Ian Abrahams’ World Cup Diary: Will England make the final?
Broadcaster Ian Abrahams has been in Moscow for the duration of World Cup 2018, and has given us his thoughts on England’s semi-final clash with Croatia, Raheem Sterling, the final four and his all important semi-final predictions…
England v Sweden
It was very easy in the end. Sweden were bang average and have been throughout this tournament. It was about as easy a quarter final as you can wish for – in a slightly sadistic way I would have rather had a more nervous afternoon. It didn’t really feel like it was ever in doubt and that’s a very strange feeling considering how you should feel when your nation reaches a semi-final.
I’m certain the team won’t change for the semi-final and that’s the right call. You go with the team that has got you this far, but I still have my reservations on Sterling – even if some of my media colleagues are ripping into me!
Yes, he puts in loads of work on and off the ball but if that one chance falls for him to put England in a World Cup Final, do you trust him to take it? England might only get once chance against Croatia.
He’s gone 24 games without a goal at international level and fluffs far too many chances. Lingard, Alli are contributing with goals, Sterling needs to step up too. Listen, if he gets the winning goal against Croatia I’ll be delighted – let’s hope he proves me 100% wrong.
They have had two exceptionally tough matches so you have to make England favourites. I was waxing lyrical about Croatia after the Argentina game, but they haven’t reached that level of performance since.
All of the other semi-finalists have got better or at least stayed on a level but Croatia have almost gone backwards. They’ve been lucky to hang on in there. England need to be patient but I think they should have enough to make this a very special World Cup.
I think he’s wrapped the Golden Boot up. Semi-finals and finals tend to be edgy affairs, and Lukaku will have to go some to draw level with Kane – and that’s assuming Harry doesn’t score.
If he gets one more, it’s absolutely his Golden Boot. Six or seven goals is usually more than enough.
England’s young guns
The players are young, they get social media – this is a very different group of players to previous generations. There’s not a lot to dislike about them, and they haven’t all had that ‘big club’ background.
The FA and Gareth Southgate deserve a lot of credit for the way they have handled this squad, starting from right before the World Cup at the media day to opening up the training camp in Repino.
These guys are human – they haven’t been locked away in an ivory tower. The ‘golden generation’ team arguably had more individual talent, but this one will be looked back at more fondly.
South American football
South American teams really struggle to win the World Cup away from home soil. I’m not saying it’s in the doldrums but they have been very disappointing in some respects.
Argentina stunk the place out, Colombia were disappointing in their approach and while you could argue Brazil were a little unlucky, there are definitely questions for South American football to answer. It could be 30-odd years before a South American team wins again if the current trend continues.
I’ve always liked him and think people still overlook the fact he won an FA Cup with Wigan. Yes, his style of football means his teams will always be vulnerable due to the way he sets up, but he’s handled the pressure of managing this ‘golden generation’ superbly, and it could be his time if Belgium can reach the final – which I expect them to do.
They have some exceptional players. Mbappé is going to be a world star, Griezmann is close to that top tier and Lloris is a class act. This has been a terrific World Cup in terms of the football played. None of the final four would be underwhelming winners.
Ian’s semi-final predictions…
France v Belgium
I can see this being a draw after 90 minutes. I’m expecting goals here – and I think Belgium will somehow find a way, be it in extra time or penalties.
If it’s not England’s year, this is going to be Belgium’s year.
Ian’s score: 2-2 – Belgium to win in extra time/penalties
Croatia v England
Whether it’s coming home or not, we’ll have to wait and see, but I do think England will reach the final. Croatia will be tough, but I don’t think they have played that well since the group stages.
Modrić, Perišić and Rakitić will always cause you trouble so this one will certainly be nervier than the Sweden game, but I can see England edging it in 90 minutes.
Let’s have Raheem Sterling scoring the winner!
Ian’s score: 1-2
All image sources from PA Images
Do you agree with Ian’s predictions?
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