World Cup 2018 Semi-Final: France vs. Belgium, Croatia vs. England Form Guide

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJuly 8, 2018

SAMARA, RUSSIA - JULY 7: Raheem Sterling #10 of England in action during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Quarter Final match between Sweden and England at Samara Arena on July 7, 2018 in Samara, Russia. (Photo by Daniel Malmberg/Getty Images)
Daniel Malmberg/Getty Images

England are the only one of the four semi-finalists at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia to have lost a game at the tournament. By contrast, Belgium are the only team left in the competition to have won every match in normal time en route to the last four.

Belgium will put their perfect record on the line against the in-form and balanced France in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday. Les Bleus are sharp at the back and skilled up front, while the Red Devils are creative with their movement and passing in the final third.

Stylish passing is also Croatia's forte thanks to a clutch of gifted technicians in midfield. It's something England must overpower with pace, strength and width when the two nations meet at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Wednesday.

Here's the form guide, in terms of wins, losses and draws, for each of the semi-finalists:

  • France: W-W-D-W-W
  • Belgium: W-W-W-W-W
  • Croatia: W-W-W-W*-W*
  • England: W-W-L-W*-W

*Indicates penalty-shootout victory.

                  

France vs. Belgium

Les Bleus began their campaign with uninspiring wins over Australia and Peru in Group C before lurching into the last 16 after a 0-0 bore draw with Denmark. Since then, France have been electric, scoring a combined six times in wins over Argentina and Uruguay.

Forwards Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe have both scored twice during this run. They complement one another thanks to their pace and perceptive movement.

Griezmann and Mbappe are both in prolific form.
Griezmann and Mbappe are both in prolific form.FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images

Those qualities dovetail with the physical characteristics of target man Olivier Giroud, giving France a naturally balanced forward line.

Things are just as stable in a defence, where centre-backs Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane and right-back Benjamin Pavard offer power and the ability to build attacks from deep.

Overcoming a team this solid in key areas will be a challenge, even for a Belgium side not short of goals. The Red Devils struck three past Panama, five against Tunisia and one against England in Group H.

Three more goals ensured a dramatic comeback against Japan in the round of 16 before Belgium beat favourites Brazil 2-1 in their quarter-final on Friday.

Having a focal point like Romelu Lukaku helps, but the ingenuity of Kevin De Bruyne often makes the difference. He scored a terrific goal against Brazil but is most effective as a supplier of chances, as Squawka Football highlighted:

Both squads promise goals, but France's greater balance should see them through.

                         

Croatia vs. England

Croatia won every game in Group D, scoring seven goals in the process. However, goals have been tougher to come by for the Blazers since, even though they saw off both Denmark and hosts Russia on penalties to make it to the semi-finals.

Part of Croatia's problem has been capitalising on the supply Luka Modric provides from midfield. The Real Madrid star was exceptional against Russia on Saturday, using different gears to stay in control, even when the pace of the game varied, a trait not lost on BBC Sport's John Bennett:

Modric could run the show against England's 3-4-1-2 formation, which can be light in the central midfield. However, the Three Lions do enjoy width thanks to wing-backs Ashley Young and Kieran Trippier, while Raheem Sterling stretches defences with pace.

The latter struggled to find his composure in front of goal during the 2-0 quarter-final win over Sweden on Saturday but remained a constant threat thanks to his intelligent runs:

Croatia's defence looked shaky against Russia, so setting Sterling free early could put England on the path to the final.

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