Read my Semi-Final predictions.
And then there were two. France and Croatia. It’s a match that I predicted would happen at the World Cup. It’s just a bit later than I predicted. Either France will lift the World Cup for the second time or Croatia will lift it for the first time. But who will it be?
France have overcome Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium in the knockout stages and won each match inside 90 minutes. They were excellent against Belgium in the semi-final and kept a potent Belgian front line quiet. Croatia overcame Denmark, Russia and England in the knockout stages and all three matches went to extra time, with the first two requiring penalties. England had the better of the first half in their semi-final, but Croatia came into the game more as it progressed and deservedly won.
Which is all very well and good, but who wins? I can’t look beyond France. They’ve been solid when they need to be and have goal threats across the forwards. If the Croatian full backs try to push on as they did against England to pin wide players back, it will leave a lot of space for Mbappe to run into and he will be difficult to catch. If Croatia stay deep, I fancy France to be able to create chances from Giroud knocking balls down and linking up play. I predict a 2-0 victory for France.
Leave a comment with: who you think will win the World Cup Final; why; the score.
Read my predictions for the Quarter-Finals.
France V Belgium
Two of Europe’s best teams compete for a place in the final. It would be the first final for the French since 2006 and the loss on penalties to Italy, whilst it would be Belgium’s first final. France knocked out Uruguay with a 2-0 victory in the Quarter-Finals and Belgium beat tournament favourites Brazil 2-1. Both teams are full of potential match winners, making it a difficult game to call. I can see extra time being required to separate the sides and the French bench making the difference. France to make the final is my prediction.
Croatia V England
An unlikely Semi-Final, so both teams will be looking to take advantage of being in this situation. It would be a first final for Croatia if they win and England’s first final since… well, you know when! Croatia made the Semi-Final via penalties against Russia, whilst England comfortably saw off Sweden 2-0. Croatia are the better side technically, but they are an ageing team who have required penalties in both of their knockout games. Whoever controls the tempo is likely to end up winning, with England wanting a quicker tempo than Croatia. I think England will make the final.
Leave a comment with your prediction on who makes the World Cup Final.
Read from the introduction.
Recap on yesterday’s action.
Quarter Final – France V Belgium
Two of Europe’s most star-studded attacking sides meet in the Quarter Final. France beat Northern Ireland 1-0, whilst Belgium required penalties to get past Uruguay. France take an early lead through Ousmane Dembele in the 13th lead. It takes Belgium 21 minutes to draw level, with Romelu Lukaku the man who scores. The teams enter the dressing rooms at half time with the score still at 1-1. Despite a wealth of attacking talent, the second half produces no goals. It takes one minute into extra time for there to be another goal; Radja Nainggolan puts Belgium into the lead in the 91st minute. France have 29 minutes to find an equaliser and extra time produces another goal in the 113th minute. The goal is scored by Lukaku and Belgium progress at the expense of France.
Quarter Final – Italy V Argentina
A Quarter Final clash between two countries with six World Cups between them. Argentina knocked out Germany in the Last 16, winning 2-0. 1-0 was good enough for Italy to progress at England’s expense. Argentina are spoilt with attacking talent, whilst Italy’s defence is as strong as ever. The score is level at half time, with neither team having been able to force a breakthrough. With extra time looking the most likely outcome, Andrea Belotti puts Italy into the lead in the 83rd minute. It’s enough for Italy’s campaign to continue as Argentina bow out.
Find out what happens on Day 24.
Uruguay V France
The French put in their best performance of the tournament in beating Argentina in the Last 16, whilst Uruguay eliminated Portugal. Two very good teams in a game that could go either way, but I think the French have a bit of extra quality and it will be enough to get them past Uruguay and into the Semi-Final.
Brazil V Belgium
Brazil have been improving through the World Cup and knocked out Mexico in the Last 16; it seems as though everyone is still waiting for the promise of the Belgian team to deliver a performance that they should surely be capable of with the players at their disposal. The Last 16 tie against Japan saw them have to claw back a two-goal deficit and score the winner with the last kick of the game. Giving up two goals against Brazil would surely end their tournament. I expect Belgium to play better than they did against Japan, but it will not be enough and Brazil will progress.
Sweden V England
The Swedes saw off Switzerland in the Last 16 with a 1-0 victory and England finally won a penalty shootout in eliminating Colombia. England are expected to progress with ease, but Sweden beat Italy over two legs to qualify and topped a difficult Group F, with their only loss being to Germany with a goal deep in stoppage time. It won’t be an easy game for England, but I think they will progress to the Semi-Final.
Russia V Croatia
Russia produced the shock of the Last 16 in knocking out Spain, whilst Croatia struggled against Denmark; both sides required penalties to progress. It’s difficult to imagine Croatia struggling again, especially as Russia are unlikely to get players forward to push the Croatian wide players back; it will be a big ask for Russia to keep their shape and soak up pressure again, especially as the Croatian possession is likely to have more attacking intent than some of the Spanish possession had. I expect Croatia to knock out the hosts.
My predicted Semi-Finals:
France V Brazil
England V Croatia
Read from the introduction.
Recap on yesterday’s action.
Re-read the final matches in Groups E and F.
Last 16 – Northern Ireland V France
France’s topping of Group F sees them take on Northern Ireland in the Last 16. France go into the game as strong favourites, but the game is goalless at half time. Northern Ireland are able to repel French attacks until the 69th minute, when Ousmane Dembele fires the French into the lead. France are unable to add more goals, but it doesn’t matter as Northern Ireland are unable to get themselves back into the game. Whilst France were expected to win by more, they’ve scored enough to ensure they progress.
Last 16 – Italy V England
Italy topped Group E and take on England. Gary Lineker welcomes viewers by asking if England can get ‘pasta’ Italy and progress to the Quarter Finals. Italy suffer a blow in the 5th minute when Marco Veratti goes off injured. England suffer a blow of their own in the 14th minute when Raheem Sterling also heads to the dressing room early due to injury. With two minutes to go until half time, Andrea Petagna puts the Italians into the lead. Italy take the lead into half time, but they will have to defend their lead with only 10 men in the second half due to Giorgio Chiellini getting sent off one minute before half time. A man advantage gives England a great chance of progressing to the Quarter Finals, but if there’s one team that can defend a one-goal lead successfully, it’s typically Italy. And so it proves, as England are unable to score against the Italians.
Find out what happens on Day 19.
Check out how accurate my predictions for the Last 16 were.
France V Argentina
Neither team have been at their best so far, but I think France are the better team and will beat Argentina.
Uruguay V Portugal
Uruguay are showing signs of growing into the tournament and are favourites, but Portugal are very different to beat and in Ronaldo, have a player who can turn a game in a moment. I think Uruguay will progress in extra time.
Spain V Russia
Home support has undoubtedly helped Russia, but they struggled in their first big test of the tournament and I think Spain will be too strong for them.
Croatia V Denmark
Croatia impressively topped a tough looking Group D and I expect them to advance against a Denmark side that progressed as expected.
Brazil V Mexico
A tough Last 16 draw for Mexico, but also for Brazil; Mexico beat the 2014 champions in the group and if they play like that again, Brazil could exit the tournament much earlier than expected. However, I expect Brazil to have too much for Mexico.
Belgium V Japan
Group H was an open group and Japan were able to qualify from it. I predict they won’t advance any further and Belgium will record a comfortable win.
Sweden V Switzerland
Sweden qualified from the tough Group F as winners and should not be underestimated, while Switzerland gained a credible draw against Brazil in Group E. A match that I predict will go to penalties, with Switzerland progressing.
Colombia V England
Any joy for England about being in the ‘easier’ side of the draw seems premature, with Colombia posing a stern test. Colombia’s loss in the group stages was a 2-1 loss in a game in which they played with 10 men for 87 minutes. It may require extra time, but I think England will progress.
My predicted Quarter-Finals
France V Uruguay
Spain V Croatia
Brazil V Belgium
Switzerland V England