By Sean Toomer—
Thrilling, exciting, disappointing, amazing, and heart-breaking. All of these terms can be used to describe the semifinal round of the FIFA World Cup. Hundreds of millions of people watched as France defeated Belgium in a close, defensive game, 1-0. Croatia came back against England, down 0-1, to best England 2-1. Both matches had very different game flows. All four teams have rosters loaded with talent but with very different styles of play.
The first match, France vs Belgium, remained scoreless in the first half with France aggressively attacking the Belgium goal but not scoring. Belgium seemed to be somewhat reckless with their physical style as they committed 16 fouls versus France’s 6 fouls. France attacking nature lead to 18 total shots (5 shots on goal) and they were finally rewarded when defender Samuel Umiti scored during the 51st minute of play. His close-range header allowed France to pull ahead and put massive pressure on Belgium to score. Belgium possessed the ball for nearly 65% of the game but had only 8 shots (3 shots on goal) as France played excellent no-foul defence. Several yellow cards in the second half led to several scuffles between the teams. France never relinquished the lead after Umiti’s goal and has advanced to the finals round.
The second match of the day was even more thrilling with England facing off versus Croatia. Within the first five minutes of play England defender, Kieran Trippier scored a goal from a Croatia misplay. This quick start seemed to shift the style of play for England as they did not aggressively attack Croatia’s goal for the remainder of the match. On the opposite side, Croatia was not deterred and finally netted a goal during the 68th minute from midfielder Ivan Perišić. This tied the game at 1-1. And effectively reset the match. The remainder of the play would determine the winner and allow that team to advance to the championship round versus France. Both teams battled fiercely and were very physical with 37 total fouls (24, the game remained tied and went to extra minutes. Croatia relentlessly continued their attack on England (24 shots, 7 shots on goal) and scored a goal at the 109th minute by forwarding Mario Mandžukić. The comeback for Croatia was in full effect and transferred all the pressure to England was unable to get into favourable scoring positioning as they only had 10 total shots and a mere 2 shots on goal. This combined with a lack of aggression ultimately lead to a 2-1 defeat.
On this Sunday, July 15th at 11 AM EST, The finals game will be played between France and Croatia to determine the new world champion and World Cup, winner. This should be a great match featuring the two toughest, most resilient teams facing off against each other. Both teams have dynamic scores and aggressive attacking playstyles. Billions of eyes will be watching to see which country will hold the title of best football team for the next four years. Who do you think will win? Who are your favourite remaining players? Who are you rooting for? Leave your opinion in the comments below. Go LES BLUES!