As we approached the 3rd place play-off tonight and the Finals tomorrow, it’s time to look at the road each team has taken into their respective positions right now.
No matter which side you have been rooting for, there have countless storylines following each of the 4 teams and it’s time to break them down ahead of these upcoming matches.
‘Football is coming home’ - the chant by many England fans this season.
When England defeated Colombia in the Round of 16, there was a sense of expectation and hope for this year’s team to go all the way. The chants were just a tip of the iceberg, with one fan famously tattooing ‘England 2018 World Cup Winners’.
Make no mistake, this is a young and exciting team with a Golden boot hopeful in Harry Kane. They demolished Panama (6-1) and Tunisia (2-1) to qualify for the round of 16, beaten the physicality of Colombia in Penalties (1-1; 4-3) and defended against Sweden (2-0) right up to the semi-finals.
Only for everything to vanish into smoke against Croatia’s resolve.
Although they stopped short of a Finals appearance, they do have a chance to get revenge against Belgium, the only other team they lost against. A re-match of the group stage game for a 3rd place would be a small consolation for England hopefuls. But it beats having nothing.
Pickford who has had an incredible season saving England’s hopes of a Finals appearance, proving experience is overrated. He will probably start and be tested against Belgium, with what would be an interesting showdown.
A team with a squad of incredible talent and one of the new heavyweights of football in the World Cup 2018. Coming from the same group as England, they proved their resolve in every game since their group stage win against England.
Just like England, they floored Panama (3-0) and Tunisia (5-2), before defeating England (1-0) in the group stage. In the elimination rounds, they were tested in each and every game.
They were down 0-2 against the new fan-favourite Japan before coming back 3-2 in the final seconds of the game. They took a 2-0 lead and held their lead to win 2-1 against the heavyweights Brazil, who many picked to win.
Led by many players in their top form, with an incredible attacking formation of Hazard, De Bruyne and Lukaku, they were the dark horses of the World Cup. The latter of the 3 famously going through an incredible journey to become the player he is, who seemed destined for a fairytale story ending.
They let in an early goal and had to deal with a defensive France team, who held the lead against them with their dear lives. Say what you want about anti-football, but a win is a win.
While they were the most expected finalist this year being one of the favourites from the start, France had their fair share of storylines and issues.
Star forward Griezmann was dealing with Barcelona transfer rumours right up to the World Cup start, before releasing a Lebron-like Decision TV special to announce his decision…. to stay.
Chemistry issues was also a question, with the stars often labelled as lacking character and mental fortitude. Although they have made it to the finals, a loss in the finals against Croatia would have their resolve and character questioned.
They might not have lost a single game, but their wins were mostly by a small margin of 1, with the exception against Uruguay. Don’t get me wrong, they deserved to win and have no issues scoring (I mean look at that match against Argentina). But it does raise some questions ahead of the finals.
Rising young star forward Mbappe has shined bright in the spotlights of the World Cup, with amazing displays of pace and balance through the tournament.
They are still the favourites to win it, but one game is often unpredictable. Now, they have to show they deserve it and shed the character issues in the eyes of the fans and media.
Those that watch football on a regular basis would know that they were a legit team with a healthy diet of star power and resolve, not just a dark horse.
However, there was no lack of storylines for this finalist team. Modric was just one of them.
Luka Modric, the undisputed star and leader of the team, was hated by many outside of the national team, for financial issues off the pitch.
He was facing criminal charges for it, but that has not stopped him from being a top-class midfielder and the steady force for this tournament.
And that is just one of them. There is more but that could be an entire article on its own.
This team is determined.
They faced Argentina and Nigeria to come up on top against both teams by a margin of no less than 2 in the group stage to top the group. In the elimination stage, they entered penalties twice and won both times against Denmark and Russia respectively, before ending the dreams and hopes of England fans worldwide.
Even that win was remarkable, going 1-0 before tying the score at 1-1 a piece in the 2nd half. Their resolve finally got them a goal in their 3rd extra time in a row by Mandzukic.
With a strong attacking formation of Rakitic, Perisic, Modric and Mandzukic, they may not be the favourites against France, but you can’t count them out either.
And this is why we love football.
P.S. Our World Cup 2018 France jersey is official sold out but England, Argentina, Brazil and Spain are still available here. You can still root for England by getting one for yourself or you can get one ahead of Qatar World Cup 2022! (;