And then there were four...
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The 2018 World Cup semifinals are now set with France playing Belgium on Tuesday in Saint Petersburg and England facing Croatia on Wednesday in Moscow.
We should basically call this the 2018 European Championships. In all seriousness, the final four teams remaining are evenly-balanced and the next week should deliver two stunning semifinals and a final.
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Below we rank the final four based on their current form and likelihood of winning it all in Russia.
4. Croatia - Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic make this Croatian team purr but in their knockout round penalty kicks wins against Denmark and Russia they’ve hardly impressed. If Dejan Lovren can shore up Croatia’s defense and stop Harry Kane, then they’ll have a chance. That’s a big if though. Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Perisic and Andrej Krameric will cause England problems if they can drag their three center backs out wide. Just a second World Cup semifinal in their history and a first since 1998 is a huge achievement.
3. England - What the Three Lions have managed to do at this World Cup is astonishing and anything is now a bonus for Gareth Southgate’s side. Yet despite Kane leading the Golden Boot race, the youngest team left in the competition seem to still have at least a few gears left. Winning the midfield battle against Croatia will be key, with Jordan Henderson likely needing plenty of help against Rakitic and Modric.
2. France - They’ve come through the toughest side of the bracket and saw off Uruguay in impressive fashion. Defensively they’re getting better throughout the tournament with Hugo Lloris getting rid of his mistakes, plus Varane and Umtiti a fine central defensive partnership. Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe have a great understanding in attack and both Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante have had very good World Cups.
1. Belgium - After that stunning display against Brazil they will be full of confidence. All of their stars are playing well with Romelu Lukaku a beast, Eden Hazard buzzing around and Kevin de Bruyne leading stunning counter attacks. Roberto Martinez has also shown he can get his tactics right for individual games and despite a few defensive slip ups, you can’t argue with Belgium being the favorites to win it all.