Daily Maverick

How the semi-final teams at the World Cup compare head-to-head

Dele Alli of England reacts during the FIFA World Cup 2018 quarter final soccer match between Sweden and England in Samara, Russia, 07 July 2018. England won 2-0. EPA-EFE/PETER POWELL

And then there were four.

After a flat performance by Sweden and high drama between Russia and Croatia, the semi-finalists for the 2018 World Cup have been decided.

Two of the most likeable sides of the tournament will fight for one spot, while the other place will go to either a team forever labelled as dark horses or the country that invented the sport.

If you had asked anyone at the start of the World Cup if these would be the four to make up the semis, few would have claimed a full house.

It’s been a magnificent tournament so far. Statistics mean little when it comes to crunch time but if comparisons get your noggin going, here’s what we’ve got.

France vs Belgium

France’s head coach Didier Deschamps (L) hugs Antoine Griezmann of France during the FIFA World Cup 2018 quarterfinal soccer match between Uruguay and France in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, 06 July 2018. EPA-EFE/RITCHIE B. TONGO

It’s almost a shame that it’s come to this. Two of the most likeable teams at the 2018 World Cup will fight it out for a spot in this year’s final.

In the blue corner a team with echoes of their 1998 win, playing for much more than just the trophy. In the red corner a golden generation (again). A team that’s dazzled with their sportsmanship and skills, themselves representing something much bigger than sport.

Sadly, one must go home. History says France have the pedigree to go all the way, while Belgium have the guts. Both have beaten some of the best en route and, statistically, the Red Devils hold the upper hand. Just.

Head-to-head, the teams have played each other 73 times. France have won 24, drawn 19 and lost 30.

Goals at the World Cup

France: Nine

Belgium: 14

Goals conceded

France: Four

Belgium: Five

Top scorer

Romelu Lukaku of Belgium celebrates after scoring a goal during the FIFA World Cup 2018 group G preliminary round soccer match between Belgium and Panama in Sochi, Russia, 18 June 2018. EPA-EFE/FRIEDEMANN VOGEL

France: Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann (three).

Belgium: Romelu Lukaku (four).

Cards and disciplinary

France: Eight yellow cards, no reds.

Belgium: Seven yellow cards and no red cards.

World Cup history

Not including the 2018 World Cup

France: Champions (1998), two finals and five semi-final appearances in 14 tournaments.

Belgium: No titles, one semi-final in 12 tournaments.

Kick off time: Tuesday, 10 July at 20:00.

Croatia vs England

Domagoj Vida (R) of Croatia celebrates with his teammates after scoring the 2-1 lead during the FIFA World Cup 2018 quarterfinal soccer match between Russia and Croatia in Sochi, Russia, 07 July 2018. EPA-EFE/FRIEDEMANN VOGEL

Croatia have survived two of the most awful penalty shootouts you’re ever likely to witness at this World Cup. England broke their decade-long jinx of spot-kicks in the last 16, so perhaps we are destined for a 12-yard showdown that lasts until infinity.

The Croatians must be utterly exhausted after a gruelling semi-final against the hosts ebbed, flowed and eventually went down to penalty Russian roulette. England breezed through their match against Sweden and are the favoured team with the bookies. Here’s how the sides compare.

Head-to-head, just seven games between the two sides. Four wins for England, one draw and two losses.

Goals at the World Cup

England: 11

Croatia: Ten

Goals conceded

Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford of England (R) saves a penalty of Carlos Bacca of Colombia in the penalty shoot-out during the FIFA World Cup 2018 round of 16 soccer match between Colombia and England in Moscow, Russia, 03 July 2018. EPA-EFE/ALBERTO ESTEVEZ

England: Four

Croatia: Four

Top scorer

England: Harry Kane (six).

Croatia: Luka Modric (two).

Cards and disciplinary

Referee Mark Geiger of the USA shows the yellow card to Jordan Henderson of England during the FIFA World Cup 2018 round of 16 soccer match between Colombia and England in Moscow, Russia, 03 July 2018. EPA-EFE/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

England: Five yellow cards, no reds.

Croatia: No red cards, 12 yellow cards.

World Cup history

Not including the 2018 World Cup

England: Champions (1966) and one semi-final appearance in 14 tournaments.

Croatia: No title and one semi-final appearance. Croatia only appeared at the World Cup for the first time in 1998 as an independent nation, finishing third.

Kick off time: Wednesday, 11 July at 20:00. DM

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