The France squad that just won their second World Cup title didn’t make our jaws drop. Beauty and appearance were rather left to the Gioconda’s smile and to Napoleonic conquers. But in football, those who win are always right. And so, The Cult of Calcio’s final Top 11 lineup could not but feature many French – pardon, World Champions – representatives.
The World Cup Winners remains an elite club with very strict admission rules. France covered themselves with glory for the second time, while brusquely rejecting Croatia’s application to join the club. The Final in Moscow ended 4-2 for Didier Deschamps’ side, but we need to thank both teams for giving life to one of the most entertaining finals in decades.
The World Cup Third Place Playoff is probably the saddest game in the whole football season calendar. The match no team would like to be playing, having just lost the chance to be part of the real deal that happens the following day. Belgium earned the third spot by beating England 2-0 in Saint Petersburg with goals by Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard.
Croatia are the second finalist of World Cup 2018. Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic pushed the Balkan side into their first world final ever, overturning Kieran Trippier’s initial lead for England. The Vatreni will thus face France next Sunday at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow for the last act, a totally deserved achievement for the white-and-red checkered squad.
A flash in the night of Saint Petersburg, Samuel Umtiti’s header brought France back to a World Cup Final, 12 years after the bitter outcome of Berlin 2006. Didier Deschamps’ side prevailed in their Semi Final over Belgium with a lone goal by their Barcelona-based center back. Just like 4 years ago in Brazil, the Red Devils faded away in the decisive moment.
Here is our new selection of the most impressive players seen during the Round of 16 and the Quarter Finals. We did have a few doubts, if truth be told, especially among the posts and on the sidelines. Therefore, we chose to keep some experience in the key roles, and leave room to those who have the age and the skills on their side to complete our ideal lineup.
In 1996, the British band Three Lions released “Football Is Coming Home,” referring to the fact that England was hosting its first major football tournament since the 1966 World Cup. The song eventually evolved to hint at the Brits’ hopes of bringing home the World Cup trophy this year. Gareth Southgate’s team made one more step in that direction by beating Sweden 2-0.
Last stop for the host country. Russia left the competition in the hands of the Croatians, who survived the second penalty battle in a row. 120 minutes were not enough to determine the outcome of the last World Cup Quarter Final, which promoted coach Zlatko Dalic’s team. Mistakes by Fedor Smolov and Mario Fernandes proved fatal to Stanislav Cherchesov’s side.
Et voila! Without Edinson Cavani’s genius – kept at bay by an injury – Uruguay evidenced their limits, and bent their knee to France. Les Bleus won 2-0 their Quarter Final match in Nizhny Novgorod with goals by Raphael Varane and Antoine Griezmann, showing cynicism and team solidarity. France’s next opponents in the Semi Finals will be Belgium.
It’s a World Cup, but it looks like a European Championship by now. Belgium eliminated the last representative from South America last night, beating Brazil 2-1 in Kazan. The Belgians benefited from an own goal by Fernandinho, and doubled their lead with Kevin De Bruyne, before Renato Augusto could vainly reduce the gap for the Selecao.
Overconfidence could have costed much to Belgium, which snatched a last-minute 3-2 win over Japan in a wonderful Round of 16 game played in Rostov. The Belgians had to receive two violent slaps from the Samurais that really put them with their back against the wall, before they would stop contemplating themselves, and work out a plan to win their game.
Still not a sparkling Brazil the one seen yesterday in Samara, but a solid and concrete team. That was enough for the Selecao to move into the Quarter Finals, in a World Cup with a keen for brusquely showing the exit door to most of the favorite teams. Coach Tite’s selection moved past Mexico with goals by Neymar and Roberto Firmino.