France, Belgium, England and Croatia are the four semi-finalists of FIFA World Cup 2018, a lineup that signals a shift in the football power equation. In a historic first of sorts, the tournament in Russia does not feature even one of the powerhouses of football - Brazil, Germany and Argentina - in the semifinals.
Only two of the four teams remaining in the World Cup have appeared in a final before. England won at home in 1966, the only time they reached the final while France too exploited home advantage to the fullest in 1998 to lift the trophy. France ended runner-up in 2006, losing to Italy in a penalty shootout.
Belgium have been in the semifinals only once before when they reached the last four in 1986, losing to eventual world champion Argentina 0-2 courtesy Deigo Maradona's brilliance. For Croatia, it is only their second-ever semi-final, they last advanced to the last four in 1998.
Below is the schedule of the semifinals:
Tuesday, 10 July
France vs Belgium
Venue: Saint Petersburg Stadium, Saint Petersburg
Time: 11:30 pm
Wednesday, 11 July
England vs Croatia
Venue: Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
Time: 11:30 pm
The losing semifinalists face off in the third-place match on July 14 (Saturday) at Saint Petersburg Stadium, Saint Petersburg. The match kicks off at 7:30 pm IST while the winners play in final at 8:30 pm IST on July 15 (Sunday) at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.
France topped Group C defeating Australia (2-1), Peru (1-0) and drawing 0-0 with Denmark to book their place in the Round of 16 (pre-quarterfinals) Where they face 1978 and 1986 winner Argentina. The French team conquered Argentina in a closely fought classic 4-3 to enter the quarterfinal where it faced another two-time winner from South America, Uruguay. The quarterfinal ended 2-0 in favour of France.
Belgium, boasting of one of the most lethal attacks in the football world today, emerged toppers of Group G defeating all their three opponents - Panama (3-0, Tunisia (5-2) and England (1-0). In the last 16, Belgium were given a major scare by Japan and managed to secure a win only in the last few seconds to edge out the Asian team 3-2. Five-time champion Brazil were Belgium's opponent in the quarterfinal but the latter rose to the occasion to send the South American's home by winning 2-1.
England, Belgium's groupmate, are also in the semis and are aiming to emulate the success of 1966. England stood second on Group G, winning against Tunisia (2-1) and Panama (6-1) but lost their final group match to Belgium 0-1. In the pre-quarters, England got the better of Colombia in a penalty shootout after the match was tied 1-1 after extra time. The win against Colombia is England's only penalty shootout success in a FIFA World Cup till date. In the quarterfinal, England got the better of Sweden 2-0.
Croatia topped Group D beating Nigeria (2-0) and then stunning Argentina 3-0 before getting the better of Iceland 2-1. They ended Denmark's run in the last 16 on penalties after the match was tied 1-1 and then shattered Russia's dream winning the quarterfinal too in a penalty shootout following a 2-2 draw.