We’re down to the final four in Russia - France, Belgium, England and Croatia. Here’s a look at 5 heroes from the 2018 World Cup quarter-finals.
Raphaël Varane, France
Antoine Griezmann stepped up with a (very fortunate) goal and an assist, but Varane was France’s man of the match in the World Cup quarter-finals against Uruguay. Yes, it helped that Luis Suárez’s strike-partner was Cristhian Stuani rather than Edinson Cavani, but Varane still did his job brilliantly. The Real Madrid star made 7 clearances and won 7 out of his 10 defensive duels. And when France needed a breakthrough at the other end, he popped up with a goal. That header sums Varane’s game up perfectly – so clever, so calm, so classy. His next challenge: Romelu Lukaku.
Romelu Lukaku, Belgium
There were at least 12 Belgian heroes in Friday’s amazing win over Brazil. Marouane Fellaini was a monster in midfield, while Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard were at their brilliant best in attack. However, none of those performances felt quite as significant as Lukaku’s. Finally, the striker is fulfilling his potential on the world stage. Brazil’s strong defence hasn’t looked so weak since the 7-1 defeat to Germany. Lukaku’s movement was excellent, especially in the first-half, and his dribble to set up De Bruyne’s winner was spectacular.
Philippe Coutinho, Brazil
If this was meant to be Neymar’s World Cup, no-one bothered to tell Belgium, or the tournament referees. In fact, no-one told his own Brazilian teammate Coutinho either. His 2 goals against Switzerland and Costa Rica were crucial and his 2 assists were incredible. The ball to Paulinho against Serbia was sublime and the cross to Renato Augusto against Belgium in the World Cup quarter-finals was even better. When Brazil needed a way back into the game, Coutinho stepped up once and so nearly stepped up again in the final seconds.
Harry Maguire, England
It’s funny to think that a few weeks ago, many people were urging Gareth Southgate to pick Gary Cahill over Maguire. Was the Leicester City defender really ready for World Cup football? Yes, yes, yes! Defensively, Maguire has been England’s main man-mountain, winning 32 aerial battles in 4 games. He’s looked dangerous in attack too, and in the World Cup quarter-finals against Sweden, ‘Slabhead’ finally got the goal he deserves. With Kieran Trippier’s deliveries and Maguire’s headers, England can cause Croatia all kinds of problems.
Domagoj Vida, Croatia
Vida looks like a warrior and against Russia, he acted like one too. Not only did the Croatian centre-back give his country the lead in extra-time, but he also showed nerves of steel to step up and score in the shoot-out. Against England in the World Cup semi-finals, however, it’s his defensive qualities that will be tested. Can Vida and Dejan Lovren cope with Harry Kane’s set-piece specialists?