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2018 FIFA World Cup: Finals Pre-Deadline Chat

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England and Belgium is the final we wanted, but instead we get France and Croatia. Oh well! I’m going to pretend that Argentina beat France in the Round of 16 and have made it to the finals for a rematch against Croatia. England fans, I invite you to do the same and pretend you’re playing France on Sunday! It’s pretty to think so.

Gabriel Mercado - Argentina - Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Reality sucks, so I’m living in a fantasy world where Argentina add a third World Cup title! England fans, you can do the same and pretend it’s coming home with Harry Kane!
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Life is not always fair. Those of us who follow the English Premier League were very excited by the prospect of an England v Belgium final. The two nations feature some of the finest players from, arguably, the best league in the world.

Life, although not always fair, does sometimes offer consolation prizes. And so we do get to watch England v Belgium, but in the consolation match on Saturday. England should really try to win this match. If they don’t, they’ll end their World Cup on consecutive losses — making three overall with two of them to Belgium. Losing won’t “ruin” their World Cup, but, in the cold light of day, it will cast doubt over how successful the journey can be called. Challenge for England is, Belgium will feel the same way. It should be a really fun match, disappointments aside.

It’s one last hurrah on Russian soil for EPL stalwarts Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli, Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku. It may also be a run-out for some back-up players, so watch for lineups in the last hour — we will see half of this round’s starting players before our deadline; don’t miss it!

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France v Croatia, also known as the only two teams to beat Argentina in this World Cup, will duke it out for global futbol supremacy. It remains to be seen how much legs and lungs are left for the very brave and courageous Croatian players. France, on the other hand, arrive a bit more rested because they haven’t played nearly the amount of minutes that Croatia has — and because they have an extra day’s rest. The problem for France could be injuries to the forward corps: Kylian Mbappe has had some lower back issues; Olivier Giroud looked wounded in the latter stages of the semifinal match; and Blaise Matuidi suffered a game-ending blow. We could see some changes up front for France.

The battle in midfield will be exquisite; outside of Casemiro and Toni Kroos a dream midfield could very well consist of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante. All four will be on show!

I’m predicting a routine win for France although they’ve never quite convinced me the way, say, Germany did in 2014 or Spain in 2010. As a fan of gritty and passionate South American futbol, I’d prefer a Croatia win. So much heart, so much passion, so much courage and grace under pressure. I am very sorry that Croatia had to break England (and EPL) hearts on the way to the finals, but if we’re making lemonade out of the lemons that we’ve been handed, then I’d rather see Super Mario Mandzukic hoist the cup than his replacement at Atletico Madrid, the wanna-be Uruguayan Antoine Griezmann.

England and Croatia (but really France) for the win!

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On another note I wanted to thank each and every one of you readers as well as each and every one of the NMA staff for a wonderful year and World Cup. Unfortunately this will be my last article as a regular staff writer. I will still contribute from time to time, particularly during the international breaks. I have some fun ideas that I hope will provide entertainment when the EPL season is disrupted for useless post-World-Cup international breaks. I’m very grateful and humbled that you trusted me with your time and attention. Thank you.

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And so the World Cup is about to wrap. What did you think? Are you happy or were you left wanting? How did your fantasy teams do? Did any player surprise or disappoint? Did you spot a potential EPL fantasy stud? Are you hearing any late lineup news? What transfers are you contemplating at the deadline? Let us know in the comments below!

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