July 11 (UPI) — France became the first finalist of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and faces the winner of the England versus Croatia semifinal match on Wednesday.
In the first semifinal match of this year’s World Cup, played Tuesday in St. Petersburg, Russia, the French national team defeated Belgium 1-0 to become the first team to vie for the much-coveted FIFA World Cup Trophy this year.
The only goal in the game was scored after the teams’ 15-minute mid-time break with a thunderous shot from a corner kick by French defender Samuel Umtiti.
The World Cup final will take place at Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium on July 15. The match for third place will be held on July 14 in St. Petersburg.
England and Croatia prepare for historic semifinal
So far, England’s only semifinal contest took place in 1966 during the domestic tournament. On July 30, 1966, the team defeated West Germany 4-2 at London’s Wembley Stadium.
Croatia’s highest-ever World Cup achievement is third place at the 1998 World Cup in France.
In their respective quarterfinal matches on Saturday, England defeated Sweden 2-0 and Croatia knocked out Russia after a 4-3 penalty shootout win following a 2-2 draw in the regular and 30-minute overtime period.
Between the games, Croatia trained at a field at the Luzhniki Olympic Complex, while England trained in St. Petersburg.
Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic believes the present-day team is not weaker than the 1998 Croatian team that went deep into the tournament.
“The Croatian team has very good players. I believe that the generation of our players was underestimated for too long, but they were able to demonstrate their best qualities during this World Cup. They will remain in the football history as the generation of strong players,” Dalic said.