World Cup Final and Bronze Medal Match Previews

For England fans it was a case of so near and yet so far as the Three Lions fell to a superior Croatia team in their semifinal, meaning that Gareth Southgate’s men will go on to contest only the bronze medal match against Belgium on Saturday, while Croatia will be the team lining up against France in the World Cup Final on Sunday afternoon.

Here’s a quick review of how both semifinals panned out:

France (0) 1 – Umtiti 51

Belgium (0) 0

France claimed their spot in the final thanks to a single strike from defender Samuel Umtiti, who headed a near post corner past Courtois and into the net, with the aid of a slight deflection of Belgium’s Marouane Fellaini. The game was an even contest with one goal likely to decide the result and in truth, it was the French that created the better chances as their system managed to nullify Belgium’s key attacking threats.

Croatia (0) 2 – Perisic 68, Mandzukic 109

England (1) 1 – Trippier 5

England fans were jubilant after just a few minutes of this game when Kieran Trippier fired home a fifth minute free kick but after that England squandered two good chances from Lingard and in particular Harry Kane when they were on top and those misses would prove costly. A much-improved Croatia dominated from the second half onwards and it was no surprise when Ivan Perisic levelled from Sime Vrsalko’s cross after 68 minutes. With just 8 minutes of injury time left, Croatia won a header on the edge of the box and as John Stones hesitated, Mandzukic stole in to deservedly put Croatia ahead and into their first ever World Cup Final.

Let’s now take a look at both the Bronze Medal match and more importantly the World Cup Final.

Bronze Medal Match

Belgium v England

  • Venue – St Petersburg
  • Kick Off – 3pm on Saturday 14th July
  • Live on – BBC One

Team News

While both teams have in theory got a full-strength squad to pick from (although Trippier is a doubt for England), I can see this being a repeat of most bronze medal/3rd place games at World Cups in recent times where at least one or usually both teams play weakened sides, consisting of players that have not played much at the tournament so far.

Neither England nor Belgium will want to actively lose the game, but their main focus will be to get the game out of the way and come home, although both managers will no doubt say they want to win to finish the World Cup on a positive note.

As such, you can expect plenty of changes in the teams for this one:

Belgium Possible XI (3-4-2-1) – Mignolet (Gk), Vermaelen (Dc), Boyata (Dc), Dendoncker (Dc), Meunier (DMr), Carrasco (DMl), Januzaj (Mc), Tielemans (Mc), Dembele (Mc), Mertens (AMc), Hazard.T (AMc), Batshuayi (Ac)

England Possible XI (5-3-2 wingbacks) – Butland (Gk), Cahill (Dc), Jones (Dc), Stones (Dc), Alexander-Arnold (DMr), Rose (DMl), Dier (Mc), Delph (Mc), Loftus-Cheek (Mc), Vardy (Ac), Rashford (Ac)

As usual we prefer to place out bets on soccer with bet365 Sport and we have outlined our preferred tips for these games below:

Belgium v England Tips

  • Match Result – 90 minutes- Draw (11/4)
  • To Finish Third – Belgium (4/6)
  • Anytime Goalscorer – Michy Batshuayi (6/4)

World Cup Final

France v Croatia

  • Venue – Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
  • Kick Off – 4pm on Sunday 15th July
  • Live on – BBC and ITV

Head to Head record

  • 1998 – World Cup Semi Final – France 2-1 Croatia
  • 1999 – Friendly – France 3-0 Croatia
  • 2000 – Friendly – Croatia 0-2 France
  • 2004 – Euro 2004 Group Stage – Croatia 2-2 France
  • 2011 – Friendly – France 0-0 Croatia

France’s Route to the Final

  • V Australia – W 2-1 (Griezmann, Own Goal)
  • V Peru – W 1-0 (Mbappe)
  • V Denmark – D 0-0
  • V Argentina – W 4-3 (Griezmann, Pavard, Mbappe 2)
  • V Uruguay – W 2-0 (Varane, Griezmann)
  • V Belgium – W 1-0 (Umtiti)

Croatia’s Route to the Final

  • V Nigeria – W 2-0 (Own Goal, Modric)
  • V Argentina – W 3-0 (Rebic, Modric, Rakitic)
  • V Iceland – W 2-1 (Badelj, Perisic)
  • V Denmark* – D 1-1 (Mandzukic) – Won 3-2 on penalties
  • V Russia* – D 2-2 (Kramaric, Vida) – Won 4-3 on penalties
  • V England* – W 2-1 (Perisic, Mandzukic)

The * denotes that extra time was required in that game.

France Probable XI (4-2-3-1) – Lloris (Gk), Pavard (Dr), Hernandez (Dl), Umtiti (Dc), Varane (Dc), Kante (Mc), Pogba (Mc), Matuidi (AMl), Mbappe (AMr), Griezmann (AMc), Giroud (Ac)

Croatia Probable XI (4-2-3-1) – Subasic (Gk), Vrsaljko (Dr), Strinic (Dl), Lovren (Dc), Vida (Dc), Brozovic (Mc), Rakitic (Mc), Modric (AMc), Perisic (AMl), Rebic (AMr), Mandzukic (Ac)

Match Analysis

Both teams will line up in very similar formations, which are essentially 4-2-3-1 formations although both teams have advanced midfielders (Matuidi for France and Modric for Croatia) who do tend to drop deeper at times to make a three in midfield.

Croatia have had three bouts of extra time to play, while France have not yet been taken into extra time and have also had an extra 24-hours to recover from their semifinal, which could well be a crucial factor in the final on Sunday.

For me, the French team is the stronger on paper although the key battle in midfield between Kante and Pogba and Rakitic and Modric will likely influence the game. Whoever can win that battle will set the groundwork for the rest of the team to thrive.

France’s attackers are quicker, more decisive and offer a considerably greater goal threat than Croatia’s attack does and I can’t see France making the same tactical mistakes England did in the second half of their semifinal match, when Croatia took a stranglehold on the game and exposed the weaknesses in the England formation.

In my opinion, I think France will win the World Cup on Sunday although I expect Croatia to put up a strong fight, however I think the accumulated fatigue, against an opponent that will be considerably better rested, plus the quality of the French attacking players will ultimately be the catalyst for the French victory and what would be their second World Cup win.

World Cup Final Tips

  • Match Result – France to win (19/20)
  • Correct Score – France 2-0 Croatia (7/1)
  • Anytime Goalscorer – Kylian Mbappe (2/1)