Tuesday July 10, 2018
By Aiden Graw
WORLD CUP POWER RANKINGS:
1) Belgium (up 4)
Would anyone have stood a chance against Belgium’s first-half evisceration of Brazil? Their front three were irresistible and in the process answered the lingering questions about Roberto Martínez’s ability to mastermind success on this stage. Martínez got his set-up spot on and, if he is similarly tuned into France’s weaknesses, his team has an outstanding chance of making the final – although Didier Deschamps will spy some susceptibility at the back, particularly when faced with pace. There will never be a better opportunity for this set of players, many of them at or approaching their peak, to confirm the promise they have held for years.
2 France (=)
In the end France were comfortable against Uruguay, playing with a toughness and discipline that looked the hallmark of potential champions. It is still impossible to ignore the thought that they are playing within themselves, though, and more moments like those Kylian Mbappé served up against Argentina will probably be required against Belgium, in what could be a scintillating shootout between the tournament’s best counterattacking sides. France have a feel of a team that can raise their game as the stakes get higher.
3) England (up 4)
If it is not coming home quite yet then it is, at least, packing its suitcase and preparing a picnic for the journey. The oddity about England is that, to this point, they have not had to sparkle much but that hardly matters. They saw Sweden off with a confidence alien to anyone who has watched recent failures through their fingers and the sense that there is more to come may work in their favour. Croatia will certainly make them work harder off the ball but England have a confidence and momentum that could take them all the way now.
4) Croatia (down 1)
It is bit of a theme among those remaining but Croatia are yet to completely convince and, as they sweated on a second successive shootout win on Saturday night, the ease with which they disposed of Argentina in the group stage looked a distant memory. The euphoria turned up several notches though and that will, presumably, keep energy levels high before they face an England team they will fancy beating. Their technical quality in midfield is as good as anything remaining in the tournament but, as Russia showed, a brisk tempo might cause them difficulty.
5) Russia (up 3)
Stanislav Cherchesov’s team exited in heartbreaking fashion but can hold their heads high. The applause they received after Ivan Rakitic’s winning penalty in Sochi was certainly a level of farewell they could not have expected at the start of the World Cup and it was well earned. Russia only produced one mediocre showing, against Uruguay in what was essentially a dead rubber, and Cherchesov impressed in mixing up his tactics throughout – sitting off against Spain but opting to attack Croatia. In Denys Cheryshev they had a winger who produced some of the summer’s most spectacular moments.
6) Brazil (down 5)
Few saw Brazil’s first-half performance against Belgium coming and it brought about the exit of a team that had appeared to be clicking into gear. The inquests into how they were picked apart on the counter will be lengthy and it was certainly a surprise given that their defence had been imperious earlier in the tournament. There had been progress, too, in the integration of Neymar into Tite’s tactical plan but it all unravelled and – while they had more than enough chances to force extra-time in Kazan – they could have few complaints about going home earlier than hoped.
7) Uruguay (down 3)
The regrets about Edinson Cavani’s injury, sustained just as he had hit a fine streak of form, will be strong and perhaps the striker would have capitalised on the strong start Uruguay made against France. But, either way, they just did not have enough quality man for man and the last eight feels right for the level they showed in the World Cup overall. Luis Suárez blew hot and cold during the tournament and his days on this stage may have passed now.
8) Sweden (down 2)
Janne Andersson’s side hit a ceiling eventually, failing to trouble England until it was too late and finding their lack of craft exposed. It frustrated Andersson that they were undone at a set piece, though, and perhaps things would have panned out differently had they held on for longer. Sweden contributed plenty to the tournament, from that thrilling encounter with Germany to a mightily impressive destruction of Mexico, and while their players slumped to the floor after 90 minutes in Samara they can be happy with their month’s work.
WORLDCUP SEMIFINAL FIXTURES
FRANCE V BELIGIUM @9:00pm Tuesday July 10, 2018
ENGLAND V CROATIA @9:00pm Wednesday July 11, 2018
Source: www.mknewslink.com a greater western Uganda news website