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France versus England

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Michael Angelo S. Murillo

Give And Go

To say that the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia is unpredictable is really an understatement, which is why maybe picking which teams will battle it out in the final, and eventually winning it all, is going to be tricky.

But just the same, if I am to choose who I prefer to see in the final, I would have to go with France versus England.

Two of the powerhouses in world football, they have so much history between them that it is going to be tough not to be caught up with it and take sides.

Did some background reading, and it has been said that they have met 31 times since 1923, two in the group stages of the World Cup (1966 and 1982) which incidentally England won each time.

It helps its cause as a potential marquee World Cup offering that the two teams have produced some of the standout moments in the ongoing tournament.

Les Bleus, World Cup champions in 1998, have been utterly dominant to say the least. Save for the nilgnil draw with Denmark in group play, France has been on point in winning.

In the Round of 16, it flipped the switch against Lionel Messi and Argentina to win, 4-3, and in the quarterfinals it was just a handful for Uruguay.

Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Benjamin Pavard and Raphael Varane have stepped it up to make it a riveting campaign for the French side so far with more seemingly to come.

England, meanwhile, has been dig-deep in the 2018 World Cup.

It finished second in Group G with two wins and a loss, behind top team and fellow semifinalist Belgium (3-0-0).

It squeaked past Colombia via penalty shoot-out, 4-3, in the Round of 16 then topped erstwhile doing well Sweden, 2-0, in the quarterfinals.

Striker Harry Kane has been spectacular in the tournament with a World Cup-leading six goals to date and primed for the Golden Boot.

Also rising up to the challenge for the Three Lions, 1966 World Cup champions, are John Stones, Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and Harry Maguire, among others.

For France-England to happen, the two have to go through a tough semifinal assignment.

France will take on Belgium that boasts of the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, who have combined for seven points in the tournament between them. Their matchup is set for 2 a.m. today (Manila time).

England, for its part, has Croatia standing in its way in its “It’s Coming Home” bid. Midfielder Luka Modric has been leading Croatia well as they go for their first-ever World Cup title. Their matchup is also set for 2 a.m. on Thursday.

But while France and England face tough challenges in setting up their final matchup, I still believe their rivalry is to be rekindled in the 2018 World Cup and that a final between them is in the offing.

And who will in the end? I have France for the talent and experience it has, coupled with the confidence to overcome what is in front of it that it has been showing in the tournament.

 

Michael Angelo S. Murillo has been a columnist since 2003. He is a BusinessWorld reporter covering the Sports beat.

msmurillo@www.bworldonline.com