The final four for the 2018 FIFA World Cup quarterfinals wrapped up on Saturday. Croatia pulled out a 2-2 (4-3) shootout victory over Russia in the last game of the round to join France, Belgium and England in the semifinals.
England booked its place in the last four with a 2-0 victory over Sweden earlier on Saturday, while Friday saw France eliminate Uruguay by the same score before Belgium advanced with a 2-1 win over Brazil.
2018 FIFA World Cup Schedule
Semifinal 1: France vs. Belgium, Tuesday, July 10 at 2 p.m. ET on FOX
Semifinal 2: England vs. Croatia, Wednesday, July 11 at 2 p.m. ET on FOX
Third-Place Game: Semifinal 1 Loser vs. Semifinal 2 Loser, Saturday, July 14 at 10 a.m. ET on FOX
Final: Semifinal 1 Winner vs. Semifinal 2 Winner, Sunday, July 15 at 11 a.m. ET on FOX
*All information courtesy of FIFA.com
France vs. Belgium
Not many fans should be shocked that France and Belgium are among the teams still alive. After all, they come in at Nos. 7 and 3, respectively, in the FIFA World Cup rankings.
France have dealt with their fair share of tough tests to this point. They had to go through Australia (No. 36), Peru (No. 11) and Denmark (joint-No. 12) in group play, winning Group C with a 2-1-0 record. Then, they had to go through Lionel Messi and Argentina (No. 5) as the tournament reached the knockout stages before a quarterfinal meeting with Uruguay (No. 14).
Belgium, meanwhile, has faced lower-ranked teams, playing both Panama (No. 55) and Japan (No. 61). However, they defeated fellow semifinalists England (joint-No. 12) in their final group stage match to clinch the top spot in Group G.
Belgium needed an incredible second-half comeback from 2-0 down in the round of 16 to knock off Japan, and they held on to send Neymar and Brazil home in the quarterfinals.
Now, two squads that have yet to lose in Russia are about to go head-to-head for a spot in the championship round.
Belgium has proved it has no problem finding the back of the net, averaging 2.8 goals per match thus far. On the other hand, it has surrendered multiple goals to the likes of Tunisia and Japan, and neither of those squads are on France's level.
France has had just one match decided by more than one goal through its first five. It is used to playing under pressure and has managed to avoid making crucial mistakes, allowing just one goal outside of the Argentina game.
Belgium won't go down easy, but in the end, Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann will help France find a way to get the victory—and more importantly, a spot in the final.
England vs. Croatia
Croatia made it through Group D—which included Argentina—with an unblemished 3-0-0 record. In fact, it was the 3-0 victory over Messi and Co. that solidified Croatia's status as legitimate contenders in this tournament.
Despite the cruise through the group stage, Croatia has been given all it can handle since reaching the knockout stages. They needed shootouts to get past Denmark and Russia.
England is the lone semifinals qualifier with a loss in Russia. Then again, that loss put them in arguably better position. Belgium beat England 1-0 in the Group G finale to take top spot. By doing so, it gave the Three Lions an easier road to the final—their highest-ranked opponent since the group stage was Colombia (No. 16) in the round of 16.
Croatia has never finished better than third (1998), while England is looking to capture its second World Cup title after winning the trophy on home soil in 1966.
It's been a remarkable run for Croatia, a squad that had failed to advance out of group play in their previous three World Cup appearances. But unfortunately for them, talent will win out at this stage.