World Cup Power Rankings: Who Is On Top Going Into the Final?

The 2018 World Cup semi finals have come and gone, and in the blink of an eye we’re just two games (well one and a half) away from the end of the tournament entirely. 

With the tears still drying on my St George’s Flag emblazoned cheeks, here are your semi final World Cup Power Rankings: 

*As always, brackets denote previous position.

4. England (3rd)

Heartbreak, for so, so many reasons, but I suppose the one saving grace in this defeat is that wasn’t unjustified, it wasn’t ripped from our hands in unceremonious and unfair circumstances. Sure, we could’ve, and perhaps should’ve wrapped it up in the first half, while we looked hungry, fit, fast and dangerous. 

But Croatia are a side packed with class and experience, and they showed it in the second half. Disparagingly, but fittingly, for all our threat in the opening period, we lacked the incision that Croatia possess in Modric, Rakitic, Perisic…I could go on. 

Of course, it’s a case of what could’ve been, but what has been had shouldn’t be lost. The pride that this team has evoked in the nation was inspiring, and stood the test of time even in defeat. The sight of Gareth Southgate hauling players onto their feet as they soaked in the serenade from the fans was as poignant as it gets.

It was the last in a long line of seminal Southgate moments, but incredibly astute as well. Not only did it give the fans the respect they deserved, it offered the same to the players, and signified the mentality shift that he has engineered across the board. 

3. Belgium (1st)

Almost mirroring the performance of their third place play-off opponents, Belgium were electric in the first half, but just couldn’t capitalise on it.

Eden Hazard was once again nigh on unstoppable, but unfortunately the same could not be said for his two other partner’s atop the pitch, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne. Their comparative ineffectiveness to their showings against Brazil perfectly illustrated the fine margins between winning and losing in such high stakes scenarios.

Against Brazil they finished their chances, but they couldn’t against France, losing out to a more rigid, maybe even turgid side. But one who is also unmistakably better. 

2. Croatia (4th)

In his post match interview, Luka Modric spoke of the under estimation of his side from the English press. While that didn’t necessarily resonate with my parsing of the pre match discourse, there can be nothing but admiration in the post game analysis.

The Madrid man has spearheaded his side throughout the tournament, and if his side become immortal on Sunday, his personal exploits for both club and country should surely be recognised by the relevant committees. 

But it wasn’t just about Modric. Perisic, who had been largely lacklustre prior to the semi final, turned up in the biggest way, tormenting England for the 75 minutes that came after half time. Individuals aside, the sheer grit they pertain is second to none at this World Cup – they have gone behind in each of their knockout games, only to pull through in extra time or beyond every time.

Right, I’m gonna stop now, because this is turning masochistic. 

1. France (2nd)

You can’t not give France the Power Rankings belt heading into the final, they look too strong. They’ve answered the critics, and frankly made knockout football look a fairly simple game. 

Coming through unscathed against Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium is no mean feat, and yet they still seem to have multiple gears left unused. Their final opponents will, as you’d expect from such an occasion, be there toughest yet – there’s undoubtedly something about this Croatian side. 

But France’s ability to soak up pressure – the sheer pleasure they deride out of thwarting threats is visible for all to see – combined with the most fearsome forward in the world right now is a winning marriage if ever I’ve seen one. 

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