England fans are in Dreamland, with just Croatia standing in the way of a place in the World Cup final. Does John Newsome think that Gareth Southgate’s boys can go all the way?
CROATIA v ENGLAND
Croatia have progressed to the Semi-Finals via 2 Penalty Shootout’s against Denmark in the Last 16 and Russia in the Quarter-Final. The Croatians broke the host nations heart with a 4-3 win on penalties after the game finished 1-1 at Full Time and 2-2 after Extra Time. The excellent Real Madrid midfielder Luca Modric is one of the players of the tournament so far and will be vital in this tough game against England. Croatia have some excellent players in their squad. Liverpool are represented by Dejan Lovren, along with Juventus superstar Mario Mandzukic, Barcelona ace Ivan Rakitic and Inter Milan midfielder Ivan Perisic. They are unbeaten in Russia but can be got at and with the last 2 games going to Extra Time and Penalties, may run out of gas.
England have a real chance of getting to a World Cup Final for only the second time in their history and have an 100% record when they have played in the final. A generation of English fans haven’t seen a World Cup Semi-Final involving England and the 28 years of hurt since Italia ‘90 can be erased with a solid performance against Croatia. It won’t be easy but Gareth Southgate will have a game plan and would take this game against Croatia above playing France or Belgium any day of the year. Against Sweden, after a nervy start, Harry Maguire got the all important opening goal to settle the nerves of a nation. A superb header from an Ashley Young cross on the half hour mark put England ahead at the break. Just before the hour mark, Tottenham superstar Dele Alli got his head onto a Jesse Lingard cross and headed the ball past the Swedish goalkeeper putting the tie beyond doubt. Raheem Sterling came in for a bit of stick for not finishing off good chances. Lay off the guy, he keeps getting into position and will come good. Gareth kept the same team who started the competition against Tunisia and who played against Columbia in the Last 16. Barring injury to any of the squad, this should be the line-up for the Semi-Final game against Croatia. So Raheem will get the chance to quieten his doubters. If he scores the goal that takes The Three Lions to the World Cup Final he will become a legend. Raheem just has to Believe. Barnsley Boy John Stones made his debut for the Oakwell club in 2012 as a 17 year old having been at his home town club since he was 7. At 24 and after having criticism for his enigmatic style of play, he is developing into one of the Worlds best centre halves. His partnership with fellow Yorkie Harry Maguire has, not only limited the 4 previous opponents to only 4 goals, but also yielded 3 goals themselves, John getting 2 in the Panama game. Like the Sweden tie, this will be another English Premier League type game. Dejan Lovren has been outstanding for Liverpool since the arrival of Virgil van Dijk, but Virgil doesn’t play for Croatia, so England can take advantage of Dejan’s vulnerability. What a fantastic Wednesday night with such a brilliant prize at stake for whoever comes out on top.
We’re playing for England, Engerland!
It’s Coming Home.
England Win 2-0
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FRANCE v BELGIUM
What a great game to kick off the Semi-Final proceedings in Russia 2018. France have progressed methodically to the latter stages of this competition and got a great win against Uruguay in their Quarter Final encounter. France have real true superstars in Hugo Lloris, Raphael Varane, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and rising Star Kylian Mbappe. Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane opened the scoring getting on the end of an Antoine Griezmann cross to head past the Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. The usually reliable Muslera made an horrendous error in the 2nd half to gift Les Bleus a second and effectively the win. Antoine picked up the ball and had a speculative shot at the goals. Muslera inexplicably parried the ball into the net to gift Griezmann the goal. The French ace was actually too embarrassed to celebrate. The South American side then resorted to what South Americans do when they are losing and that is kick people. France were subjected to a few kicks and scuffs but eventually saw the game out to book their place in the Semi-Finals. Uruguay were in tears, literally.
Didier Deschamps has a tough decision to make as to whether to stick with this winning side or bring back Blaise Matuidi for the effective Corentin Tolisso after his one game ban. Deschamps is hoping to become only the 3rd person to win the World Cup as a player and a manager. Mário Zagallo for Brazil ( Player 1958 and Manager 1970) and Franz Beckenbauer ( Player 1974 and Manager 1990). Didier lifted the World Cup as a player in 1998 as captain for France and now 20 years on is vying for that coveted honour.
Belgium had arguably one of their greatest victories over Brazil in the Quarter-Final to knock out the Pre-Tournament favourites. They have their own superstars to rival the French boys, Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku are the backbone of the Belgium side and the Red Devil’s swept aside the Samba Boys in a fantastic game. They were helped initially by Man City midfielder Fernandinho scoring an own goal. Fernandinho’s City teammate Kevin De Bruyne scored a brilliant 2nd for Belgium on the half hour mark and set up a thrilling second half in which Brazil pressed and pressed and whilst substitute Renato Augusto got a goal back for the Yellow and Greens, Belgium held on for a famous win. Roberto Martinez has gelled his superstar players into a superb team. His assistant, French Superstar Thierry Henry has a real dilemma. Thierry is France’s leading goalscorer and has over 120 caps for Les Bleus but is now in the other camp and surely is in a no-win situation. Les Bleus V Les Diables Rouges. There should be goals.
France Win 2-1
Contact John Newsome, with your own predictions, requests and feedback, at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org