by Graham Pierrepoint
To say that this year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia has been an exciting one is putting it mildly. Occasionally, you’ll see a few of the bigger teams and better squads drop out in the earlier stages – but this year, everything is wide open, and fans are going ballistic for their respective teams – as the biggest obstacles are out of the way. Italy didn’t even qualify for the cup finals – while Germany stumbled out at the group stage, Spain, Portugal and Argentina failed to make it to the quarter-finals – and Brazil own-goaled themselves into oblivion to deny their team a shot at a semi-final that every bookmaker in the world would have told you they were heading towards.
Therefore, at the time of writing, we’re left with just four matches left – the two semi-finals, the final, and the third-place playoff. The four teams left in, somewhat bizarrely, are France, Belgium, Croatia and England. Odds are stacked in favor of France or Belgium to win at this stage – Belgium having consistently dominated in matches and having been giant-killers of Brazil at the quarter-finals – with Croatia and England set to produce a somewhat unexpected finalist in their bracket. England fans are going more than a little crazy over the fact that they’ve reached the semi-finals at all – it hasn’t happened for them since 1990, and a meme based on the 1996 football song ‘Three Lions’ – otherwise known as ‘Football’s Coming Home’ – has been doing the rounds more and more online.
England fans are an excitable bunch to say the least – the last time they made a World Cup final, they won it – back in 1966 – and with the current team having recently beaten the infamous ‘penalty curse’ against Colombia in the second round and having seen the formidable Sweden off with a 2-0 victory, faith in Gareth Southgate’s side to take the team to the final is extremely strong. Croatia, however, aren’t a team to be tangled with – they clinched victory over hosts Russia via penalties, though quite how they will perform against England is a different matter entirely.
▶ England FINALLY Win On Penalties. Is It Actually Coming Home?
Will football finally be ‘coming home’ for England? While hopes are high that they could beat Croatia – they’ll face either former world champions in France or their earlier nemeses from the group stage – the dark horses of the contest, Belgium – so let’s wait and see how this week plays out for everyone involved!