When you are on a roll, you are on a roll. Of course I am talking about my consecutive prediction streak. The last two rounds, perfect picking 6-for-6.
Much like the French National Team, I am getting better each round. So I bet you are wondering who I am going with in the World Cup Finals? We will get to that in a little while.
I think before we go any further, we need to congratulate both Belgium and England. Two unproven managers on the world stage, but have proven there is promise with both.
Roberto Martinez, took over an uber-talented Belgium squad and all the pressure in the world. Many expected Belgium to go far in this tournament and despite those expectations, the Red Devils made it to the semi-finals.
They beat Brazil and Japan along the way and won their group with teams like England, Panama, and Tunisia.
As for England, this team went further than they were expected to. Gareth Southgate had his squad playing attacking football and kept his team focused on the present, instead of England’s miserable past.
This proved most difficult for Southgate, as English supporters began singing the old song from the 1996 Euros, “It’s Coming Home.”
The song gave Southgate nightmares, as he relived the epic miss in the penalty shootout against Germany that cost his team the match. But this run, will surely change how he feels about the song.
France 1-0 Belgium
My prediction: 2-1 to France.
This was a clash worthy of a final. Two teams full of world class players, playing back and forth in a fairly even match.
In my previous pieces, I talked over and over about how I did not trust Roberto Martinez’s ability to manage a match when it counted. Martinez, up until the semis, was making all the right moves.
I will give credit where credit is due. Martinez’s tactics were masterclass against Brazil. The moves he made completely shut out Neymar with Marouane Fellaini, of all people. But that is where the masterclass would end.
As brilliant as his tactics were against Brazil, he over thought the match against France. Trying to surprise the French team with new formation and tactics just put his own team out of shape enough to make Belgium less of a threat than in previous matches.
Croatia 2-1 England (AET)
My prediction: 2-1 to Croatia
This match pretty much went as I thought, with a bit of added surprise. That excellent surprise came from England just five minutes in when a sublime free kick from Kieran Trippier evaded Danijel Subašić.
Just like that the English were off and running. Or so they thought. Game plans were thrown out the window and Croatia were forced to play catch-up. That’s what you were lead to believe.
What developed after was Croatia sticking to their plan whilst England sat back. Both teams had more chances, but Croatia began growing into the match as England grew tired. You try to chase ball for 85 minutes.
Croatia would tie it in the 68th minute when Šime Vrsaljko swung in a lovely cross that Ivan Perisic just managed to get his left boot on. A full 90 minutes could not find a winner, and to extra time we went.
The odds-on favourite at this point would have to be England, as this was the third consecutive extra time match in a row for Croatia. Despite this, the Balkan warriors, inspired by bulletin board material from English media, scored a winner through Mario Mandzukic in the 109th minute and held on for the victory.
I believed the world class duo of Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric would win the match, but it was the veteran Ivan Perisic of Internazionale who put in a man of the match performance.
Class won over youth in this one. English fans, there is a lot of promise with your team and manager. Try to enjoy what you have accomplished.
As for Croatia, they have surpassed the feats of the 1998 team. No matter the result on Sunday, this team will be known for their never give up warrior spirit. Bravo.
World Cup Final Prediction
France v Croatia: Is this David vs Goliath? Hardly. What we have is the the team who many picked to win in the finals, France, against opponents who come in as the people’s champions — Croatia.
Two talented teams who have earned the right to be here. Maybe the only person to pick this exact final was Pat Nevin on Twitter. So I’ll give him credit as well.
At first look, France should win this based on talent alone. They should dominate possession and win pretty handily.
Though Croatia boast a midfield as wonderful as France’s, the rest of the team have much to make up for.
This will be a no contest right? Don’t be so sure. What we have learned in football, and in particular, this World Cup, is that anything and everything will happen. So what will happen?
France will come out strong, trying to assert themselves into the match. They will get the opening goal and many will write off Croatia.
Look for Croatia to load up the midfield with Rakitic, Modric, Perisic, Ante Rebic and Marcelo Brozovic to equalise the talent gap.
They will press the wing backs for France and try to exploit the only potential weakness of Les Bleus.
This will stifle France, keep them from opening up too much of a gap and look for Croatia to feed off of this and get an equaliser.
We will look like we’re heading into extra time, but expect a moment of brilliance from Kylian Mbappé, Antoine Griezmann or someone else that will win it for France in 90 minutes and give them their second World Cup.
France 2-1 Croatia.
In the end, we all win. This is one of the best World Cups of my lifetime and I have seen many magical moments since 1986.
We, the spectators, are the real winners and in a close second is VAR. The video assistant referee(s) nailed nearly every call they was asked to look at, and surely the naysayers will have little to say against it now.
So many great stories to choose from in this cup, and it is hard to pick one.
What was your favourite moment?