Here we are then. Alright. The final four. Come this Wednesday night, we will know the identities of the two teams that will play in the biggest stage in the world. Every four years we are treated to this game of historic proportions. It can move countries— continents even. It can make or break playing and managerial careers. It can put a country on the map.
Yup, come this Wednesday night we will know the identities of the two teams that will battle it out in front of hundreds of millions of global eyeballs in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia consolation game. And, as an added bonus, we will also know who will play in the, like, you know, finals and stuff.
Horosho! (that means “good!” in Russian)
FRANCE v BELGIUM (Tuesday)
On paper, this one looks even. There are any number of major stars lining up on either side, and there are some wonderful stories such as France hero Thierry Henry coaching, um, Belgium? Yup, Henry is an assistant manager on Martinez’s staff.
I’m thinking Belgium’s defense can be broken and that Thibaut Courtois (mostly excellent in this World Cup) will once again be peppered with shots. He can keep a lot of them out, but France should enjoy some success. For its part, Belgium should also trouble the French defense, but Chelsea defensive mid N’Golo Kante is such a difference-maker as is Real Madrid central defender Raphael Varane.
In attack I’d rather have Belgium’s trio of Eden Hazard / Kevin De Bruyne / Romelu Lukaku than France’s Kylian Mbappe / Antoine Griezmann / Olivier Giroud but in pretty much every other position France wins out.
I think France goes on to the finals.
CROATIA v ENGLAND (Wednesday)
On paper Croatia has more pedigree. Any time you can feature players who are star contributors in clubs like Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus you must be taken very seriously.
But we saw how exhausted Croatia was toward the end of its odyssey versus the Russian hosts on Saturday. How can their legs recover, particularly when the two best players (Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic) are exactly, shall we say, the most athletically imposing of body-types. Keeper extraordinaire Danijel Subasic also looked badly hurt and was practically hopping on one leg and may have gotten through the penalty shootout on the strength of a massive adrenaline rush.
England, on the other hand, have done just enough to win most games and have been largely drama free, save for a penalty shootout with a wounded Colombia. It shouldn’t be on paper, but this is real life: England will win rather comfortably.
And maybe, just maybe the “on paper” assumption is wrong because Harry Kane, Harry Maguire, Kieran Trippier and Jordan Pickford are legitimate global stars.
It’s coming home.
Have you enjoyed this World Cup? Has everything gone according to plan? Or has everything gone awry for you in terms of real life or fantasy expectations? What finals matchup would you prefer and why? Tell us in the comments below!