|Pick:||Over 2.5 Goals|
We are at the Semi Finals stage of this great tournament. The first semi will be played at Sankt Peterburg and will feature One Time World Champion France and Belgium. This could easily be a final in any other constellation, but it is a Semi. The interesting thing about this match up is that 25 players out of 46 listed on both teams - play together on a club level. We have 5 Chelsea players (3 in Belgium and 2 in France), 3 Manchester City (2 Belgians and 1 French), 3 Manchester United players (2 Belgians and 1 French), 4 Tottenham Hotspur players (3 Belgians and 1 French), 3 Monaco players (2 French and 1 Belgian), 4 PSG players (3 French and 1 Belgian), 3 Barcelona players (2 French and 1 Belgian). But, the most important shared item is Thierry Henry - the legendary French striker from Golden Era of the Gunners who was Captained by Didier Deschamps in that 1998 World Cup the French captured and was actually the best French goal scorer with 3 goals in the tournament although young Henry who was only 19 did not take a part in 3-0 defeat of Brazil in the final due to Desailly red card and the need to replace defense player rather than inject offensive one. Henry - who became a Sky color commentator since and also trained Belgian youth national team (free), played for NYV Red Bulls and assisted Arsen Wenger in Arsenal till the later said he would have choose between his job as a color commentator and the coach. Matrinez - the Belgian coach invited Henry to be his second assistant and work with the strikers (we can see the results with Belgium scoring 14 goals in 5 matches and Lukaku's improvement in finding empty spaces and moving without the ball - Lukaku's own words in what Henry helped him). The French consider Henry a traitor despite Pogba having a close friendly relationship with Henry as any French player playing in England where Henry is considered an icon. So, Henry will be advising the Belgians how to beat the French.
Some pairings are very important in that regard as the best French player so far in the tournament - Kylian Mbappe from PSG will be defended on the Belgian side by his teammate from PSG Thomas Meunier. Paul Pogba will have interesting time as well playing against Maroinne Fellaini from Belgium in the midfield while both play in the next to each other in the offensive midfield at Manchester United feeding another Belgian - Lukaku - with passes to score goals. Mousa Dembelle from Belgium - if playing - will be attacking against his goalie from the Spurs, Higo Lloris and on the other side Oliver Giroud from France will be attacking his own goalie from Chelsea, Thibaut Courtois.
Yes, there are more pairings I can write here - but, the point is that those two National teams know each other very well and in case Belgium and England will qualify for the final - we will have English Premier League derby with Belgium having 12 Premier League players on 23 man roster.
What will be in this game? We have two better offenses than defenses here responsible for 23 goals scored offensively and 9 goals conceded. Now, the French offense only started to tick from the knock out stage as they scored 6 goals against 3 in their two games (4-3 against Argentina and 2-0 against Uruguay). The Belgians too had their share of scoring in the knock out stages with strange 3-2 against Japan and 2-1 over Brazil. So, those two teams are solely responsible for eliminating 4 Non European teams from the knock out stage, and what teams are we talking about... 3 out of those 4 are former World Cup Champions (Uruguay and Argentina twice each and Brazil 5 times) sharing 9 out of 20 championships altogether between them . The others are Germany and Italy - 4 times each, Spain, England and France - all once.
Let me make it clearer (courtesy of Wikipedia)
This is the table of World Cup Winnings by the numbers:
The South American teams won 9 World Cup Championships while the Europeans won 11 and will add 12th title there.
Now, this narrowing down becomes even more vivid with Premier League actually providing the most players at this semi final already providing 41 players from Premiership out of 92 in the semis.
If that is so - will we see the disgusting game we would if those were two teams based on Spanish La Liga except Barcelona? Let me remind you how the latest semi finals and the finals went down in the 21st century:
Germany - South Korea 1-0
Brazil - Turkey 1-0
Brazil - Germany 2-0
Germany - Italy 0-0 (Italy after extra time 2-0)
France - Portugal 1-0
Italy - France 1-1 (Italy 5-3 on penalty shots)
Germany - Spain 0-1
Holland - Uruguay 3-2
Spain - Holland 0-0 (1-0 Spain after extra time)
Argentina - Holland 0-0 (4-2 Argentina after penalty shots)
Germany - Brazil 7-1
Germany - Argentina 0-0 (1-0 after extra time)
So, what can we learn from all this? Well, the first and te most important thing is that this, 2018 WC is totally different from others. Did you pay attention that Germany was present in all Semi Finals? But, they aren't today. Except that crazy game in Belo Horizonte where the Germans literally trashed Brazil - there were hardly any goals scored. There was another exception with Holland beating 3-2 Uruguay in 2010, and that is it. All the other 10 games produced 8 goals only and only twice 2 goals in a game - the rest zero or one.
What am I trying to say? Those days are over. Soccer has become more attractive today and with VAR there is no more edge for the defense.
Today's game goal line stands at 2.5 and not for nothing. There will be at least 3 goals scored today with the conviction of 10 units.
Over 2.5 Goals +103 10 units