Uruguay vs France
France made it through to their first World Cup semi-final in 12 years after beating a Uruguay team that seemed more intent on sitting back and counter-attacking than going at the throats of a France side that can definitely be beaten.
Edinson Cavani failed to make the bench for Uruguay, which clearly shifted their tactics going in to the game after he suffered
an injury in the Round of 16, but it was a Loris Karius-esque mistake from Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera that gifted France the 2-0 win at the end of the day.
A shot from Antoine Griezmann came from outside the box and Muslera completely misjudged the flight of the ball that changed course at the last second, bouncing off the keeper’s hands and in to the back of the net.
Uruguay had their chances, of course, but this mistake from Muslera seemed to drain any life out of a team that, at 1-0, looked like they could have come back in to the game.
Griezmann’s goal went without celebration “out of respect to Uruguay,” but Luis Suarez was having none of it after the game.
“He’s not Uruguayan, he’s French and he scored a goal,” Suarez said after Griezmann explained his love for Uruguay and his many friends in the team and from the country.
Suarez is technically right, but I think Griezmann would much rather be French than Uruguayan anyway, considering the French are going to the semi-finals and Luiz Suarez and his Uruguayan teammates are going home.
Brazil vs Belgium
Another World Cup “shock” to many saw Belgium beat Brazil 2-1 to make it to their first semi-final of the 21st Century.
Belgium dominated for the majority of the game, only looking shaky at the end when Brazil got one goal back after a first half own goal courtesy of Fernandinho’s head, and a drilled shot from outside the box by Fernandinho’s Manchester City teammate, Kevin De Bruyne.
Renato Augusto gave Brazil hope, but it wasn’t meant to be in the end, and Belgium will be satisfied to have won a game where they were the better side for a vast majority of it.
Neymar was up to his usual antics yet again, being deemed to have dived in the penalty box later in the second half as Brazil did everything they could to try and get a goal.
Despite the dive, the referee decided against booking Neymar, which leads me to believe a rule change must be made for diving across competitions worldwide.
Neymar did not get the penalty, and he was yet again shamed across the world on television and newspaper articles calling him a cheat, but this has happened before, and he has not changed his ways. What makes anybody think this time will be different?
If players do not receive the proper punishment for diving and trying to fool the referee by cheating, it’ll only continue.
Neymar was already on a yellow card from a previous game, which would have mean he’d miss the semi-final had Brazil gone through. Was this part of the referees decision to not card Neymar?
FIFA want the best players in the world to be playing in their games, because it brings in more money from sponsors and more viewers across the world. Had Neymar been banned, many neutrals would have switched off.
A blanket yellow card rule or two-match ban must be put in place beginning next season for divers, or we will simply continue to see this week in week out.
Luckily, Neymar will have to watch the semi-finals from his own home, and with an all-European end to the World Cup, diving will hopefully be non-existent.
Russia vs Croatia
We are yet to have a round of soccer at this World Cup that doesn’t have a thriller like the 2-2 tie between hosts Russia and Croatia. Croatia won the game on penalties, but the score was only 1-1 going in to extra time.
Croatia must have thought they’d won the game when Domagoj Vida but them ahead in the 100th minute, only for Mario
Fernandes to tie the game with just five minutes to spare.
The game went to penalties where Fernandes missed the decisive penalty, and Ivan Rakitic stepped up to send the Croatian players and their fans in to a frenzy.
It’s been 20 years since Croatia were in a World Cup semi-final, and back then they were beaten by the winners of that tournament, France.
Russia crashed out of the tournament as a stage that was just a step too far for them. They have done their country very proud as hosts, and will look back on their run with fond memories, but when a game goes to penalties, it’s a lottery.
Croatia will be hoping that they can be fit enough for their semi-final game after playing all the way through to penalties in the last two rounds.
Their players were mentally strong enough to finish the game against Russia, but physically they looked drained.
They’ll go in to a semi-final playing an England side that completed a relatively routine win over their opponents Sweden, so the freshness of the English squad could play a huge part in how that game is contested.
Sweden vs England
As previously mentioned, England completed a relatively routine 2-0 win over a Sweden side that never really got going in the last quarter-final tie of this 2018 World Cup.
Both of England’s goals came from perfectly weighted crosses from Ashley Young and Jesse Lingard respectively, with Harry Maguire and Dele Alli getting on the scoresheet for England.
Teams yet again seem unable to deal with the efficiency of England’s set piece taking, and it showed several times during a game in which England could have score several more.
Raheem Sterling was hit heavily with criticism at half and full time, but after re-watching the game, it’s hard to see how England could have performed as well without him in the side.
His pace was devastating for the Swedish defense, and while his finishing was not up to par (when is it?), he caused severe problems for Sweden, and given Croatia’s potential fitness issues, he will be a huge asset to have in the England team on Wednesday.
It’s England’s first World Cup semi-final since 1990 (before I was born), and England should be quite calm about the side
It will be a tough game for either side, nonetheless, simply because both teams have never gotten this far before. There’s no pressure, and really nothing to lose.
To both countries, these players are already heroes, so there should be no real nervousness out on the pitch on Wednesday afternoon.
It’s guaranteed to be a spectacle of a semi-final round, with France playing Belgium in the other game for a spot in the final. For England, it would be their first final since 1966 when they won the tournament, and behind my somewhat tough exterior, I’m so nervous I think I’m going to be sick.
Ryan Oldham is a Manchester native and a lifelong supporter of Manchester United. It is his fondest wish to see England win the World Cup. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org