The stage appears set. Olivier Giroud has guided France to a World Cup final, and now it’s up to England to the make the most of the huge opportunity they have today and make it a weekend to remember.
The France vs Belgium game wasn’t much to write home about yesterday, I think Rory Smith wrote that they the French have appeared to be excellent at doing just enough and not a lot else through this World Cup. Strangely pragmatic considering the breadth of talent they have at their disposal. Imagine the ball they’d be playing under Wenger?
I felt they had a fairly comfortable ride against Belgium. There aren’t many things that give me more joy in life than seeing Fellaini beaten in the air at the near post. I also liked seeing the ref wise as you like to the antics of Eden Hazard. Ultimately, no one bar England fans really wanted to see Belgium in the World Cup final. At least it’ll be a spectacle now.
The England game is so exciting. Croatia has undoubtedly been pedestrian in this World Cup so far. Were it not for a few moments of luck and magic, they’d be sitting out this game. Two penalty shootouts against Denmark and Russisa tells you that midfield hasn’t quite hit Barca/Madrid levels.
That said, England has had a fairly easy ride this whole tournament, and I do think there’s been a lot nonsense about identity and likeability. It’s clouded the reality that we really haven’t created a lot of chances. I read that Harry Kane has had to feed off about 9 chances, where strikers of more creative teams are boasting 20+ chances. That’s a really poor showing, but the press is so tuned into the fact Gareth Southgate is easy to deal with in press conferences, we’ve lost a bit of perspective.
I’m not saying I haven’t enjoyed the pragmatism. I’m not denying the fact you have to deal with the teams that are put in front of you, I do like the creative formation and the results it’s landed us. All I’m saying is you have to be prepared that today could be a very different prospect. Croatia on their day can put on a show, that they haven’t so far is a positive, but it shouldn’t lure fans into a false sense of IT’S COMING HOME security.
That said, having had Three Lions brain wormed into my head for the last 3 weeks, I am starting to believe something magic is about to happen. I’m actually booked on a shoot over the World Cup final. I mean, what England fan could realistically tell someone they couldn’t make Sunday because England might be in the final? It’s written in the stars I’ll be stuck in Oregon without a way of watching the game because that’s just the way the stars align for me.
There was a lot of purring about the French backline yesterday and how young they all are. I think I’m more about the England defenders. Pickford, Mcguire, Stones and Trippier are giving me life. All Northerners, possibly coal miners in another life, just making it happen from the back. They’ve been excellent this tournament, they’ve made themselves household names, and I think they alone deserve to see the next round. I really hope Harry Mcguire is the real deal. He’s been so solid at the back, and such a threat going forward. He looks like a classic thug defender from darkest recesses of a Stoke past, but he’s actually very classy on the ball, and probably one of our most creative players. Trippier has been immense as well, his final ball is something else and his composure is very impressive.
Raheem Sterling may have lacked a bit of end product this tournament, but he’s doing a selfless job creating space and opening up the game for everyone else. It’s a shame he hasn’t scored, but that could happen today. I think the press, bar a few gammon like folk, have taken more time to judge the game he’s been offering up. The foreign press has certainly been far more analytical in his offering.
Harry Kane is another player who has taken a hit to his game. He’s not getting the service he needs to be effective in open play, but his hold up play and movement has been exceptional. Not to mention his nerves of steel under pressure. He’ll still always be a mystery to me, but there’s no doubt, he’s one of the top 5 players in the world now.
So, today is the once in a generation chance for England to make a final. Enjoy the moment, this feeling of hope doesn’t come along that often.
See you in the comments.