World Cup Recap: Semi-final 1

France out-talents Belgium to secure spot in the final

France took a step closer to the World Cup trophy. @FIFAWorldCup verified Twitter account

World Cup Recap: Semi-final 1

France out-talents Belgium to secure spot in the final

 

The semi-finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup opened on Tuesday with the first spot to be decided between the winner of France and Belgium. A battle between two of the most valuable rosters at Russia 2018, some have considered this semi-final as the true “final” because the winner would most likely be favored to lift the cup on Sunday.

 

France 1-0 Belgium
Saint Petersburg Stadium, St. Petersburg
Attendance: 64,286

 

One goal - the minimal difference - was the decider in a battle of two teams stacked with a handful of Europe’s elite players. France’s Hugo Lloris and Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois - two of the best goalkeepers in the world - were tested early in the first half. Eden Hazard led the way in attack for Belgium while the best opportunity for France came from a long-range attempt by Blaise Matuidi. France generated more opportunities overall but both teams were almost even on shots on goal. The scoreboard would be even at halftime.

 

The moment of the game came in the 51st minute. France, off a corner, took the lead with a header from Samuel Umtiti. The FC Barcelona man found enough separation to power the ball past Courtois. France would play more defensively through the second half but would still play for the second goal when the opportunity showed itself. Belgium would obviously show more urgency to score but would struggle to break down the French defense. Kevin De Bruyne, the Premier League assist king for the past season, was held in check and Eden Hazard’s attempts fell short of a goal. France would win 1-0 in regulation.

 

France advances to their first World Cup final since Germany 2006

Les Blues return to a final after also being finalists two years ago at Euro 2016. On that occasion, France fell short of being crowned European Champions on home soil. That heartbreak is an experience that this squad has surely tapped into in their attempt to win their country’s second World Cup title. The big doubt around this squad was how this “Millennial” squad would perform at the sport’s biggest tournament. Well, France has lived up to it and they’ve done so without one single superstar carrying the team. The scary thing about France is that they are a team of superstars, much like Belgium, and that’s why they will be thought of as the favorite on Sunday. If they pull it off, they will have won it on foreign soil as their only title so far has come at France 1998.

Belgium still able to match or better their best performance

Boasting perhaps their best collection of players ever, the Belgium Red Devils are heartbroken to have missed out on playing the final. They met their match in France and fell short of their dream. With the bulk of their star players ranging from ages 27-32, this was the World Cup where the stars needed to align for Belgium. Belgium’s best finish at a World Cup has been fourth place and this squad could better that with a win on Saturday. That and the $2 million difference in prize money should be enough to see Belgium wanting to finish on a high, but as the years go forth, Belgium may always wonder what might havve been. There is hope yet for this group of players and that’s title or bust at Euro 2020.

Notable stat: France ended a 24-match winning streak for Belgium.

Programming notes:

Soccer Matters with Glenn Davis will be broadcasting from The Gorgeous Gael (5555 Morningside Dr. Houston, TX 77005) with a two-hour LIVE show, airing on ESPN 97.5 FM, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday.

The Blitz will be broadcasting from the Hyatt Regency Houston/Galleria (2626 Sage Rd, Houston, Texas 77056) from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday. Former Houston Dynamo forward and a member of the U.S. national team at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Brian Ching, will be a guest on the show.

Podcasts of both shows are available at PodcastArena.com.

Remaining World Cup Matches (All Times CT):

Wednesday, July 11 (semifinal)

1 p.m. - Croatia vs. England (FOX, Telemundo)

Saturday, July 14 (Third place match)

9 a.m. - Belgium vs. Croatia/England loser (FOX, Telemundo)

Sunday, July 15 (Final)

10 a.m. - France vs. Croatia/England winner (FOX, Telemundo)

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Martin Truex Jr. won his 2nd race of the season last week. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

NASCAR returns to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway. This is the first of two races here at this track as they will race on Sunday afternoon. This will be different from the normal night race they usually have here as this will definitely affect the racing surface considering how much the sun could make the track slick. It should be a fun race come Sunday.

Last week, Martin Truex Jr. passed Denny Hamlin to capture his second win of the season after rain moved the race to Sunday. He became the first driver to win multiple races after a fierce battle with his teammate Denny Hamlin. The race was filled with tons of wrecks including a fifteen car pileup including Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. It was one of the better races of the season as there was lots of beating and banging.

The race was not without controversy but not the kind you would expect. Early in the race Rick Ware Racing teammates Cody Ware and James Davison were involved in an altercation. The two were battling towards the back of the pack when Ware decided to drive through his teammate in turn four. The race got much worse for Cody Ware as he was involved in three more cautions all throughout the race. Many people around the sport were quite perturbed by his antics including broadcaster Mike Joy as he was audibly annoyed after Ware spun out later in the race. Many have questioned if the fifth-year driver should even be in the car and overall I can understand why some of those people think that. In his five years of driving, he has finished on the lead lap one time. I hope that he is able to figure it out and find success in the future, but this was not a good look.

The slump continues for two-time champion Kyle Busch

Throughout the race, Busch was running okay for the most part but towards the closing laps of the race he and Chris Buescher got together triggering a fifteen car pileup. Despite all this, he was able to rebound to a respectable tenth place finish. This has been more than likely the toughest stretch of his career since his championship in 2019. Many would say that the omission of Practice and Qualifying has really affected his performance. Whatever the issue is, this team really needs to find some speed, or he could be in danger of missing the playoffs. I look for this team to bounce back considering how talented he is.

Prediction

The driver that I have winning this week is Kyle Larson. This has been an incredible rebound season for Larson as he currently sits fourth in points. He is also second in laps led only to Denny Hamlin. Richmond has been a great track for him as it fits his driving style perfectly as he can run the outside line and find grip where others can't. This track is also rather sentimental to him considering he won his first pole award here during his rookie season in 2014. While he may not have the results he would want he has always been extremely fast here and even won back in 2017. I look for him to capture his second victory of 2021 come Sunday.

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