Russian World Cup has been a great surprise till now. This would be the first World Cup that won't have either of Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Portugal in the semi final line up. Germany's exit was in the first round and followed by departure of Portugal and Argentina in the round of 16. Quarter final matches were a great treat for the football fans. Brazil failed against Belgium and a penalty shootout pulled out hosts from the top 4 list.
As the journey for the great triumph limited to 4 teams, there is only a few days left to find the winner. France, Croatia, England and Belgium are the semi final contenders. The clash between France and Belgium is considered as the final before an actual final. England has to face Croatia in the another semi final bout. As Russia is almost ready to filter the best football team, we are going to look to a list of top 5 players of the quarter final stage.
France team had a slow start in the World Cups. They had to wait till round of 16 to showcase their actual skills. The teams strength was a set of young talents whom are capable of shaking the nets in any given situations. Like France team Griezmann also had to wait till the quarter finals to show his full talent. In the first few games Kylian Mbappe was shined and later Griezmann joined the trip.
Griezmann's first goal in the event was against Australia in their opening match. A 58th minute penalty led the team to 1-0 and later the match favored French side for a 2-1 margin. His next performance was against Argentina in the quarter finals. A penalty goal added 2nd one to his goal list. But Mbappe's performance was highlighted in the match.
In their quarter final match against Uruguay, Griezman had to showcase his full talent. Mbappe's one man army was seen not enough to attack the Uruguayan defense. The Athletico Madrid man understood his necessity in the match and performed a crucial role in their win. Griezman's assist in the 40 minute goal from Raphael Varane helped France to lead the match for 1-0. Later Griezman himself found the net at 61 minute and made the quarter finals a total dominance.
Kevin de Bruyne
Belgium side is having a winning streak of 5 matches at Russia. Belgium's strength relies on their attacking side. They have already found the nets 14 times and is highest by any team in the tournament. Lukaku was the key player for the side in their group stages. The team faced an unexpected dominance from the Japan team in the round of 16. But team play and perfect tactics once again led the team to success.
Belgium was in a desperate need of a great striker for their next match against Brazil. Kevin de Bruyne had to capture back his Premiere league performance. Roberto Martinez tried a new game plan in their quarter final clash. He was situated in the attacking side along with Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku. de Bruyne used this golden opportunity and gifted a 2-0 lead at the 31st minute.
Kevin de Bruyne has to maintain his quarter final form against the French side. He was successful in breaking the defense set up by Fernandinho and Paulinho. If he continued the form Belgium team can make wonders at Russia.
Thibaut Courtois has been brilliant for the Belgium side. The Chelsea goal keeper had high duties at the goal post from group stage itself. He was scrutinized against Panama and Tunisia. While Belgium scored 15 goals till now, Courtois missed just 5 kicks from the opponents. He wasn't noticed much in the tournament as the football fans loved goals than saves.
In their round of 16 match against Japan, Courtois was stunned by Japans attack. But some how he was managed to concede only two goals with poor defense from his side. Courtois showed his actual talent in the quarter finals. When Belgium had a upper hand, Coutinho, Marcelo sharpened their attacks and had several deadly shorts to the goal post. But Courtois managed to block all these.
A save in the injury time was once again crucial in heading the match to extra time. That was a great save under pressure and opened the door to semi finals. The goalie had to face tough bout in group stages only. But he came in to his actual form when required. His role will be crucial in their semifinal match against French team. He may have to block the strikes from Mbappe, Griezmann etc.
England team would have been the most luckiest team in the tournament. Being placed in a normal G group, qualifying for the next round was an easy task for the English team. They had only one tough bout in knock out stages which was against Colombia. A penalty shootout helped the team to face puny Sweden in the quarter finals and was successful in reaching the top four.
Till their outing at Russia, England team was a total disaster in World Cup penalties. But it all changed as Jordan Pickford was promoted with the glove. England team had confusions in picking the best player at the goal post. Jordan Pickford was finally assigned with the task and proved there is no other replacement for him in the squad.
Jordan Pickford used the confidence gained from their round 16 match and was in full form to block the Swedish strikes. In their crucial match, Pickford was given with a clean sheet and led the team to the semi's with a 2-0 margin. There was 2 blazing saves from the Everton FC goal keeper in the match from Marcus Berg and Viktor Claesson.
Croatia created one of the biggest upsets in Russian World Cup. A 3-0 dominance over the muscular Argentina made the team as group champions. Round of 16 match was against Denmark and an extra time draw led the match to penalties and the match favored Croatian side for a 3-2 margin. Their next bout was against the hosts and the match lacked football qualities and finally Russia surrendered for a 3-4 margin in the penalties.
Luka Modric was the key player from the beginning for the Croatian side. The Real Madrid striker scored 2 goals till the quarter finals and done many match winning passes for his side. He was a penalty specialist for the team and was an excellent performer in pressure situations.
The Russian team had upper hand in the quarter final penalty shoot outs but Luka Modric's presence was a confidence for the Croatian side. If he maintained the same passing abilities against England in the semi finals, it would be a tough task for England to reach the finals.