2018 FIFA World Cup: Semi-final round up

The extra time header that took Belgium out of the running.
  1. FIFA World Cup Finals

Sunday is the big game, France v Croatia. These 2 teams met in the 1998 World Cup semi-finals, France won and went on to win the tournament for the first time.

Croatia will experience their first finals. It is an incredible achievement for a nation that only participated in their first World Cup in 1998, and has a population of only 4 million.

 

  1. Beaten Semi-Finalists

The other ‘fairy-tale’ of this tournament has been the progress made by England. After winning the tournament in 1966, the only notable success has been a semi-final appearance at the 1990 World Cup in Italy. Since then England has heavily underperformed.

The golden generation of early 2000’s, with Beckham, Gerrard, Owen, Lampard, etc. never managed to get further than a quarter final and their dismal exit of Euro 2016 at the hands of Iceland is seen by many as the lowest point in English Football history.

But with that came lowered expectations and the hiring of a young manager, who made up for his lack of experience with bravery and invention. Gareth Southgate broke many English norms leading into the tournament, choosing a team that had no notable focal point or big name, but rather focused on collective effort and strategy. It worked a charm.

 

England was knocked out by Croatia in the semi-finals.

It is safe to say the England team has bought back the hearts of the nation, and perhaps even some from outside the island.

For Belgium, again suffering from unfulfilled potential, it does feel like this was a massive opportunity missed. France is a good team, but Belgium were still the favourites on Tuesday.

Watching the first semi-final did feel a bit like watching the finals, as it does seem difficult to see how England or Croatia would manage against either Belgium or France.

Belgium will have to re-gear for the next big tournament, but it remains to be seen whether they will be given an opportunity as great as this one, with so many of their own ‘golden generation’ players in their prime.

 

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo Transfer to Juventus

Even with the biggest sporting event coming to its climax, the Portuguese star still manages to capture the headlines.

CR7 secured a move away from his beloved Real Madrid to join Italian giants Juventus for a cool £99.2million.

MADRID, SPAIN – MARCH 10: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid CF celebrates as he scores their second goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg match between Real Madrid CF and FC Schalke 04 at Estadio Bernabeu on March 10, 2015 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Winners know when to move on.

After joining Real Madrid in 2009, Ronaldo won 15 trophies during his 9 seasons at the Santiago Bernadeau, including two La Liga titles, two Copas del Rey, four UEFA Champions League titles, two UEFA Super Cups, and three FIFA Club World Cups.

He was also awarded all 5 of his Ballon d’Or awards during his time in the Spanish Capital.

The end of an era.