World Cup diary 2018 – Wednesday 11 July
France (0) 1 [Umtiti (51’)]
Yesterday in this diary I plumped for a Belgium victory and in the opening twenty minutes of the game this looked like a good bet as Les Diables Rouges carried on from where they left off against Brazil. However, France showed tremendous resolve and as the game went on grew increasingly dangerous on the counter-attack. Both ‘keepers – two of the best in World, in Lloris and Courtois – were called upon in the first-half to make important saves and keep it all square at 0-0 as the teams went into the half-time break.
France were quickest out of the blocks in the second period and were ahead just six minutes after the break, when Umtiti headed home from a corner. It was a lead that Les Bleus held onto despite Belgium having 64% possession. France were organised and on the break created the best opportunities in the second-half, with Mbappe showing what a talent he will be.
Congratulations to France and commiserations to Belgium.
England v Croatia: Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
The football gods have answered my call throughout the tournament to date and of course the appeal goes out once again that the Three Lions take a step further than they did at Italia ’90 and a bit closer to the heroics of 1966.
England’s last two games against Croatia came in the qualification for the 2010 World Cup Finals and brought two convincing wins, as the Three Lions won 4-1 in Croatia in September 2008 with a Theo Walcott hat-trick and a Rooney goal and followed it up with a 5-1 win at Wembley a year later with Lampard and Gerrard bagging two goals apiece with Rooney completing the scoring. Now to ask the football gods for such thumping wins would be a step too far, but I’d settle for another Sweden-like performance to keep the dream alive.
I woke up this morning wondering how the players slept last night and what will go through their minds as kick-off tonight creeps ever closer. At the minute I feel pretty calm, but we are still just over six hours away from kick-off. I’m hoping the calmness, closeness and confidence that Gareth Southgate has created within the squad continues to grow and that it translates into another victory. The time of celebrating Semi-Final failure needs to be put behind us. Time to believe – It’s Coming Home!