World Cup 2018: France into the final plus Croatia v England buildup – live!
Here’s the full story on those earlier quotes from Hazard and Courtois.
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.”
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”
“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.
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”.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
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.”
“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
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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