Croatia v England: where the world Cup semi-closing can be gained or lost

Croatia v England: where the world Cup semi-closing can be gained or lost

Croatia’s midfield

The massive resolution Zlatko Dalic has to make lies in midfield. Does he play Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic deep with Andrej Kramaric in entrance of them Fig 1, or does he do what he did in opposition t Argentina and Denmark and bring in a greater orthodox holding midfielder?

the former has the abilities of providing greater direct support for Mario Mandzukic so there is somebody to select up the second ball when he wins knockdowns or to capitalise when he pulls wide and crosses, as Kramaric did against Russia. Modric and Rakitic can then are trying to daftar poker control possession and the tempo from deep in midfield. The hazard for Croatia is that Modric finally ends up too deep, unable to exert the variety of affect he did towards Argentina, too tied up with trying to stifle Dele Alli to damage England.

The other alternative is to usher in Marcelo Brozovic Fig 2, or perhaps Milan Badelj. That liberates Modric and Rakitic – despite the fact Rakitic spent a whole lot of that Argentina game monitoring Lionel Messi – and poses a problem for England by using inserting two men in Jordan Henderson’s zone.

that might mean Alli having to drop off, assuming England maintain the identical triangle in midfield in preference to bringing in Eric Dier to play alongside Henderson, or, in all probability, England might depend on some of the lower back three to step as much as offer help behind midfield. that would nonetheless go away them with two guys towards a lone Croatia centre-ahead, which would have the abilities of Alli and Jesse Lingard overmanning in transition towards a single retaining midfielder.

Croatia midfield options Trippier v Perisic

Croatia have a transparent bias to their left, with forty four% of their attacks coming down that flank as adversarial to 33% on the appropriate, with them playing far more through Ivan Perisic than Ante Rebic. England had been far more balanced however this may inevitably have an have an impact on, forcing Kieran Trippier, who has arguably been the ideal correct wing-lower backfull-returned within the event, to do more defending.

That referred to, England do have the advantage of Kyle Walker, who performs at full-returned for his membership, playing on the appropriate of the three important defenders, so if Trippier is caught upfield, he may still be at ease pushing across to cowl. And there is the probability of using a Croatian power against them; if Trippier drives past Perisic, the left-returned Ivan Strinic will also be left isolated. Fig three

The situation is reminiscent of what took place when the facets met in Zagreb in September 2008 – there Rakitic turned into the attacking left-sided Croatian who left his full-back Danijel Pranjic uncovered, leading to Theo Walcott’s simplest overseas hat-trick and a 4-1 England acquire.

Trippier v Perisic Set plays

England have scored 5 of their eleven goals from set plays and two of their penalties have resulted from fouls on Harry Kane conceded within the mêlée England’s corner movements produces. The focal point on corners has been Gareth Southgate’s indisputable triumph, a recognition of a means a country wide manager can make a tangible difference within the exceedingly short time attainable to him.

The basic set-up is easy satisfactory: a line of 4 gamers at the edge of the container, one in all whom stands nevertheless because the ball is delivered while the others scatter, somewhat like a queue in a Tesco Metro abruptly realising two further checkouts are about to be opened. now not most effective does the static player plus his marker function a barrier to support create channels for Kane and Harry Maguire but the flurry of flow seems to impress opponents into making panicky grabs at English shirts.

Queueing whereas declaring foreigners committing infractions of etiquette, of path, has been an English strength for years; Southgate’s genius has been to weaponise it.

Croatia will study England’s circulation and have satisfactory beefy defenders that they may still not be physically intimidated England have received 58.9% of the aerial duels during this tournament, more than anyone else, to Croatia’s fifty seven.5%, however then the identical could have been mentioned of Sweden, towards whom Southgate deployed a variant with two queues of three avid gamers. there will undoubtedly be further routines ready to be unveiled and England could have accompanied how poorly Croatia conceded the late corner in opposition t Russia that brought Mário Fernandes’s equaliser.

Denmark, in the meantime, scored towards them from a protracted throw into the box and Iceland’s Sverrir Ingi Ingason headed in opposition t the bar from a nook within the neighborhood stage.

England’s prowess from set plays can even have knock-on advantages if defenders develop into so anxious on the prospect of conceding a collection play that it makes them, in commence play, reluctant to concede corners. A moment’s hesitation, or an over-bold try and play out from the returned may current England with opportunities.

Mário Fernandes exploits slack set-play marking by way of Croatia to score for Russia. graphic: Robert CianfloneFifa by way of images Penalties

each England and Croatia essential penalties to growth from their ultimate-16 ties, with Croatia then becoming most effective the 2nd group in World Cup historical past to grasp distinct shootouts within the equal event either aspect in Croatia’s last-16 match would have matched the success of Argentina in 1990, as Russia had knocked Spain out by the use of the same method of their old online game. successful video games on penalties, notwithstanding, tends now not to be a sign of long-term fitness. apart from finals, there had been 28 penalty shootouts in World Cup heritage: handiest eight of the victors have long gone on to remove their next online game within a hundred and twenty minutes, and a type of become enjoying a aspect that had also progressed by means of means of penalties.

Modric has seemed in danger of resurrecting an international Cup subculture of essentially the most technically proficient players failing from the passage Socrates, Michel Platini, Dragan Stojkovic, Diego Maradona, Chris Waddle …. He saw his kick saved in extra time in opposition t Denmark and his two penalties in shootouts have each been unconvincing. His effort towards Denmark was worried, straight down the core and best just avoided the trailing foot of the goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, while in opposition t Russia Igor Akinfeev reached a shot that turned into nowhere near the nook however become competent handiest to push it on to the submit from where it cannoned in. he’s not a taker to be relied upon.

Mandzukic v Maguire

Amid all of the euphoria, it is perhaps price remembering that the simplest teams England have in fact beaten in this World Cup are Tunisia, Panama and Sweden. however England’s defence coped smartly towards Radamel Falcao, they had been undone via Yerry Mina from that late Colombia corner.

It isn’t intelligent to examine too lots into one second in one game however, if that hinted at a vulnerability to an aerial hazard at the returned, it’s one Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic is supreme to take knowledge of. The 32-12 months-ancient Juventus forward has won 17 of the 30 aerial duels he has been worried in at this World Cup. Assuming he is wholly healthy – he limped in the course of the ultimate minutes of the quarter-ultimate – he poses an aggressive and cell possibility.

Harry Maguire has gained cult repute for his laid-returned angle, his intention against Sweden and the measurement of his head; now is the time for the Leicester city man to again that up with some precise physical defending. The first rate information is that he has gained 29 of 39 aerial duels and sixty five.four% of these he turned into worried in all through the last Premier League season.

France edges Belgium to reach World Cup final

France edges Belgium to reach World Cup final

Samuel Umtiti, in blue, scores the only goal of the game bast Belgium’s Thibault Courtois.  AP PhotoDavid Vincent

In an end-to-end game full of chances, Samuel Umtiti’s second-half header proved to the be only goal as France defeated Belgium 1-0 Tuesday to reach the World Cup final.

France will face either Croatia or England in Sunday’s championship game at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Belgium will play the loser of daftar poker the other semifinal in the third-place match on Saturday.

The French will have a chance to win their second-ever World Cup title and first since their 1998 victory on home soil. They reached the 2006 final in Berlin, but lost to Italy on penalties.

Belgium was attempting to reach their first-ever final after defeating favorite Brazil in the quarterfinals. But stars Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne couldn’t find their way through the formidable French defense and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who made three crucial saves in the match.

“The game was very close, very tight,” Belgium manager Roberto Martinez said following the match. “It was going to be decided by whoever could find that final touch in the box or a bit of luck in front of goal. The effort from the players was magnificent, I couldn’t ask for more.”

The Barcelona defender Umtiti — who conceded a penalty that led to a goal in France’s first match against Australia — proved an unlikely match-winner in the mold of Lilian Thuram, the defender who scored both French goals in Les Bleus’ 2-1 semifinal win over Croatia in 1998.

Umtiti, who was four years old when captain Zinedine Zidane lifted the World Cup in Saint-Denis, outjumped Marouane Fellaini to head Antoine Griezmann’s corner past Courtois and break Belgium’s resistance.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Belgian King Philippe watch the pre-match festivities in Saint Petersburg.   2018 The .

Up in the corporate seats, French President Emmanuel Macron reacted to the goal by shaking the hand of King Philippe of Belgium as FIFA president Gianni Infantino watched on between them.

The goal capped an impressive defensive display by Umtiti, who helped to shut out the most productive attack in the World Cup with 14 goals, and meant three defenders have now scored on France’s route to the final. Benjamin Pavard and Raphael Varane scored in previous matches.

In search of the equalizer, Belgium repeatedly sent over crosses from both wings but Umtiti and Varane used their bodies cleverly to hold off Fellaini and Lukaku.

France coach Didier Deschamps has faced some criticism for being too pragmatic and functional despite having so many stars in his squad, but the organization of the team was superb and Belgium was largely restricted to only minor chances as time wound down.

“It’s me that scored,” Umtiti said, “but we all delivered a big game.”

When the match ended, the French players danced on the field and shook the hand of Thierry Henry, another 1998 World Cup winner who is now Belgium’s assistant coach.

“Vive la France! Vive la Republique!” Griezmann shouted as Umtiti conducted his post-match interview.

Deschamps, the captain of that famous 1998 squad, now has the chance to become the third person to win the World Cup as a player and a coach, after Germany great Franz Beckenbauer and Brazil’s Mario Zagallo.

With Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar no longer in Russia, Hazard and France forward Kylian Mbappe have taken over as the stars of the World Cup and there was a buzz every time either got the ball.

Yet while Hazard — Belgium’s captain — faded after a strong opening 30 minutes, Mbappe was a constant threat. His first touch was after 10 seconds and, after receiving the ball on the right wing, he sped past Jan Vertonghen and then Mousa Dembele in a thrilling run.

At 19, Mbappe wasn’t even born when France won the World Cup for the first and only time with a squad that is just as diverse as the one Deschamps is leading 20 years later.

The contributed to this report.

France knocks off Belgium to reach World Cup final

France knocks off Belgium to reach World Cup final

The French are winning on and off the pitch. Martin Rogers provides the latest gossip on the hottest couple at the World Cup. USA TODAY

France players celebrate Samuel Umtiti’s goal. Tim Groothuis, Witters Sport-USA TODAY Sports

SAINT PETERSBURG, Russia – Getting to a World Cup final is supposed to be hard. For France, not so much.

A 1-0 victory over Belgium in Tuesday’s semifinal here clinched Les Bleus a spot in Sunday’s championship showdown and, in truth, it has all looked pretty easy. At no point in the tournament has the team looked in genuine danger daftar poker, and never really moved into top gear, either.

Tense stalemate against your local rival? No problem. The only goal saw Samuel Umtiti send an impressive header past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in the 51st minute, giving France an advantage that it would never relinquish.

Stuck in the stacked side of the draw? No worries there either, with Uruguay easily discarded in the quarterfinal and before that, a 4-3 win over Argentina that sounds far more difficult than it truly was. Belgium did its part, seeing off Brazil in the quarterfinals.

France’s recipe has been rooted in consistency. Not consistently outstanding, just consistently consistent. Consistently better, just a little bit better, than all of its rivals, game after game.

That was the case here, blunting enough of Belgium’s typically rampant attack to survive and advance with the minimum of fuss. Maybe it has gotten lucky that all of its opponents have had off days when they have met. Maybe when such a thing happens so often, it has nothing to do with chance.

For all of the destructive attacking forces in its arsenal, it is the backline that has held things together. Hugo Lloris comfortably blocked a fierce second half drive from Axel Witsel, but was otherwise largely undisturbed.

Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku couldn’t get anything going up front, Kevin De Bruyne had a rare off day, bringing the team’s enjoyable and entertaining run to an unsatisfying close.

It was outplayed, by a bit. Outcoached, by a bit. Outworked, by the same margin. That is what France does, and that’s how it does it.

On Sunday, the French will try to add a second title to the World Cup it won on home soil in 1998. It is an overwhelming favorite now, whoever steps forwards as the opponent this weekend.

Rarely has a team cruised all the way to a World Cup title. France is one game away from doing so.

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RECAP: France uses their head to power past Belgium into the World Cup Final

RECAP: France uses their head to power past Belgium into the World Cup Final

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia AP — France is back in the World Cup final for the first time since Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt in 2006.

Twelve years after one of soccer’s most infamous moments, Samuel Umtiti used his head to score from a corner kick in the 51st minute and earn France a 1-0 victory over Belgium on Tuesday in the first of the all-European semifinals.

The French players danced on the field after the final whistle and shook the hand of Thierry Henry, who helped Les Bleus win the World Cup in 1998 and is now Belgium’s assistant coach.

All the emotion. France is through to the FIFA #WorldCup final. 🇫🇷 pic.mDJSzP9rTsp

— FOX Sports FOXSports July 10, 2018

France will face either Croatia or England in the final daftar poker on Sunday in Moscow. Those two teams play in the other semifinal match on Wednesday, also in Moscow.

France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris produced a great save in each half, denying the potent Belgian attack of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku the chance to advance the country to its first major final. Belgium reached the quarterfinals at the 2014 World Cup and the European Championship in 2016 but has yet to fulfil its lofty expectations.

The world now gets to see France’s luxury squad, collectively valued in excess of $1 billion and headlined by teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe, in another major final.

Two years ago at home, the French surprisingly lost to Portugal 1-0 in the Euro 2016 title match. In 2006, they were beaten in a penalty shootout by Italy in a World Cup final that was overshadowed by Zidane headbutting opposing player Marco Materazzi in the chest in extra time. Zidane was sent off in what was his final match.

In a tournament dominated by goals from set pieces, France’s took the lead from a corner. Antoine Griezmann curled in the ball from the right and Umtiti got in front of tall Belgium midfielder Marouane Fellaini to knock in his header at the near post.

Up in the corporate seats, French President Emmanuel Macron reacted to the goal by shaking the hand of King Philippe of Belgium as FIFA president Gianni Infantino watched on between them.

The goal capped an impressive display by Umtiti, who helped to shut out the most productive attack in the World Cup with 14 goals, and meant three defenders have now scored on France’s route to the final. Benjamin Pavard and Raphael Varane scored in previous matches.

“We are creating our own history”

Match-winner Samuel Umtiti is eyeing France’s second ever FIFA World Cup title. pic.m0ANAOUgg4l

— FOX Soccer FOXSoccer July 10, 2018

In search of the equalizer, Belgium repeatedly sent over crosses from both wings but Umtiti and Varane, both center backs, used their bodies cleverly to hold off Fellaini and Lukaku.

France coach Didier Deschamps has faced some criticism for being too pragmatic and functional despite having so many stars in his squad, but the organization of the team was superb and Belgium was largely restricted to only minor chances that were kept out by the flying Lloris.

Deschamps now has the chance to become the third person to win the World Cup as a player and a coach, after Germany great Franz Beckenbauer and Brazil’s Mario Zagallo. As France captain, Deschamps won soccer’s most prized trophy in 1998.

France aren’t broken, so Deschamps won’t change for World Cup final

France aren’t broken, so Deschamps won’t change for World Cup final

ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA — It’s one of the oldest footballing maxims out there, and it exists in different idioms and cultures. Giovanni Trapattoni used to say that a good coach could make a team 5 percent better, but a bad one — or, to be a bit more civil, a coach who makes wrong decisions — could make a side 30 percent worse.

Diego Simeone served up his own version in his recent leaked WhatsApp j’accuse by saying that results were ordinarily 90 percent down to players, but when you have a disaster of a coaching staff read: Jorge Sampaoli, then they can only influence things up to 60 percent.

France vs. Belgium at St. Petersburg’s version of the Death Star was a study in two contrasting managers. One, Didier Deschamps, lives by football’s version of the Hippocratic Oath: daftar poker above all, do no harm. His France team do not have a distinct footballing identity beyond the Deschamps version of Hulk Hogan’s four demandments, only Didi has three: defend, work hard and wait for something to happen. There is no multiplier effect tactically, no attempt to create particular synergies between his players through sophisticated movement and positioning. It’s about trusting your big guns to do something of their own volition while raising the barricades at the back.

That’s why you see France with three central midfielders and poor Paul Pogba asked to play little more than a bouncer role in front of the back four. And because that’s not enough, he gets help from the ubiquitous N’Golo Kante if defensive players won awards, he’d be a shoo-in and Blaise Matuidi too. All this in front of a back four with two safety-first fullbacks.

The other is Roberto Martinez who, believing in the added value his tactical mind brings, conjures up complicated schemes to get the best out of his side. When it works, it’s very good. When it doesn’t — and against France, it fell as flat as a road-graded waffle — it’s a disaster.

Before we get into it, let’s remind ourselves that Martinez has some mitigating circumstances. The first is that unlike Deschamps, he wasn’t born with a silver spoon. He didn’t have the same sort of stellar career as a player and wasn’t handed a top team straight out of retirement, either. He got where he is because he has a clearly defined approach to football and a reputation as a guy who makes teams more than the sum of their parts. So for him, going the Deschamps’ route of laissez-faire was not an option.

The other was that he was missing Thomas Meunier, who may not be a superstar outside his own household but was a critical cog in Belgium’s machine. He was the natural right-sided defender who could be deployed in a back four or as a wing-back. But Meunier was suspended for this match and his absence set off a chain of events that ultimately proved to be Belgium’s undoing.

Deschamps, centre, will always be a pragmatic manager but in the likes of Pogba, right, he’s got the players who can still thrive. Now they’re one win from the World Cup. Sergei Bobylev\TASS via Images

Martinez opted for a hybrid set-up that essentially featured a back three with Nacer Chadli who played on the left in his last outing over on the right and Jan Vertonghen playing as a sort of narrow left-back who never ventures forward. Chadli saw plenty of the ball but had little luck against Lucas Hernandez; the real issue was that it forced Martinez to add another big body Mousa Dembele in midfield alongside Marouane Fellaini and Axel Witsel. Fellaini managed to disappear for long stretches quite a feat for a man his size, while Dembele slowed Belgium down considerably though he did get a few good licks in off the ball.

“We were missing a very important player and we adapted in the best possible manner,” Martinez said. “Pace is the real threat on this France team, and we coped with it very well — we never really got hurt on the counter. In the end, the difference was a goal from a set piece.”

That’s textbook glass-half-full-ism because it was always going to be the case that France were going to sit and look to hit on the break. It’s the Deschamps way. Yes, Belgium largely neutralized that, but the issue is that they did not create as much at the other end despite boasting Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard, two of the best playmakers in the world. And a lot of that had to do with a stodgy midfield that often circulated the ball with all the predictability of bad Aaron Sorkin dialogue.

Limit the game to chances created and conceded at least before the final quarter-hour, when Belgium naturally threw caution to the wind and you might even argue this game could easily have gone the other way.

“We controlled the game, and just as we were growing in the second half, they scored on a corner,” Martinez said. “That’s how close this game was. If we had scored first, it would have been different. But the margins are very small.”

They certainly are and they have been throughout this World Cup, where the knockout rounds have seen six of 13 games decided by a goal or less — and four more on penalties after 120 minutes of deadlocked football. But that’s why it becomes so critical for a manager to impose his will on the match.

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA – JULY 10: Samuel Umtiti of France celebrates with teammate Olivier Giroud after scoring his team’s first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Semi Final match between Belgium and France at Saint Petersburg Stadium on July Shaun Botterill Images

For Deschamps, it was not to concede. For Martinez, it was to create chances and control the game. The former succeeded, the latter did not. And sure, some will point out that simply not conceding when you have better players than the opposition is easier than actually creating and a bit of a cop out. But that’s how Deschamps and France got this far.

And he’s not about to change.

“We have to be pragmatic and we have to be realistic,” Deschamps said. “We are about mental strength and solidarity, working for each other.”

He rattles off examples of how proud he is of his players: Pogba “monstrous and tactically intelligent”, the defenders “stopped them from playing for most of the game”, Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud “so clever in how they dropped into midfield to let the Belgian defenders who — and I do not mean to offend them — are technically inferior have the ball”.

This is what he values: a team whose collars are as blue as their shirts. And while knowing that if he tinkers too much, he’s only going to mess things up.

Thus far, this France team have done the bare minimum of what they had to do. Give Argentina enough rope to hang themselves. A set piece header and a goalkeeping error against Uruguay. Samuel Umtiti beating Fellaini in the air.

You see flashes that make you think they can do much, much more — Kylian Mbappe being Exhibit A, as he was much better than against Uruguay but faded in and out as Tuesday’s semifinal game wore on. But then you realize France don’t really need to. They’re happy playing the percentages, and that’s how Deschamps likes it.

France ain’t broke. They’re in the World Cup final. Why fix it?

France advances to World Cup final, beats Belgium 1-0

France advances to World Cup final, beats Belgium 1-0

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia –  France is back in the World Cup final for the first time since Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt in 2006.

Twelve years after one of soccer’s most infamous moments, Samuel Umtiti used his head to score from a corner kick in the 51st minute and earn France a 1-0 victory over Belgium on Tuesday in the first of the all-European semifinals.

The French players danced on the field after the final whistle daftar poker and shook the hand of Thierry Henry, who helped Les Bleus win the World Cup in 1998 and is now Belgium’s assistant coach.

France will face either Croatia or England in the final on Sunday in Moscow. Those two teams play in the other semifinal match on Wednesday, also in Moscow.

France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris produced a great save in each half, denying the potent Belgian attack of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku the chance to advance the country to its first major final. Belgium reached the quarterfinals at the 2014 World Cup and the European Championship in 2016 but has yet to fulfil its lofty expectations.

The world now gets to see France’s luxury squad, collectively valued in excess of $1 billion and headlined by teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe, in another major final.

Two years ago at home, the French surprisingly lost to Portugal 1-0 in the Euro 2016 title match. In 2006, they were beaten in a penalty shootout by Italy in a World Cup final that was overshadowed by Zidane headbutting opposing player Marco Materazzi in the chest in extra time. Zidane was sent off in what was his final match.

In a tournament dominated by goals from set pieces, France’s took the lead from a corner. Antoine Griezmann curled in the ball from the right and Umtiti got in front of tall Belgium midfielder Marouane Fellaini to knock in his header at the near post.

Up in the corporate seats, French President Emmanuel Macron reacted to the goal by shaking the hand of King Philippe of Belgium as FIFA president Gianni Infantino watched on between them.

The goal capped an impressive display by Umtiti, who helped to shut out the most productive attack in the World Cup with 14 goals, and meant three defenders have now scored on France’s route to the final. Benjamin Pavard and Raphael Varane scored in previous matches.

In search of the equalizer, Belgium repeatedly sent over crosses from both wings but Umtiti and Varane, both center backs, used their bodies cleverly to hold off Fellaini and Lukaku.

France coach Didier Deschamps has faced some criticism for being too pragmatic and functional despite having so many stars in his squad, but the organization of the team was superb and Belgium was largely restricted to only minor chances that were kept out by the flying Lloris.

Deschamps now has the chance to become the third person to win the World Cup as a player and a coach, after Germany great Franz Beckenbauer and Brazil’s Mario Zagallo. As France captain, Deschamps won soccer’s most prized trophy in 1998.

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More AP World Cup coverage:

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Steve Douglas is at .msdouglas80

France, With Flash to Spare, Reaches the World Cup Final

France, With Flash to Spare, Reaches the World Cup Final

France has, somehow, reached the cusp of greatness without ever really having given the impression it has stretched itself, or reached its full potential. It sleepwalked through its group, with single-goal victories against Australia and Peru, and a mind-numbing goalless draw with Denmark.

In the round of 16, against an Argentina side mired in chaos and permanently on the verge of a meltdown, it roused itself for a few minutes, scored three quick-fire goals, then sank back into itself, eventually winning — again — by just one goal.

It was only in the quarterfinal, against Uruguay, that it finally broke that trend of squeaking by, but only thanks a header off a set piece and an egregious error from Fernando Muslera, daftar poker the Uruguayan goalkeeper. France reached St. Petersburg, and the semifinal, hardly having broken a sweat.

It was greeted there by Belgium, whose own golden generation was supposed to provide a significantly more exacting test, to force the French out of their shells, to demand that Manager Didier Deschamps’s richly gifted players finally live up to their lofty reputations. For 50 minutes, the Belgians threatened to do just that, to draw this team into the open field. And then Samuel Umtiti scored — slipping his marker to meet Griezmann’s corner — and France drew back once more, content to contain and control.

Deschamps’s players let Belgium burn itself out, deprived it first of hope, and then of life, all the while not expending a drop of energy more than was strictly necessary.

Belgium’s Eden Hazard, in particular, had started the game as a ball of energy, twisting and turning and writhing his way past Benjamin Pavard, France’s right back; Hazard had the look of a player very conscious of the fact that this was his chance to stake a claim for greatness.

By the end, he looked adrift. He had long since wandered into central midfield, craving some sort of space, some sort of peace, only to find neither. His sparkle had gone, and so had his spark.

It was not — as might be expected, in the era of counter-pressing, that frenzied style of harrying and harassing that is so en vogue in European club soccer — because the French had pummeled him and his team into submission, barely allowing a moment’s rest, but because they had done the opposite: They waited as Belgium wandered into their sleeper-hold, and then simply refused to let go.

That has been France’s unexpected forte in this tournament: its defensive strength, its imperturbability, the ease with which it blunts an attack. Only Argentina has scored against the French from open play. They are so assured in defense that none of those single-goal victories felt at all close, or tense; they all seemed to be over long before the final whistle. So, too, here: When the game ended, the explosion of joy from the French players, and their small squadron of fans, felt somehow out of place, out of context, with the torpor that had descended.

France has achieved this not, as the teams of Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino seek to do, by seeking to coil itself around its prey, squeezing the breath from its opponents. Its approach resembles that of a crocodile, rather than a snake: It waits, pounces, and then sinks back beneath the surface, happy to wait again.

Given the personnel at his disposal, it is hard not to feel that Deschamps is forcing his players to do something that does not come naturally to them. This is a squad that could — should — be tearing through opponents; with its abilities, courage should not feel like a risk. There is a lingering feeling that France is not making the most of his resources, a temptation to wonder what this team might achieve, what it might become, with a less conservative, less cautious manager.

It is easy to speculate, too, that France’s passivity, that lack of ambition, might eventually prove its undoing, that in the final it will need to raise its game and will ultimately be unable — or unwilling — to do so.

There is, though, a counter argument that is no less compelling. France has met every challenge and passed them with ease. Lionel Messi could not disrupt its serenity; nor could Luis Suárez; now Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku have failed, too.

True, there has been no flawless performance, no marquee display to rival Croatia’s win against Argentina or even Belgium’s quarterfinal victory against Brazil; true, there has been a reliance on goals from set pieces; true, France has only ever edged through, rather than sweeping past clearly inferior opponents. It has always had enough, and done enough, but never more.

But those moments, those glimpses of what lies beneath, should not be forgotten. They are dangerous precisely because they hint at what might be, at what France has in reserve, should it be needed. This is a team that has another gear, another level that it can find as and when it is required.

Deschamps and his players are in the World Cup final because of what they are: a team designed to draw the sting, to suck the air from a game, to deprive the fire of oxygen. It is hard to believe they will not win it, though, because of what they might be: the team with the sting, with the air, with the fire. France, for the last month, has done what is required. It will be confident it can do so, one last time.

Photo France’s Kylian Mbappe in action with Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne. Credit Lee SmithReuters

——

Here’s how France beat Belgium, from Victor Mather and Kevin Draper in New York and Andrew Das in St. Petersburg:

FULL TIME: France 1, Belgium 0

That’s it! France has advanced to the World Cup final with a 1-0 victory over Belgium.

The goal was scored by Samuel Umtiti, who dropped his marker Toby Alderweireld, outjumped the very tall Marouane Fellaini and headed home an Antoine Griezmann corner. The ball was in the net before Belgium keeper Thiebaut Courtois could do anything about it.

France will play the winner of the other semifinal on Wednesday, England or Croatia.

90’ + 4: Mbappe Sells It

Vertonghem bumps into Mbappe, who sells it with a leap and a fall. The replay does not appear to show much contact. Still, a yellow for Vertonghen.

90’ +3: Belgium Survives a Killer

France almost put the game away! They dispossessed Belgium in their own half and freed Griezmann for a wide-open shot, but Courtois quickly got down to his right to corral the shot.

90 +2’: Mbappe Stalls

Mbappe, rather than giving the ball to Belgium for a throw-in, dribbles it away for a moment, drawing the ire of Belgium and some shoves. The ref hits him up with a yellow.

Andrew Das: French time-wasting is the new diving.

90’ + 1: Offense for Belgium

Another striker on for Belgium: Batshuayi for Chadli. Another head to lob balls at. But first they have to get it back from France.

90’: Six More Minutes

Belgium will have 6 minutes of stoppage time to find an equalizer.

89’: Lukaku Can’t Convert

De Bruyne lobs from far out, and Lukaku is there unmarked. But he comes a few inches short of getting his head to it.

88’: Yellow for Kante

Kanté caught there for a professional foul — he gets a yellow. But the bigger problem is he’s given De Bruyne a shooting-range free kick in the 88th minute. That’s a kind of regrettable error if it goes wrong.

87’: French Slowing It Down

Matuidi cannot continue after that collision. He’s out and France brings in Tolisso.

Andrew Das: With Matuidi down again, Belgium is furious with the referee Cunha for not speeding this along. The French are A1 at gamesmanship though, and they know exactly what they’re doing here.

86’: France Locks It Down

France has really locked this down nicely since the goal, which initially gave them a bit of life. But as we’ve entered the final minutes they’re really focusing on the job at hand: sucking the life out of the game, not giving Belgium a sniff of an opening, and getting out of here at 1-0.

85’: France Makes a Change

France makes their first substitution, bringing Steven N’Zonzi in for Olivier Giroud.

Kevin Draper: France is doing a very effective job killing this game off. Belgium is attacking desperately — perhaps too desperately, sometimes taking turns taking on three men — but aren’t actually generating anything dangerous.

83’: Collision!

Hazard is definitely down for real this time after a hard collision with Matuidi on a 5050 ball. It wasn’t so much a challenge as a flying body block by Hazard, though. Rough, rough play there.

82’: Lloris Saves

Witsel of Belgium pounces on a loose ball and drives in a shot from distance. Lloris makes a diving punch save.

Hazard Goes Down

The Uruguayan referee, Andres Cunha, wasn’t buying Hazard’s fall there, but the replay made it look as if Varane hit him knee to knee right at the top of the area.

80’: Carrasco On for Fellaini

Yannick Carrasco, a winger who plays in China, comes in for Marouane Fellaini.

79’: Free Kick for France

Antoine Griezmann lingers over a France free kick. Then he sends a ball that Pogba heads out of play.

76’: Belgium Panicking

De Bruyne, perhaps concerned about the clock advancing to 75 minutes, tries a shot from outside the box but it’s way too high.

Andrew Das: Mertens has been a good addition for Belgium: dangerous crosses and some good width out right. But Fellaini feels like the game has left him behind up there next to Lukaku. Still, a good cross from Mertens, a well-placed head …… he’s done it before.

76’: Where’s Lukaku?

Romelu Lukaku has been invisible this game. He has just 16 touches of the ball — Dries Mertens, who came on 15 minutes ago, already has 13 — and one shot. He hasn’t gotten much service and has had a center back draped on his shoulder all game, but he’s got to do better.

73’: Hazard Pushes

Eden Hazard has practically dropped back into defense to receive the ball, as he tries to hurry Belgium into an attack, impatient that his defenders and Axel Witsel aren’t doing so quickly enough.

Andrew Das: Belgium is patiently working the ball, working the ball, working the ball. It all felt a bit like Spain-Russia there, ike they were just looking for an opening. But the opening never came, they lost the ball, and a couple more minutes have ticked off the clock.

71’: More Chances for Belgium

Belgium possessed the ball right outside of France’s goal for a solid minute, pumping quite a few crosses into the box, but aren’t able to get a shot off before Paul Pogba clears it with his head.

68’: Giroud Sails One

Kylian Mbappe passes to Antoine Griezmann, who crosses it beautifully to Olivier Giroud, who … blasts it over the bar.

67’: Yellow for Hazard

Eden Hazard gets a yellow there for breaking up the counterattack by dragging down Matuidi, but he had to do it. Fellaini, by the way, has stayed in his advanced role; it’s Witsel who is picking up all the slack in midfield since Dembélé left. It’s a big job, and he can’t make a single mistake.

66’: Fellaini … Just Wide!

Mertens crosses, and Fellaini is there, single covered by Pogba, with the head that has scored so many goals. This one goes just wide though.

62’: Belgium Grabs Possession

Hazard, Lukaku and Mertens combine on some nice passing, but the final touch is not there.

60’: Belgium Makes a Change

Dries Mertens in, Ousmane Dembele out as Belgium tries to shake things up with the first substitution of the game.

Andrew Das: This will make things a bit more exciting, that’s for sure. But it also will require a bit more defensively from Fellaini now, because France senses blood in the water here, and they’re coming forward fast when they can.

56’: Giroud … Blocked!

Kylian Mbappé sends Olivier Giroud on goal with a spectacular back heel, but Giroud’s shot is blocked at the last moment.

Andrew Das: What a chance that was: brilliant backheel from Mbappe after a quick give-and-go involving Hernandez and Matuidi. Really fun, and Belgium is lucky — and can thank Courtois, I believe — that the ball didn’t end up in the net amid ooohs and ahhhs. It must be nice to be good enough to even TRY that in a World Cup semifinal.

55’: Great Opportunity for France

Greizmann has a free kick just outside of the box and it’s another great opportunity for France. But his effort goes right to several Belgians and it is headed away.

Photo France’s Samuel Umtiti celebrates scoring their first goal. Credit Lee SmithReuters 51’: GOAL! France Leads

After Vincent Kompany blocks an Olivier Giroud shot, a corner comes in from Antoine Griezmann. Samuel Umtiti simply out-jumps the very tall Marouane Fellaini to score. France has a 1-0 lead.

Andrew Das: Disaster for Belgium: Umtiti dropped Alderweireld and nearly had a free header there. Fellaini arrived late to at least make it a contested one, but the damage was already done and the ball was in the net before Courtois could do anything about it.

48’: Varane Clears It

Witsel lobs in a ball to Lukaku, but Varane of France is all over him, so he gets a head on it but can’t fire off a good shot.

Kevin Draper: It seems appropriate that on the same day Cristiano Ronaldo transfers to Juventus, two of his rumored replacements, Eden Hazard and Kylian Mbappé, are the best players in a World Cup match.

Moving the Ball

One stat increasing in popularity is “possession advanced,” which tries to measure which players move the ball forward the most. A player gets full credit for dribbles forward, and half credit for passes. The leader in this game so far is Benjamin Pavard of France at 118 meters. Eden Hazard leads Belgium at 109.

Andrew Das: The stadium does not appear full, especially in some of the best seats near midfield, which seems strange for a World Cup semifinal. But France and Belgium don’t travel like Brazil, which surely thought it’d be here, or a few other countries, and the atmosphere is missing some of the fire we saw when teams from the Americas played earlier in the tournament. Wednesday night’s second semifinal, England and Croatia, ought to have a bit more life as English fans start to arrive in full voice.

The Numbers

Belgium was the short-passing team in this game, controlling possession at 58-42 percent and outpassing France, 318-201. But France’s direct style led to more shots: an 11-3 advantage. Unfortunately for France, only two of those shots were on net. Six were off target, and three were blocked.

Griezmann led the way with four shots for France, although none of those was on target. Belgium has most of its passing coming from the defense, with Alderweireld and Kompany having 50 and 46 passes. Of course, those uncontested sideways passes in Belgium’s end are taking place a long way from where the goals are scored.

Two Halves Within a Half

Andrew Das: You could break that first half into halves of its own. The first one, with Belgium dangerous and on the front foot, was quite a bit of fun. France finally found its feet and had a couple of good chances — a rocket by Matuidi, the Pavard shot late — and a few at the other end, including a late cross that found its way to Lukaku, who seemed so surprised to see it come in it was the first good one in all 45 minutes that it hit him like a stone and went out of play.

Both teams will find things to like there: Hazard was excellent, probably the best player on the field, and De Bruyne was dangerous at times, too. But Mbappe’s speed is an undeniable asset running at Vertonghen, and Pogba’s ability to shake off Fellaini in the last 10 minutes is a good sign for France.

Kevin Draper: When France has possessed the ball they’ve played direct. Pogba has played a few 40 yard passes from half field that Kylian Mbappé and Olivier Giroud were almost able to get on the other end of. Antoine Griezmann has taken a few long shots, but hasn’t been nearly as dangerous as he was in previous games.

Halftime: France 0, Belgium 0

in stoppage time, Kevin De Bruyne crossed a ball into the box for Belgium, but Samuel Umtiti got in the way again, altering the course enough that it caroms off the waiting Lukaku’s hip instead of his foot. And that’s halftime!

Kevin Draper: France was a slight favorite before the match began, but on balance Belgium has been the much better team. Belgium has mostly been attacking on the fringes, avoiding N’Golo Kanté in the middle and counting on Romelu Lukaku to keep the center backs occupied. De Bruyne and Hazard have generated a few chances, and Belgium almost scored off a couple of corner kicks.

44’: Free Kick for France

Paul Pogba gets into a dangerous position, and is pulled down from behind. France gets a great free kick chance. But Griezmann boots it right into the wall.

42’: France Shows Up

France has fully come into this match for the first time in the last five minutes. They still look more comfortable counter attacking than possessing the ball, but they’re starting to generate a few dangerous chances.

40’: Courtois Kicks One Out

Kylian Mbappe plays Benjamin Pavard through with a nice ball, but Courtois manages to tip his shot wide with his back heel. France’s corner kick is then cleared by the first man.

Andrew Das: Gorgeous exchange between Pavard and Mbappé there, but it’s the defender who winds up with the ball and closing on Courtois, who gets a toe on the wayward shot and keeps it out.

37’: Giroud Gets the Magic Spray

Olivier Giroud goes down clutching the back of his right leg after getting clipped. The magic freezing spray is liberally applied to the injured leg, and he hops up good as new.

Andrew Das: The contact that brought down Giroud really seemed innocuous, but he’s really hurting. Just got clipped on the heel, but he’s holding his head like it was a sword wound.

34’: Great Chance for France

A long ball finds Kylian Mbappe inside the box, and he crosses it on the ground to Olivier Giroud, a step in front of his defender. But Giroud can only half-slide and swing at the ball, and his shot goes well wide. That was France’s best chance so far.

Andrew Das: Giroud really failed Mbappé on that last cross. He was late getting back onside and was watching as the young forward ran on to an overlapping ball, but only belatedly seemed to realize, ‘You know, that might get cross — oh no.’ And when he did realize, he was a step late to the ball, and the chance was wasted.

Photo Belgium’s Moussa Dembele, left, and France’s Antoine Griezmann in the first quarter. Credit Giuseppe CacaceAgence France-Presse — Images 33’: Giroud Goes Down

The first of what we would expect will be numerous penalty appeals in the game as Giroud goes down. The ref is not having it. Then Griezmann gets the ball and shoots with his less effective right foot and misses.

32’: Hazard and De Bruyne Toying With France

Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne look like the best two players on the pitch. Hazard just filleted Pavard and Pogba but the ball rolled out just before he could control it again, but if he keeps dribbling like that he’s sure to get a goal or assist.

Andrew Das: It’s strange how Fellaini gets involved in so much of what Belgium does up top — crosses, corners — but only with his head. It’s like his teammates won’t pass the ball to his feet. But he’s playing very advanced, just a step or two behind Lukaku, and apparently tasked with winning headers and, failing that, breaking up French attacks before they can start. As soon as he does either of those, he’s off to find Pogba.

32’: Another Miss for France

Antoine Griezmann takes the free kick for France. He sends it in and Pavard chips it in to Giroud, who hits it wide with his head.

29’: Umtiti Saves France!

Samuel Umtiti saves the day for France. Kevin De Bruyne crosses the ball low right in front of net and Romelu Lukaku is right there for the poke in. But Umtiti slides in and clears in a last-ditch move.

26’: Fellaini vs. Pogba

Fellaini and Pogba are effectively attached at the hip, which is probably not altogether new for either of them, since it probably happens in training at Manchester United quite a bit. But Belgium will take that cold war any day; Pogba is a far more dangerous player when he gets loose. But he can’t get loose, and when Fellaini bodies him, he doesn’t seem to like it. Which may be precisely the point of doing it.

25’: Fellaini in the Right Spot

First corner for France Belgium has four. Felliani easily heads it away.

23’: France Counterattacks

Another long pass from halfway, and this time Olivier Giroud is on it for France. He lunges for it, doesn’t get quite all of it, and it goes wide.

Kevin Draper: It is quite surprising how flat France has begun this game. They have just as many all-world attackers as Belgium and a defense anchored by stalwarts from Real Madrid and Barcelona, and yet they look like they have already conceded that Belgium is the much better team.

22’: Belgium Firing Away

Off of yet another corner, the ball trickles free to Toby Alderweireld at the penalty spot. His left-footed shot is punched out by Hugo Lloris for another corner kick, which amounts to nothing.

Andrew Das: Belgium has come close about four times in the past five minutes — the last on that Alderweireld shot off the corner that Lloris was lucky to save with a dive. It’s been a really entertaining first 20 minutes, but 90 percent of that has been Belgium nearly scoring.That they haven’t may be the one good thing France has done so far.

20’: Scare for France

De Bruyne tries a little chip-shot pass to Felliani, who is just about offsides, although the flag does not go up. Lloris punches it away after a moment of terror for France.

19’: Varane Saves One

Eden Hazard whips a shot toward the outside post from inside the box, but Raphaël Varane barely got the back of his head on it to hit it behind for a corner.

18’: France Fires, but Courtois Is There

Blaise Matuidi, returning to France’s lineup for this game, fires off a shot from outside the box that forces Courtois into a save.

Andrew Das: That was a rocket from Matuidi, and a great sign for France. But it hits Courtois right in the gloves. But once again, Belgium is right back at the other end in seconds, with Hazard lashing a shot that Varane nods jussssst over the crossbar behind a beaten Lloris.

16’: Hazard Misses

Off an interception, Kevin De Bruyne plays a quick one-touch ball to Eden Hazard in the box and he’s unmarked. But Hazard hits it wide right! Good chance.

Kevin Draper: Both Belgium and France have had their best chances of the match in the last few minutes, and perhaps not coincidentally both came quickly after turnovers. This might be a match of intentionally soaking up pressure in order to entice midfielders forward, before hitting back on the counter attack.

14’: De Bruyne Loses One

Kevin De Bruyne just attacked the French defense at speed, but a miscommunication with Romelu Lukaku caused a turnover and ruined the chance.

13’: Pogba Finds Mbappe

A long through ball from halfway by Paul Pogba finds Kylian Mbappe, and he’s a half step ahead of his man. But Courtois slides down to grab it just in time.

Andrew Das: Belgium in a bit of a fluid formation, with Witsel and Dembele protecting the back three, and Chadli dropping in at eight back when France has the ball and he has time.

10’: France Flickers

A rare venture forward by Griezmann and France brings their fans to life — but only briefly, as Kompany clears the first sign of danger with a powerful header. And back down the other end we go ….

Kevin Draper: Both teams have shown ruthless counterattacking prowess this tournament, and so each attack seems cautious in throwing numbers forward. Belgium is patiently probing the French defense, with Axel Witsel and Mousa Dembele both staying at home to protect the back three.

9’: Belgium the Better Side Right Now

Belgium’s passing has been crisp and prolific so far, with France going some extended periods without touching the ball.

6’: Corner for Belgium

Nacer Chadli’s corner is a little too strong and goes over his teammates’ heads.

4’: Belgium Keeps Possession

That early burst of brilliance by Mbappe has been followed by a few minutes of Belgium trying whatever it wants on the right.

1’: Mbappe Makes a Statement

it took Mbappe all of five seconds to drop Vertonghen like a bad penny, race down the wing and flash in a cross that ALMOST met Griezmann in stride. Great start for France.

Interactive Feature

There have been 23 goals scored in the 90th minute and second-half stoppage time so far in this World Cup, shattering the previous high of 14, set four years ago in Brazil.

World Cup 2018: France into the final plus Croatia v England buildup – live!

World Cup 2018: France into the final plus Croatia v England buildup – live!

3.59am EDT03:59

Here’s the full story on those earlier quotes from Hazard and Courtois.

3.51am EDT03:51

How wildly delirious are hopes that Gareth Southgate’s side can join France in the final? Below the line, opinion is, of course, split. “England will cruise past Croatia, relax,” says Flugler, while Noutopia reckons England “have a chance, but highly likely we’ll blow it.”

Chaps is full of optimism, even if the Croatia result goes against England: “Even if football doesn’t ‘come home’ this year, the performance of this squad and its coaches – and the daftar poker full pipeline of talent evidenced by being serial silverware winners at junior levels encourages me to believe that England will be there or thereabouts in coming years and tournaments, much as France have been since 1998. I’m sure now that it won’t be another 28 years before England makes another semi-final. It will become, more or less, a regular occurrence.”

3.32am EDT03:32

A few more headlines as France wakes up to a stonking hangover and the prospect of a World Cup final:

Le Parisien: “Les Bleus at the gates of heaven!”

 

  • Le Figaro: “The dream in blue continues”
  • Le Monde: “A flavour of ‘98 seizes the streets of France”
  • France Football: “A dream that is becoming less and less crazy”
  • 3.14am EDT03:14

    “They’re redefining the English game and I wanted to be a part of it.” Not Gareth Southgate and his backroom staff, but rather Manchester City under Pep Guardiola. That’s the view of Riyad Mahrez at least, who has put pen to paper on a deal at the Etihad.

    3.06am EDT03:06

    In other news, you may have heard a certain transfer has gone through. Ronaldo to Juve for silly money. Still, the Old Lady of Turin has not made many mistakes lately, writes Paolo Bandini as he assesses the “deal of the century”.

    2.58am EDT02:58

    Just going back to the ‘p’ word for a moment – Croatia’s exertions, both mental and physical, in their quarter-final shootout win over Russia could yet come back to bite them. At least that’s what England will be hoping after Zlatko Dalic admitted his team were tired.

    “We’ve played five difficult games, they’ve taken their toll. We’re tired but there can be no excuses. We’ve come to the semi-final. We’re here to play football, enjoy ourselves and give our all. We do not want to say we are fatigued. We have not been exhausted. There is still opportunity for us to exhaust ourselves.”

    2.43am EDT02:43

    After a quiet game by his standards against Sweden, what can England expect from their captain Harry Kane against Croatia? It’s not just about goals though – just ask Olivier Giroud, or even better read this from a woman who knows a thing or two about being a world-class striker, Marta.

    “People often ask me what the secret to being a good goalscorer is but there is not just one thing that makes someone a brilliant and consistent striker. You need a bit of everything. You need technique and positional awareness; you need to be able to read the game and be quick. To be great, you need all of these things.”

    Updated at 2.53am EDT

    2.29am EDT02:29

    The Croatia manager, Zlatko Dalicwe, reckons his side “always expect to solve everything within 90 minutes”, which is great news for anyone of a nervous disposition, yet the prospect of another penalty shootout looms large over the game in Moscow, as it does in any game in the knockout phase between two evenly matched sides. Thankfully, England have Sir Jordan Pickford in their ranks, but Croatians will be equally comforted by Danijel Subasic. Here’s Aleksandar Holiga on the Croatia keeper:

    The Monaco goalkeeper is a penalty specialist, having let in only 58% of the spot-kicks he has faced in Ligue 1 and saved three out of five as Croatia knocked out Denmark in this World Cup.

    2.19am EDT02:19

    Football is just a game, 22 people kicking an inflated bag around, hopefully having a bit of fun along the way. Winning, losing, who cares? It’s about taking part, taking enjoyment out of the game. But then again, it can be so much more than that. And the World Cup tends to remind us of this on a quadrennial basis. For England, certainly, this tournament has become something more than a game. Here’s Hugh Muir on that:

    “Oh, to be in England Now that April’s there,” wrote Browning, but he might have looked at that again after last weekend and decided it could bear revision. “Oh, to be in England’s capital as Gareth Southgate’s team march nonchalantly into the World Cup semi-finals,” perhaps. When people meet the glances of others, smile and know exactly what they are thinking. When strangers, merry and giddy, connect on the trains that usually symbolise an urban dystopia. When young Britons of many complexions sport England shirts and look as though they had won a modest bet.

    2.12am EDT02:12

    This is so hot off the virtual press, I haven’t had time to read it yet, but since it’s from Jonathan Wilson, one can assume it’s essential reading ahead of The Big Match:

    2.07am EDT02:07

    If the England players aren’t nervous, the same cannot be said for the majority of those who will watch on through inevitably laced fingers in Russia and back home. That people appear to be allowing themselves to dream only heightens those nerves. Here’s Barney Ronay on a a moment that nobody really expected.

    If the last few days have been marked by a feeling of gathering English hysteria, not to mention booze-sodden escapism as the rest of the country energetically falls to bits, then it is worth noting these moments don’t come around very often.

    1.57am EDT01:57

    Time to cast forward now, to today’s second semi-final. A lovely scene-setter from Daniel Taylor in Moscow:

    Did you see Dele Alli this week reminiscing about the time he nutmegged Luka Modric? Perhaps you thought he sounded a little overconfident to be talking of such a thing. But it was actually quite reassuring, from an English perspective, to be in Alli’s company and see, close-up, how confident he was at a time when this bunch of players, more than ever, need to show they have moved on since the days when Fabio Capello said the England shirt “weighed heavily” on their shoulders.

    1.47am EDT01:47

    The focus of Courtois’ ire – rather amusingly his Chelsea teammate Giroud – is coming in for a bit of stick after a fairly anodyne performance – and another game without a goal. That’s over seven hours of play without scoring or, indeed, even a shot on target. The Stéphane Guivarc’h of a new generation.

    Squawka Football Squawka

    Olivier Giroud is yet to hit the target with any of his 10 shots at this #WorldCup.

    He is the only one of the 84 players to have attempted six or more shots at the tournament and yet to hit the target with a single one. ❌ pic.mpW3tz7SI8J

    July 10, 2018

    1.29am EDT01:29

    And another! “I prefer to lose with this Belgium than win with this France.”

    Eden Hazard has been at it too, telling Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad: “But they do defend strongly and are very efficient. We have not found their weak point. That little moment of magic needed to score was not there. We have seen a fantastic Belgian team and have been eliminated by a team that was more solid than us.”

    1.14am EDT01:14

    “It’s just an anti-football team”

    A case of sour grapes in the Belgium camp? Speaking of their French conquerors, Thibaut Courtois told the Belgian website Sporza: “Their striker plays 30 metres from his own goal.” Oof. And there’s more: “It’s a pity and frustrating, I prefer to lose to a team like Brazil, who want to play football at least. France are no better than us, they do not play football, but they do have a lot of strength.”

    Updated at 1.55am EDT

    1.00am EDT01:00

    Some of those French celebrations turned a bit ugly earlier. This from Reuters:

    The partying was marred by clashes between riot police and mobs on the iconic Champs Elysees avenue. Live TV images showed bare-chested men hurling plastic crowd-control barriers and other missiles at the armed officers, who charged back. In the southern city of Nice, more than two dozen fans were hurt when the detonation of firecrackers triggered a brief stampede near the seafront.

    12.53am EDT00:53

    After a France game, it’s always good to have a look at how L’Équipe sees things. “Head in the stars” blazes its front page today. “Thanks to a headed goal from Samuel Umtiti, France can dream of a second World Cup title, 20 years after their first star in 1998.”

    Л’ЭКИП – L’ÉQUIPE lequipe

    🇫🇷💫 Les Bleus sont en finale… la tête dans les étoiles !

    C’est la Une du journal L’Équipe à consulter dans quelques minutes sur le numérique. pic.mHefVyhQHIV

    July 10, 2018

    The paper, which is notoriously sensible with its player ratings, awarded France an average of 7, to Belgium’s 5.1. Umtiti, Raphael Varane and Hugo Lloris got 8s, while Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois stood out with an 8 too. Eden Hazard 6, Romelu Lukaku 4 and Mousa Dembélé 3 didn’t fare as well.

    And just to rehash the Tintin theme – France “walked on De Bruyne”:

    Л’ЭКИП – L’ÉQUIPE lequipe

    🇫🇷🇧🇪 Après «Objectif Lune», «On a marché sur De Bruyne».tsoulcie a imaginé pour lequipe la suite des aventures des Bleus, inspiré par Les Aventures de Tintin, l’œuvre du dessinateur belge Hergé. pic.mfY9Ssnycyd

    July 10, 2018

    Updated at 12.57am EDT

    12.40am EDT00:40

    One can only imagine how Belgium’s players are feeling at the moment and how their Croatian English counterparts will later on. Unless you’ve been in that high-pressure, high-stakes situation, it’s impossible to conceptualise the emotions it conjures up.

    Trevor Steven knows all about playing a World Cup semi-final though. He was there in Turin in 1990, and reckons it was “like an out-of-body experience”. The former gives Jamie Jackson some further interesting insight into the agony being so close, yet so far.

    12.24am EDT00:24

    What of Belgium? Their so-called golden generation has failed to deliver the goods once again. When can the promise of becoming world beaters be dismissed? You could make a pretty strong argument for, in Belgium’s case, that moment to be now after they came up blank against France and lost a match for the first time in 25 outings. As David Hytner at the St Petersburg Stadium writes:

    “This was Belgium’s big opportunity; the moment to make history by reaching a first World Cup final. For many years the squad have been tracked by talk of a golden generation and several members of Martínez’s squad had made it plain that they were here to lift the trophy. Nothing else. But in the end, they were stifled and the manager did not have the answers.”

    12.16am EDT00:16

    Redemption is a word on the minds of Deschamps et al. Or rather la rédemption. The pain of Euro 2016, when they lost to Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in the final, still lingers around the camp like the smell of a particularly fruity Brie de Meaux. Deschamps says he is keen to devour it, and never see it regurgitated again or words to that effect.

    “I was there two years ago with my staff,” Deschamps said. “It was so painful we really want to taste the victory tonight. It’s not nothing to win the semi-final of the World Cup after losing the final of the Euro. It’s sport, we have this privilege to give happiness to the French people and the public.”

    12.08am EDT00:08

    Here’s some blurb from the pod crew: “Max and co discuss France becoming the first finalist of the 2018 World Cup, a Thibaut Courtois post-match meltdown, England’s hopes, dreams and fears, Cristiano Ronaldo’s move and Welsh nightmares.” Do yourselves a favour and have a listen.

    12.01am EDT00:01

    Preamble

    Allez les Blues! A decades-old debate has finally been settled by way of a fairly important football match in Saint Petersburg: Asterix is officially better than Tintin. And the upshot of that particular little revelation is that France are in the World Cup final, at the expense of their cousins to the north-east, Belgium.

    A tricolour-hued crowd collectively lost their merde on the Champs-Elysee after the 1-0 win in predictable shades of ‘98. Perhaps it was fitting then, that the match-winner was the Cameroon-born defender Samuel Umtiti.

    Didier Deschamps, who as a player was part of that Black-Blanc-Beur side, will now seek to emulate one of his predecessors, Aimé Jacquet, and complete his mission against the winner of another fairly important football match later today – that between Croatia and England.

    Ah, yes, that small matter. Bus shelters across England are bracing themselves with a nation set to spontaneously combust should Gareth Southgate’s side manage to reach a first World Cup final since 1966. The tension is mounting, the pressure building. What could go wrong?

    Anyway, stick with us as the buildup properly commences aware we’ve been building up to this ever since the final whistle tooted in Samara, but this time we really mean it. And we’ll be able to cast an eye back over the game in Saint Petersburg, and bring you any breaking news as and when it happens before kick-off in Moscow.

    9pm MSK7pm BST4am Thursday AEST: Croatia v England, Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow

    Throughout the course of the dayeveningwhatever it is where you are, please do feel free to get in touch on email mike.hytnertheguardianm or Twitter mike_hytner or below the line. Meanwhile, you could do worse than sign up for the World Cup Fiver.

    Updated at 1.42am EDT

 

World Cup 2018: Croatia vs England prediction, team information, stats and preview ahead of semi-final showdown

World Cup 2018: Croatia vs England prediction, team information, stats and preview ahead of semi-final showdown

GARETH SOUTHGATE is out to make heritage with the aid of securing England’s first World Cup ultimate when you consider that 1966.

because the Three Lions have improved, low expectations have given solution to boisterous cries of.”or not it’s Coming home”.

Alamy reside news

Harry Kane is aware of England cannot count their chickens as they prepare to face Croatia

but Croatia have their own milestones to tick off having qualified for their first semi-final in view that 1998.

England are dealing with their toughest test up to daftar poker now however go in as favourites to install a mouthwatering final with historical foes France.

Key battles

Harry Kane will fancy his options up against Dejan Lovren and Vedran Corluka.

the england striker gave Lovren the runaround when Tottenham faced Liverpool and will hope to serve up yet another lesson.

Jordan Henderson will should rein in Luka Modric.

If the actual Madrid playmaker finds too a good deal area he can make his side tick.

AMBO SMASHER lady who jumped on ambulance in England World Cup celebrations is SCOTTISH

signal IT UP! UK might have bank break if England remove World Cup after 150.”000 sign petition

WASTE CROATS Don your waistcoat like Southgate ahead of tonight’s large Croatia conflict

FRANCE NIC Stampede in excellent earlier than final whistle as crowd mistake firecracker for gunfire

SEXTRA TIME England’s female lovers being turned on with the aid of the Three Lions’ World Cup run

CLOSING TIME Lidl to observe Aldi in closing early Sunday if England reach World Cup closing

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Luka Modric must be closed down or he may grasp handle of the gameExcitement builds in Moscow as England and Croatia enthusiasts sing, dance and speak forward of World Cup semi-last showdown Weakest links

England had been a huge danger from set-pieces and may hope to reveal the Croatian defence which may well be susceptible to aerial assault.

however the Three Lions deserve to be more of a chance from launch play and the younger the facet could work on their online game management – specifically after going forward.

seemingly line-ups

England: Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire; Trippier, Henderson, young; Dele, Lingard; Sterling, Kane.

Croatia: Subasic; Vida, Lovren, Corluka, Strinic; Modric, Brozovic, Rakitic; Rebic, Mandzukic, Perisic.

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Gareth Southgate needs Jordan Henderson to continue his dazzling performances in midfieldIan Wright, Alan Shearer and Shaun Custis focus on England megastar Harry Kane and his key fight with Croatia defender Dejan Lovren forward of World Cup semi-remaining premier bets

After no penalties got ultimate night, a chapter-kick looks like a simple task right here. Betway are providing 13-8.

Neither aspect are rock-solid on the returned so an England choose with BTTS is a tasty 9-2.

Harry Maguire and John Stones are each 9-1 to rating any time, while 13-10 is not a bad tip for in-form Kane despite the low expense.

The stat that concerns

England have scored at least twice in five of their remaining six matches towards Croatia.

Croatia enthusiasts in Moscow are extraordinarily confident going into the area Cup semi-final with England

World Cup 2018: England vs. Croatia semifinal odds, traces, knowledgeable picks, and correct insider predictions

World Cup 2018: England vs. Croatia semifinal odds, traces, knowledgeable picks, and correct insider predictions

a visit to the 2018 World Cup remaining is on the road when England and Croatia rectangular off Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET. England is not any. 12 in the FIFA World Rankings, while Croatia isn’t any. 20. England cruised past Sweden to attain the semifinals, whereas Croatia edged out Russia in a penalty shootout. England enters this semifinal fit at 30 World Cup odds on daftar poker the money line, meaning you would deserve to bet $a hundred on an English victory to lift $one hundred thirty. Croatia is +240, whereas a draw in rules is +220. The over-beneath on complete desires scored during this 2018 World Cup fixture is 2. England is eleven-4 to bewitch the whole event, whereas Croatia goes off at 4-1 World Cup odds to select home the trophy.

earlier than you enter your 2018 World Cup picks for Croatia vs. England, you should see what European soccer skilled David Sumpter has to assert. Sumpter is an utilized mathematician and author of.”Soccermatics,” a book that explains how math works interior the game. at the side of different skilled analysts, Sumpter developed the potent Soccerbot model.

The Soccerbot reads latest odds and all group efficiency statistics, calculates key metrics and predicts upcoming suits. In practically three seasons in view that its inception, the Soccerbot is up an incredible 1,800 % on bookmakers’ closing odds.

The model is crushing the 2018 World Cup knockout stage. It correctly envisioned draws in regulation for Spain-Russia +280, Croatia-Denmark +225 and England-Colombia +215 and became all over the place France beating Uruguay in regulation to attain the semifinals, not to mention Brazil and Belgium cruising within the round of sixteen. earlier, the mannequin nailed draws for Argentina-Iceland +385 and Brazil-Switzerland +360 and estimated Iran upsetting Morocco at +275, simply to identify a few of its huge calls. anybody who has adopted it is way, method up.

Now, the Soccerbot has digested the film, crunched the numbers and damaged down each participant on the Croatian and English rosters. The mannequin has released a very powerful money-line prefer, which or not it’s sharing over at SportsLine.

The mannequin is aware of England comprehensive second in community G after a loss to Belgium. It allowed a stoppage-time tally to Colombia before winning on penalty kicks. It then conquered the Swedes in the quarterfinals, placing the in shape out of attain when Dele Alli scored in the 58th minute for a two-purpose lead.

England hasn’t conceded more than one intention in any online game in Russia 2018. Harry Kane has six desires, the most by any Englishman at an international Cup given that 1986, when star striker Gary Lineker tallied six in Mexico, and he’s the 2018 Golden Boot favourite. England’s lone World Cup title got here again in 1966.

The mannequin additionally knows that Croatia secured its semifinal berth with its 2d consecutive penalty shootout victory. It will be Croatia’s second-ever appearance in an international Cup semifinal, the closing time coming in 1998. That 12 months, it misplaced to France in the semis and defeated the Netherlands within the third-place video game.

Croatia went down early to host Russia in the quarterfinals this year, however at once bounced returned and equalized because of Andrej Kramaric’s goal. Croatia grew to become simply the 2nd crew to development by way of penalty shootout in consecutive knockout video games in an international Cup tournament considering that Argentina in 1990.

Croatia’s neatly-balanced attack has been on full screen in Russia. Croatia has had eight distinctive intention scorers at the 2018 World Cup – simplest Belgium 9 has had extra.

So which hungry squad wins on Wednesday? consult with SportsLine now to peer the strong Croatia-England prefer, all from a european football knowledgeable whose potent model is up 1,800 percent in lower than three years.