France 1 Belgium 0
Many expected this match to be an up and down affair considering the offensive talent on display for each team. It did not quite live up to the billing. Both teams traded off sitting back and letting the other have the ball. With France and Belgium so focused on breaking up on the counter attack, it looked like a goal would have to be scored from a set piece. It was Samuel Umtiti who headed in a corner in the 51st minute to give France the lead. The French midfield of Kante and Pogba dominated the center of the field and made it extremely difficult for Belgium to get anything going through Kevin De Bruyne. Even as the game reached the last few minutes,Belgium was unable to create any great chances. Any neutral or Belgium fan watching would have noted the lack of actual soccer that was played in the final minutes. France attempted to waste every last second by rolling around on the ground or just simply not letting Belgium take free kicks or throw ins. It was a pretty ugly display, but ultimately, the better team on the day won.
England 1 Croatia 2
After Trippier’s outstanding free kick goal to give England the lead in the first few minutes, it would have seemed impossible to think England would not go on to win. Croatia, who was coming off back-to-back extra time games, seemed to only get better as the game progressed. As the second half began, England had completely lost control of the midfield and were relegated to lumping long balls forward to a tired Harry Kane. Perisic’s equalizer, just before the 70th minute, gave Croatia even more life and they continued to press for the winner. Mandzukic was first to a well placed header by Perisic and crushed England’s hopes with a great left footed finish. It was a little bit shocking to see England finally go home. Most had assumed they would progress past Croatia into the finals but, simply didn’t play well enough to win. It is tough to accurately describe just how good LuKa Modric has been this tournament for Croatia. If he can lead them to a victory on Sunday, he will undoubtedly win the golden ball for best player at the World Cup.
World Cup Final Sunday 10 AM Central Time
Prediction: 2 – 0 France
Croatia seems like they are destined to win it all, but they have not played a team like France yet. The strength of the French team lies in their midfield. Kante will be all over Modric and will give him no room to operate. I expect Kante and Pogba to control the midfield and if this Croatia team can’t play through Modric and Rakatic, they have little chance. Mpabbe will look to isolate himself on the wings against the tired and injured Croatian outside backs. I would expect France to go with the same lineup as they did against Belgium. Everyone was all over Giroud for missing some chances, rightfully so, but he gives them a physical presence up top and allows Griezman to float where ever he wants. It has truly been an incredible run for Croatia, but France is just too much to handle.