World Cup Semi Finals Predictions: France vs Belgium and England vs Croatia Previews, Tactics And Team News
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The 2018 World Cup semifinals begin on Tuesday with France vs Belgium in Saint Petersburg. The final will then be set following the completion of Wednesday's matchup between England and Croatia in Moscow. Here are our World Cup semi finals predictions, including team news, injuries, tactics and previews.
World Cup Semi Finals Predictions, Team News, Tactics And Previews
France vs Belgium
Tuesday, July 10 | 2:00 p.m. ET | Saint Petersburg Stadium
FOX and Telemundo
France advanced to the semifinals of the World Cup after a commanding 2-0 win over Uruguay. Raphael Varane’s glancing header gave Les Bleus a first half advantage, and the match was effectively finished after Fernando Muslera could only palm Antoine Griezmann’s long-range effort into his own net.
Griezmann turned in his finest performance of the tournament while Paul Pogba put it another commanding performance in the middle of the park. Belgium’s defense has looked less than convincing at times, and the Red Devils will certainly fret over the pace of Kylian Mbappe as well.
After missing the quarterfinal through yellow card suspension, Blaise Matuidi will likely be welcomed back into the starting eleven by Didier Deschamps, although Corentin Tolisso deputized well in his absence.
It’ll be a massive match for defensive midfielder N’Golo Kante, who’ll need to tackle the challenge posed by Chelsea teammate Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne. France will play in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Olivier Giroud leading the line.
Belgium arrive on the back of a narrow 2-1 win over Brazil. The counterattacking might of Hazard, De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku was on full display throughout the 90 pulsating minutes, and the Belgian resistance admirably bent while only breaking once (thanks to the keeping of Thibaut Courtois and near misses from both Renato Augusto and Philippe Coutinho).
Roberto Martinez dropped both Dries Mertens and Yannick Carrasco in favor of Nacer Chadli and Marouane Fallaini, but Belgium’s 4-3-3 formation remained. The return of Vincent Kompany to the heart of defense was a massive boost for Belgium, and he’ll be ready to go again on Tuesday.
France Team News
Samuel Umtiti has been carrying a knee injury throughout the tournament and appeared to be in discomfort on Friday, but it’s believed that he’ll still start.
Belgium Team News
Annan Januzaj missed the Round of 16 match due to an undisclosed injury, but he’s available now. Full back Thomas Meunier is also the only player to miss the semifinals through yellow card suspension.
France vs Belgium Prediction
France 3 - 2 Belgium
Like Germany at the 2014 World Cup or Spain in 2010, you get the feeling that France is just methodically shifting through the gears right now. It’s entirely possible that we haven’t come close to seeing the best from this group, but France will certainly have to produce it to get to the final. This should be a classic.
Croatia vs England
Wednesday, July 11 | 2:00 p.m. ET | Luzhniki Stadium
FOX and Telemundo
First things first, Croatia has elected to wear its black and blue change kit having worn it the past four matches, including the shootout victories in the knockout rounds. That means that England, who’ve worn red throughout the knockout stages, will revert back to traditional all white. Advantage: Croatia.
After looking really good against Nigeria, Argentina and Iceland in group play, Croatia’s been advancing through the knockout stages by the skin of its teeth. The Blazers have played 240 minutes of intense, lay-it-all-on-the-line football while twice requiring a shootout to advance. Essentially, they’ve played an entire extra match out in Russia.
After using a 4-1-4-1 formation against Denmark, Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic opted for an extra attacker in Andrej Kramaric against Russia. With Marcelo Brozovic and Ivan Rakitic holding down the fort in midfield, Luka Modric had more license to dictate proceedings further forward and turned in another outstanding display.
If the tournament ended now, he’d probably be the favorite for the Golden Ball (and perhaps the Ballon d’Or when the times comes). It was also a great match for winger Mario Mandzukic, who’ll now come up against one of England’s best performers in Russia, Kieran Trippier.
England, meanwhile, made Sweden look decidedly average while taking a firm control of its quarterfinal match by the hour mark. England’s 3-5-2 formation is getting the most out of the likes of John Stones, Harry Maguire, Jordan Henderson and Jesse Lingard, and Raheem Sterling had a blistering match up top to compensate for an out of sorts Harry Kane.
Kane, of course, has looked decent in the other matches (he’s only leading the tournament with six goals). The Three Lions have scored just three goals from open play, but the sophistication in the side’s buildup and the threat posed by the attack has certainly contributed to creating those scenarios in the first place.
Regardless, Croatia’s set piece defending on Mario Fernandes’ late equalizer was not a promising sign for the Blazers.
England Team News
Jamie Vardy missed England’s 2-0 win over Sweden with a groin injury, and the Leicester City striker is in a race for fitness before Wednesday. Dele Alli appears to have fully recovered from his thigh strain.
Croatia Team News
Goalkeeper Danijel Subasic appeared to injure his hamstring during the final moments of the second half on Saturday, but he remained in the game and was the hero in the penalty shootout. It’s unknown if his status will change for Wednesday. Also, defender Siem Vrsaljko was subbed off in extra time with an apparent knee injury.
England vs Croatia Prediction
England 2 - 1 Croatia AET
This one’s almost too close to call. It’s difficult to imagine anyone denying Modric and Rakitic with the form they’re in — it could be a long day for Henderson and England’s back three. However, Kane, Sterling and Alli should be able to get after Domagoj Vida and Dejan Lovren.
It’s gonna be nervy and there’s gonna be a long “feeling each other out” period, but this match should come alive after the first goal. I think England could win it in extra time with Croatia just haggard at that point.