The semi-final line-up is complete and two intriguing, all-European ties lie in wait. But while the teams in the last four of Russia 2018 hail from the same continent, the similarities end there.
France, Belgium, England and Croatia all boast very different attributes, and who better to assess these than the Team Reporters who have been with them every step of the way? Read on, therefore, for the experts’ views on the semi-finalists’ main strengths.
Not so long ago, Didier Deschamps would have been criticised for this aspect of his France team, with some journalists alleging that Les Bleus had a thousand faces and no real identity. In fact, it is emerging as a vital attribute. Functional during their group matches, France were spectacular against Argentina, then solid and efficient against Uruguay. Three different French teams ? No – the same, but with different tactics.
France know how to adapt their style depending on their opponents, and that is a rare and precious ability. The tactical set-up can be 4-3-3 one match and 4-2-3-1 the next, while Deschamps can decide to use Olivier Giroud’s size or Kylian Mbappe’s speed to destabilise defences. As we’ve seen during this World Cup, there are no weak teams anymore and even giants like Germany and Spain had a hard time playing ‘their game’. Possession doesn’t ensure victory and experience doesn’t guarantee success. Options are everything.