28 down. Three to go. This past weekend saw four more teams fall short. The last four teams are guaranteed two more matches. Where do we stand as we head into the final week of World Cup 2018?
Uruguay 0-2 France - France dominated this game and it never looked to be in doubt. Book-ending the half time intermission with the only two goals of the match, France was in control throughout and punched their ticket to meet Belgium in the Semifinals. Most believe the winner of the France-Belgium tie will have the best shot at winning the Final.
Brazil 1-2 Belgium - Belgium looked to be in control early with two goals only 1/3 through the match. Brazil, to their credit, never gave up which made for an entertaining game for the viewers. Their goal in the 76th minute amped up the pressure for both sides but ultimately Belgium was able to stave off the Brazilian attack and take the win in regulation.
Sweden 0-2 England - Similarly to the France v Uruguay match this one never seemed to be in doubt. England was mostly dominant throughout the game and won comfortably to advance to the Semifinals.
Russia 2(3)-2(4) Croatia Croatia survived against the home-town underdogs. Russia scored first but could not keep Croatia from scoring for long. Both teams scored once in extra time but Russia made a costly mistake in the penalty shootout to open the door for Croatia to break the hearts of the Russians. Still, this will be an historic run for Russia which will be remembered fondly by Russians for a long time, I imagine.
A lot has happened in the last three weeks but it's hard to believe we've almost reached the end. With only four teams and four matches remaining this edition of the World Cup is wrapping up in an exciting way. The remaining teams have a combined two World Cup championships. There is potential for history to be made this week. Croatia and Belgium have opportunities to win their country's first ever. France and England each have an opportunity to join the more elite group of champions with multiple championships.
France v Belgium - Tuesday 10 July, 2018
Many will say this match will feature the eventual champion. I'm sure both sides will feel that pressure to some degree. Belgium has looked strong from day one. France came out of the gate slowly but appear to be firing on all cylinders now when it matters most. I expect this to be a very entertaining match and there is potential for a lot of goals (which is odd this deep in the tournament). Both teams have plenty of goal scoring fire power and both sides' defenses have shown cracks throughout the tournament. If you had to pick between watching this match or Wednesdays, this is the one to pick.
Croatia v England - Wednesday 11 July, 2018
England figures to be favored but Croatia has been one of the more balanced teams in this World Cup. England may count on Croatia being tired and beaten up after two consecutive matches decided by penalties. Conversely, that experience could benefit Croatia down the stretch, should this game come to kicks. On paper, this one doesn't look to be as compelling as the France-Belgium tie but it could be a close, hard fought match between somewhat contrasting sides.
Winners will play in the Final on Sunday. Losers will see each other in the 3rd place match on Saturday. Regardless of what happens all four teams should be very happy with their position at this stage. Reaching the final four is no easy task and these teams and fans have nothing to be upset about.
As always, discuss below and Happy Watching!!