France and England should be favourites for their respective semi-final clashes at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Both nations have the defensive strength and pace up front to overpower Belgium and Croatia, respectively.
Tuesday will see Les Bleus take on Belgium in Saint Petersburg, with both sides leading from the front. However, France boast the talent at the back and in midfield to subdue the Red Devils' best players.
England may struggle to contain Croatia's midfield maestros at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, but their own height and brawn from set pieces will cause problems for a suspect defence. The same unit will have trouble keeping the pacy Raheem Sterling in check.
- France vs. Belgium: Tuesday, July 10, 9 p.m. local time (7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET)
- Croatia vs. England: Wednesday, July 11, 9 p.m. local time (7 p.m. BST/2 p.m. ET)
- France: 7-5, Belgium: 41-20, Draw: 43-20
- Croatia: 12-5, England: 32-25, Draw: 52-25
All odds according to OddsShark.
France to Edge 1st Semi-Final
Beating Belgium demands standing up to the pace and power of striker Romelu Lukaku. It's something France centre-backs Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti can manage.
Both are quick across the deck, while neither is shy about contesting aerial duels. Yet handling Lukaku is just half the battle against Belgium.
The other half demands getting to grips with schemers Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne. Fortunately for Les Bleus, their midfield is well-equipped to track Hazard and De Bruyne across the pitch at Saint Petersburg Stadium.
N'Golo Kante is a tackling machine, while Blaise Matuidi's energy helps him shadow runners off the ball. If De Bruyne is denied the time and space to pick his passes, France will keep the game close enough for Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe to decide things.
Prediction: France 2-1 Belgium
England Too Strong for Croatia
With Harry Kane bullying defenders while Raheem Sterling tires them out with his pace, England are a strong bet to score against the Blazers. Even so, progressing to the final will equally rely on blunting Croatia's not-inconsiderable scoring threat.
Most of that danger comes from Modric, whose vision and range of passing were on display during the quarter-final win over Russia on Saturday:
It will be essential for one of Jordan Henderson and Dele Alli to pay close attention to Modric out of possession. Having Jesse Lingard double up in a marking role would also help—anything so that Modric is hurried into mistakes and sees less of the ball.
England should feel confident about handling Croatia strikers Mario Mandzukic and Andrej Kramaric. A back three of Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire and John Stones has the size, speed and technique to resist different threats.
If Croatia's possession-based game goes nowhere, England will nick the goal needed to reach the final.
Prediction: Croatia 0-1 England