World Cup Predictions 2018: Projecting Final Matchup Before Semi-Final Game 2

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistJuly 11, 2018

England's midfielder Dele Alli (4thL) celebrates with teammates after scoring their second goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup quarter-final football match between Sweden and England at the Samara Arena in Samara on July 7, 2018. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS        (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

England and Croatia will face off on Wednesday in Moscow for the right to take on France in the 2018 FIFA World Cup final.

Les Bleus continued their fine competition on Tuesday, as a Samuel Umtiti header was enough to see them past Belgium in the semi-final. It means they'll play in the sport's biggest fixture for the third time in their history.

Next, it will be the turn of the Three Lions and the Valtreni—neither of whom were tipped to go this far ahead of the tournament. Still, there are some exceptional players on show for both sides, including England skipper Harry Kane, the top scorer at the World Cup, and Croatia captain Luka Modric, arguably the best midfielder in the tournament.

Here's a look at the schedule for the rest of the World Cup, a look back at how France performed on Tuesday and a preview of what to expect from the huge game on Wednesday.


World Cup Schedule

Semi-Final 1—Tuesday, July 10 (7 p.m. BST)—France 1-0 Belgium

Semi-Final 2—Wednesday, July 11 (7 p.m. BST)—England vs. Croatia

Third Place Playoff—Saturday, July 14 (3 p.m. BST)—Belgium vs. England/Croatia

Final—Sunday, July 15 (4 p.m. BST)—France vs. England/Croatia


England, Croatia Fight for Right to Face France

David Vincent/Associated Press

While they haven't played with the attacking potential they're capable of, France have been measured and professional throughout this World Cup. They put in another display of that ilk on Tuesday.

After Umtiti headed Les Bleus in front, they controlled the contest, nullifying Belgium's array of attacking talent. Regardless of who makes it into Sunday's showpiece, they appear to be the team to beat.

As noted by Rory Smith of the New York Times, France know how to get the job done in these big matches:

Rory Smith @RorySmith

I'm trying to work out what France remind me of. They're kind of a mix between a boa constrictor and a fire blanket. A team that always has enough, and much more, but always only does enough, and never more.

England and Croatia have been doing the same throughout the tournament, although this match is a step up in class for each.

For England supporters, the manner in which the team swatted Sweden aside in the quarter-finals was unnervingly undramatic. Goals either side of half-time from Harry Maguire and Dele Alli made it straightforward for the Three Lions, and there's now confidence Gareth Southgate's side are capable of going all the way.

In addition to having a world-class forward in Kane, England have also found a potency from set-piece situations at this tournament, with eight of their 11 goals coming from dead-ball instances.

Roger Bennett praised the work that's been done in this area:

roger bennett @rogbennett

England and Set Pieces. Like watching NBA team attempt to win Championship whilst only scoring Free Throws 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿

They are also likely to have a fully fit squad to choose from despite fears as to whether Jordan Henderson will be involved.

As noted by bet365, everything seems to be falling into place for the Three Lions:

bet365 @bet365

- 2018 on track to be the hottest UK summer ever - Harry Kane top of the goalscoring chart - Jordan Henderson playing like Xavi - Germany, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Brazil & Belgium all out - England playing in the SEMI-FINAL of a World Cup What. A. Time. To. Be. Alive. https://t.co/Ffur8USLgm

Even so, Croatia will provide stiff opposition in the semis, as they've shown incredible resolve to make it this far.

In both knockout games so far, they've progressed via a penalty shootout after 120-minute slogs against Denmark and then Russia. The cost of that appears to be an injury for Sime Vrsaljko, after he was forced off against the latter and is a big doubt for the upcoming game.

Croatia can hurt teams further forward, though. Modric and Ivan Rakitic can control the tempo of games, although in the forward line there are numerous paths to goal. Mario Mandzukic is a battering ram up top, Andrej Kramaric is a fine poacher, while Ivan Perisic and Ante Rebic are relentless in their wing play.


Prediction: England 2-1 Croatia