Christ, It’s Already the WC Semi-Finals

Well we’re at the last four of the 2018 World Cup and boy did it go fast. I won’t indulge you all with the hundreds of incredible moments from throughout the tournament, but it’s safe to say that this has been an awesome World Cup.

But enough pandering – it’s the Semi Finals. 4 teams remain from our original 32: Croatia vs. England, Belgium vs. France.

Games will be on Tuesday and Wednesday at 2 pm EST, so if you’re at work during that time it will call for some shiftiness if you’re not able to get away from your job.

We’ve got some great storylines for you all to follow, and since there’s only 4 teams left its not hard to keep them straight now. Congrats.

Without further ado:

Belgium v France 07/10 @ 2PM EST

I don’t even understand how I can pick between these teams. Both of these teams boast a relatively young, formerly untested squad of players. Four years ago people had called them “too young and inexperienced.” Now that time has passed and they’ve entered their primes.

On paper, these two teams are possibly the best two remaining. The attacking prowess of Belgium through Hazard, Lukaku, and De Bruyne, has been unmatched thus far. They’re able to counter hard and fast, then possess you until your frustrations get the best of you. Though Brazil had a late push-back against them, the Red Devils took down the World Cup favorites relatively comfortably, 2-1. Personally I thought Witsel and Fellaini in the middle of the park was a terrible choice, but head coach Martinez made us all look silly.

Witsel played extremely well and held the middle of the park. Interested to see what Martinez chooses for this France game. But that defense holds firm when it needs to, with Courtois holding the line extremely well. They’re an incredibly tough team to break down.

At the same time we have France, who broke down the Uruguayan defense to win 2-0. A team that had only conceded one goal in the entire tournament. They were without Cavani, but it did not affect their defensive play, and France actually held 62% possession, something that normally doesn’t happen when a team goes up early.

I said this already, but I think France might be the most adaptive, dynamic team at this World Cup.

They have such a variety in their players, that it can allow Deschamps to experiment without risk. France can sit back and counter as one of the best in the world, they can play a possessive, steady attack through the middle.

Or he can have strong wing play on the outsides coming from Pogba or Griezmann, and then play through Giroud in the middle. And the veracity with which they can do this is what makes them a scary team to face. Put them in pretty much any shape or situation and they can manage with anyone in the world – no other team in this tournament can say that.

Kante has been incredible once again in the middle, and will be certainly something that fellow Chelsea teammate Eden Hazard will be considering. Mbappe will be a handful for Vertonghen and Alderwierald in the back, though both experienced enough that we might see Mbappe stunted.

If nothing else, both of these teams can score goals, with 9 for France, and a World Cup leading 14 for Belgium. This game can go either way. Only tipping point factor for me is that if France wins the whole thing I get free Postmates for the summer so…

Prediction: France 3 – 2 Belgium

Croatia v England 07/11 @ 2PM EST

Goddamnit I love these two teams. Croatia has emerged as a stronger team each time they come onto the pitch, but winning by the skins of their teeth in penalties their last two games has made some wonder if they can get it done on the big stage.

But they controlled Group D with ease, handling every team they faced in Nigeria, Iceland, and Argentina. They then disposed of Denmark and the hosts Russia in penalties, with incredible performances from Modric, Rakitic, Vida, Subasic, and Vrsaljko.

Vrsaljko, unfortunately, will be most likely ruled out in this game against England. That’s a huge blow if you’ve watched Croatia play at all this World Cup. Besides Kieran Trippier,¬†Vrsaljko has been one of the best outside backs. Vida will most likely fill that role and Corluka will play center, coming off the bench.

This will be great news for England fans around the world. As a team that has been quiet and underwhelming since their last World Cup Semifinal appearance, which was 1990 (Croatia wasn’t even a sovereign nation yet), this team has seen a revival. Harry Kane is in prime position to win the Golden boot, Lingard and Alli have been visceral, Kieran Trippier emerging as the best outside back in the tournament, and Pickford has been solid in net.

Their biggest criticism thus far has been the level of competitiveness of their knockout route. But Columbia is no team to scoff at, and they disposed of them in penalties. Sweden had been a dark horse candidate, the team to seem sure to make a run, but England maintained their level and easily won. This is a team ready to make the leap back to glory.

Honestly, I could say something good about their whole team. John Stones has been aggressive and overall great at Center, with Maguire being a brick wall. Raheem Sterling has come out of his shell too amid tons of criticism from the press. Rashford has been a lightning bolt off the bench, as have Dier and Delph.

But they’re going to have to get through Croatia, a team who has found a way to win this entire World Cup. Somehow some way, England will have to face this test to make it to the final, and Modric will have to will his team past one of the most aggressive teams once more to make it to the final.

I am so pumped.

Prediction: England 2 – 2 Croatia England on PKs.

As someone who predicted 100% the correct winners from each quarterfinal game, I know this is a lot of pressure. I’ve also got a summer of free Postmates riding on the line here if France loses.

But this is tbd, and we’ll be giving you updates on our Twitter throughout the games – make sure you check it out!

Until then, I’m just telling you now that these games are going to be hype.

-Voggel

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