The 2018 World Cup has turned into a very interested tournament, unless you support Argentina, Spain, Portugal or Brazil, but from an England point of view it is one of the best ever as the Three Lions reach the semi-final. Here’s a recap of what has happened in the last week involving our boys in blue.
On Monday, Brazil reached the quarter final with a 2-0 win over Mexico. Gabriel Jesus again played the full 90 minutes, while Ederson and Fernandinho were joined on the bench by Danilo, who has recovered from injury. Fernandinho replaced Paulinho with ten minutes remaining.
In the evening match, Kevin de Bruyne’s Belgium produced a remarkable comeback to beat Japan and book their place in the quarter final. De Bruyne and City captain Vincent Kompany played the full 90 minutes and it looked like it would be their last contribution to the tournament as Japan went 2-0 up in the second half. Belgium pulled it back to 2-2 before breaking Japanese hearts in the last minute of extra time.
De Bruyne was key to the goal, running 60 yards before passing wide and the ball eventually found Chadli who scored to send Belgium through to face Brazil.
Tuesday saw City’s England contingent in action as they faced Colombia for a place in the quarter final. The Three Lions stood firm after some more than questionable tactics form the South Americans. Raheem Sterling, Kyle Walker and John Stones all started the match, but only the latter played the full 120 minutes, with sterling getting some extreme treatment from the Colombian team and staff as he left the pitch at half time.
Harry Kane scored a penalty but a last minute equaliser sent the match into extra time and the dreaded penalty shoot-out. Jordan Henderson missed for England, but Colombia hit the bar and Jordan Pickford saved to give England their first ever penalty shoot-out win at a World Cup. The Three Lions would then face Sweden in the quarter final.
Friday saw Brazil face Belgium, with Kompany and de Bruyne again playing the full 90 minutes for Belgium, while Fernandinho joined Jesus in the Brazilian starting line up.
And it was the City midfielder that gave Belgium the lead. A Belgium corner hit Fernandinho on the arm and flew into the net after just 13 minutes. Another blue then doubled Belgium’s lead as de Bruyne scored a glorious goal from the edge of the penalty area. With the Brazilian defence backing off, de Bruyne unleased an arrowed shot that flew into the goal to put the Belgian’s on the brink of the semi-final. Jesus was substituted on 58 minutes and Brazil did pull a goal back, but it wasn’t enough and de Bruyne and Kompany now face France in the semi final.
On Saturday, it was England’s turn to try and book their first World Cup semi-final since 1990 as the faced Sweden. Walker, Stone and Sterling all started the match, and when Fabian Delph, back with the squad after returning home for the birth of his new baby, entered the fray on 77 minutes, the blues had four representatives on the pitch. By that point the game had been won as England cruised into a 2-0 lead. Sterling was replaced by Rashford in the first minute of injury time to rapturous applause from the England fans following his tireless effort and work rate throughout the match. The City winger has come in for huge amounts of criticism, but even the pundits and sections of the media acknowledged how important Sterling is to the team.
The Three Lions now face Croatia in the semi-final on Wednesday, hoping to book their place in the final next Sunday which, considering how well they are playing, could be against Belgium.
Good luck to both England and Belgium next week.