Brazil and Uruguay were eliminated in the quarter-finals to give us four nations from the same continent competing for the trophy. It seems that European football is king when it comes to international tournaments. In our World Cup bitcoin betting guide, we take a look at what that means for bettors.
France v Belgium July 10th 18:00
The most peculiar, and unpredictable, World Cup in recent history has given us four European semi-finalists – and none of the remaining nations can be said to have had a standout tournament. Belgium's 2-1 victory over Brazil was a game of two halves and could easily have swung the other way; Belgium have hardly looked like champions-elect on their journey to the last four.
The same can be said of France, who were assured winners over Uruguay but have failed to entertain this summer. Didier Deschamps' side don't have a coherent identity at the moment, while Belgium changed dramatically for the quarter-final victory. Both, then, are due a definitive performance.
Tactics & line-up:
Belgium switched to a highly complex 4-3-3 formation against Brazil, with Nacer Chadli in central midfield (but drifting into a left wing-back role to help them fluctuate between a back four and a back five), Kevin de Bruyne started as a false nine (but essentially had a free role) and Romelu Lukaku was a right winger (but arced inside to arrive at pace in the positions vacated by De Bruyne). It was ultra-fluid, causing absolute chaos in the first half – and then serious problems in the second.
There will be big gaps in front of the Belgium wing-backs for France.
France will no doubt use the same 4-2-3-1 that has served them well since the group stages, which means Kylian Mbappe on the right and Olivier Giroud up front. Blaise Matuidi returns from suspension to offer the midfield support when Paul Pogba ventures forward, giving Deschamps the conservative, defence-first football he has long favoured.
Things to look out for:
France are most effective on the counter, and there will certainly be space against such a wide-open and ultra-attacking Belgium. Look out for Mbappe's ghosting runs into the middle, supported by Antoine Griezmann. Together, these two should be able to cause trouble around Alex Witsel, particularly if Belgium dominate possession. Mbappe versus Vincent Kompany, who continues to look shaky, is a clear mismatch.
At the other end Belgium's attacking speed will surely test France's midfield. N'Golo Kante's individual battle with De Bruyne will be fascinating, but ultimately the Chelsea midfielder might struggle when Paul Pogba wanders forward. It is in this pocket of midfield that De Bruyne and Eden Hazard can find the room to put Lukaku through on goal.
There is power and speed in both teams. One loves to dominate the ball with width while the other likes to counter centrally. This game is perfectly set up to be a classic.
Prediction: Back over 2.25 goals at 1.89*
Croatia v England July 11th 18:00
Croatia's second ever semi-final and England's third makes Wednesday night a fascinating tie whatever the outcome, although the entertainment almost certainly won't be as high as that of France v Belgium. Here are two nations that muddled through a remarkably easy path to the semi-finals of the World Cup; Croatia and England remain strangely unknown entities at this point.
England's 2-0 victory over Sweden was surprisingly simple, meaning it was poor preparation for the much sterner test of Luka Modric's Croatia. However, Zlatko Dalic's side have now beaten consecutive nations on penalties, so they will be both physically and emotionally drained. A third extra-time in a row isn't out of the question.
Tactics & line-up:
England will use the same lineup that defeated Sweden, and once again look to rely on set-piece goals to settle the game; eight of their ten scored this World Cup have come from penalties, freekicks, or corners. However, during much of the second half against Sweden the interchanges between Jesse Lingard, Dele Alli, and Raheem Sterling were encouragingly high-tempo. Gareth Southgate will hope to race out of the blocks with similar quality in order to take advantage of Croatia's tiredness.
Croatia have had to play on the front foot for most of the tournament so far, the only exception being the 3-0 win against Argentina. Dalic's side are far more comfortable when allowed to sit deep and counter, which could be problematic for England.
Jordan Henderson's shielding role is vital for England.
Things to look out for:
Kieran Trippier's head-to-head with Ivan Perisic could decide the outcome. The crossing ability of both players is crucial to their respective nations, and Tottenham Hotspur's right-back is the more likely to dominate. He is having a better tournament thus far and likes to cross from deeper positions, meaning Perisic will be forced to defend deep.
Luka Modric's passing range is a serious threat to Jordan Henderson, although England's back three will fancy their chances against sole striker Mario Mandzukic. Harry Maguire never seems to lose a header. Harry Kane will target Dejan Lovren here, but England's biggest threat will be Sterling's runs on the shoulder of the last defender. He stretched Sweden brilliantly, something he can no doubt repeat against Lovren and the slowing, 32-year-old Vedran Corluka, who replaces injured Sime Vrsaljko.
Prediction: Back England to win at 2.34*
*Odds subject to change, all match times UTC