, with the French having also advanced past South American opposition when they disposed of Uruguay. With both sides now just two wins away from becoming world champions, much is at stake.
When England secured a place in their first World Cup semi-final in 28 years, the nation celebrated – naturally. The Three Lions are a team capable of ramping up the patriotism and yet disappointing when a major tournament rolls around. During this World Cup, however, they have done exactly what has been expected of them, and now only Croatia stand between them and a first World Cup final in 52 years. Social media has been abuzz for the last few weeks, fans all over the world claiming that football is indeed finally coming home, 22 years after it was predicted to do so by Frank Skinner, David Baddiel and Lightning Seeds. That hasn’t been the only internet meme to go viral though, as a string of tweets about a certain player has excited the nation once again.
Brazil were eliminated early for their standards and for their aspirations: they had some impressive showings and were solid throughout, but they run into one of the few teams that were equipped to take them down. They had a strong reaction to a poor first half against Belgium and created plenty of chances to equalize, but were too imprecise.
Tite’s squad included three Serie A players in prominent roles: Alisson, Joao Miranda and Douglas Costa. La Seleçao conceded just one goal in the first four matches and that is proof of their general robustness. Continue reading