By Christian Smith
For soccer fans it feels like the 2018 FIFA World Cup only kicked off but moments ago, yet the tournament is already down to its final four teams: Belgium, Croatia, England, and France.
France and Belgium start off the semifinals Tuesday at 1 pm ET in St. Petersburg. Both teams looked strong in their last matches ー France as it overwhelmed Uruguay 2-0, and Belgium as it upset early tournament favorite Brazil 2-1 in rather convincing fashion.
Les Bleus have won the World Cup once before in 1998 and with a stacked squad that includes rising (arguably risen) star Kylian Mbappé they could easily do it again.
Belgium, however, has something to prove. The country has never made it to the World Cup finals. The Red Devils' best showing was in 1986 when the team lost in the semifinals and the third-place game. The Belgian team has shown that it has what it takes to win big games, but with less consistency, Mike Murphy, deputy editor at Quartz, said on Cheddar Monday.
"I feel like they kind of get unraveled at times," Murphy said. "I think that France is probably the stronger team. I think they really just have shown that they're a little bit more of a team."
Don't count out Croatia and England quite yet. The two teams go head to head Wednesday at 1 pm ET in Moscow.
It would seem that Croatia has an uphill battle, recovering from two long, physical matches that ended in penalty kicks. But team captain Luka Modrić showed that he still has gas in the tank with a few breakaways at the end of extra time against Russia. It's the country's second semifinal appearance, the first being in 1998 - the first year Croatia competed as its own country in the World Cup.
England, which fielded one of the youngest teams in this year's tournament, looked rested and ready to go in the team's 2-0 sweep against Sweden. Forward Harry Kane will be one to watch in the match-up. He's the leading goalscorer in the tournament, although many of those goals came from penalties.
The winners of both matches will face off in the finals Sunday at 11 am ET in Moscow. The losers will have to pick themselves up and head back to the field for the third-place playoff game Saturday at 10 am ET in St. Petersburg.
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