Posts tagged soccer
The Counter Press EP 37

It's a special episode as Josh is joined by guest Puneet Singh (@puneetsingh). Together they discuss the Europa and Champions League Final as well as discuss summer expectations for their respective Premier League clubs

As Justin Bieber readies to drop much anticipated new music, enjoy this Barber's Chair playlist of the best hits in Bieberveli's arsenal! 
Apple Music: https://apple.co/2HdG2yN
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2HbTcME
Tidal: http://bit.ly/bieberveli

Throw your diamonds up for more than a decade of heat with the new TIDAL-exclusive Roc La Familia playlist from The Barber's Chair! The greatest hits from the most prolific label in hip hop history.
Listen here: https://tidal.com/playlist/dfcd8a98-7eb0-473e-8666-170acc564443

Listen to the new bangers playlist on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music!
Tidal: bit.ly/tidalbangers
Spotify: bit.ly/spotifybangers
Apple Music: bit.ly/applebangers

WrestleMania might be over but you can still rep Becky Two Belts with the brand new #FreeTheMan tees up now on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair
or
teespring.com/freetheman

The Counter Press EP 36

Josh and Vijay talk about the Champions League Final and Decision Day in the EPL

As Justin Bieber readies to drop much anticipated new music, enjoy this Barber's Chair playlist of the best hits in Bieberveli's arsenal! 
Apple Music: https://apple.co/2HdG2yN
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2HbTcME
Tidal: http://bit.ly/bieberveli

Throw your diamonds up for more than a decade of heat with the new TIDAL-exclusive Roc La Familia playlist from The Barber's Chair! The greatest hits from the most prolific label in hip hop history.
Listen here: https://tidal.com/playlist/dfcd8a98-7eb0-473e-8666-170acc564443

Listen to the new bangers playlist on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music!
Tidal: bit.ly/tidalbangers
Spotify: bit.ly/spotifybangers
Apple Music: bit.ly/applebangers

WrestleMania might be over but you can still rep Becky Two Belts with the brand new #FreeTheMan tees up now on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair
or
teespring.com/freetheman

The Counter Press EP 34

Josh and Vijay are back to talk Ajax beating Juve, Barca getting past Man U, and other random soccer topics

Follow Josh on Twitter: @highbiscuits
Follow Vijay on Twitter: @VJVemu

Listen to the new bangers playlist on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music!
Tidal: bit.ly/tidalbangers
Spotify: bit.ly/spotifybangers
Apple Music: bit.ly/applebangers

WrestleMania might be over but you can still rep Becky Two Belts with the brand new #FreeTheMan tees up now on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair
or
teespring.com/freetheman

Nearly Canceled: Entourage drops January 2019 exclusively on the Barber's Chair Patreon! Become a patron of The Barber's Chair on Patreon! $5 a month will get you a thank you on Ball Don't Lie and guarantees you access to Nearly Canceled: Entourage, along with more exclusive premium content from The Barber's Chair!
patreon.com/barberschairnet

The Counter Press EP 33

Josh and Vijay chat about all the Champions League matchups, PSG giving up 5 goals to Lille, and the Premier League.

WrestleMania might be over but you can still rep Becky Two Belts with the brand new #FreeTheMan tees up now on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair
or
teespring.com/freetheman

Nearly Canceled: Entourage drops January 2019 exclusively on the Barber's Chair Patreon! Become a patron of The Barber's Chair on Patreon! $5 a month will get you a thank you on Ball Don't Lie and guarantees you access to Nearly Canceled: Entourage, along with more exclusive premium content from The Barber's Chair!
patreon.com/barberschairnet

The Counter Press EP 32

Josh and Vijay are back to catch up on everything in the soccer world including the international break.

Follow Josh on Twitter: @highbiscuits
Follow Vijay on Twitter: @VJVemu

Listen to the new bangers playlist on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music!
Tidal: bit.ly/tidalbangers
Spotify: bit.ly/spotifybangers
Apple Music: bit.ly/applebangers

Rep THE MAN just in time for Wrestlemania with the brand new #FreeTheMan tees up now on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair
or
teespring.com/freetheman

Nearly Canceled: Entourage drops January 2019 exclusively on the Barber's Chair Patreon! Become a patron of The Barber's Chair on Patreon! $5 a month will get you a thank you on Ball Don't Lie and guarantees you access to Nearly Canceled: Entourage, along with more exclusive premium content from The Barber's Chair!
patreon.com/barberschairnet

The Counter Press - You Hate to See It

The Counter Press Boys are joined by Spurs fan @ryne_jones to talk about all things Premier League including Tottenham's list of transfers. We also dive into Champions League matchups along with some Serie A talk.

Follow Vijay on Twitter: @VJVemu
Follow Josh on Twitter: @highbiscuits

Celebrate your division champs by grabbing one of the NEW shirts straight from The Barber's Chair merch store!
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair

Nearly Canceled: Entourage drops January 2019 exclusively on the Barber's Chair Patreon! Become a patron of The Barber's Chair on Patreon! $5 a month will get you a thank you on Ball Don't Lie and guarantees you access to Nearly Canceled: Entourage, along with more exclusive premium content from The Barber's Chair!
patreon.com/barberschairnet

The Counter Press - Two sides of the coin

Joined by their good friend @puneetsingh, the Counter Press boys are back with a new pod. They discuss the Premier League Top 6/title race, the wackiness in La Liga, and Josh rants about Chelsea.

Follow Josh: @highbiscuits
Follow Vijay: @VJVemu

Celebrate your division champs by grabbing one of the NEW shirts straight from The Barber's Chair merch store!
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair

Nearly Canceled: Entourage drops New Years Day 2019 exclusively on the Barber's Chair Patreon! Become a patron of The Barber's Chair on Patreon! $5 a month will get you a thank you on Ball Don't Lie and guarantees you access to Nearly Canceled: Entourage, along with more exclusive premium content from The Barber's Chair!
patreon.com/barberschairnet

The Counter Press EP 27
The Counter Press EP 26
The Counter Press EP 25
The Counter Press EP 24
The Counter Press Serie A Preview

The Counter Press boys finish up their preview of the European leagues with a Serie A preview. They are joined by recurring guests @AvikarSaini and @GuerschonLynch. We go through all the Italian teams, give our predictions, including how Napoli will do as well as give some air time to SPAL

Follow Josh: @highbiscuits
Follow Vijay: @VJVemu

The Counter Press EP 22 - La Liga preview

After reviewing the EPL last week, the Counter Press boys are back with another guest in Jeremy Beren(@JBBeren). We talk about the Spanish Super Cup, preview the upcoming La Liga season along with our table predictions as well as talk about the UEFA Super Cup.

Follow Josh: @highbiscuits
Follow Vijay: @VJVemu
Follow Jeremy Beren: @JBBeren

The Counter Press - English Premier League preview
2018-19 English Premier League power rankings: City favorites to repeat, but Liverpool hope to end the drought
PREMIER LEAGUE POWER RANKINGS.jpg

With the European football leagues getting underway this week, The Barber's Chair is taking a look at each of the major soccer leagues across the pond to see how each club stacks up this season. Yesterday, Jonathan Ramos examined the top tier in France, Ligue 1. Today, Vijay Vemu looks at arguably the most popular league in football, the English Premier League.

Premier League Power Rankings

One of the world's best leagues, the English Premier League, kicks off on Friday with Leicester City facing off against Manchester United. It's the beginning of a great soccer weekend (including Arsenal vs. Man City) and hopefully a fun EPL season. Let’s rank the 20 clubs and in the end, I’ll release my entire table predictions.

Class 1: Title contenders

Manchester City
Liverpool

Last year we saw Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City take the crown by the throat, ending the title race by Christmas. Their second-half spell wasn’t as dominant as their start, but it was enough to get the job done and win their third EPL title of the decade. Now with an invigorated squad filled with summer signings like Riyad Mahrez, City are favorites to repeat.

Pep retains the majority of his key players and will get a healthy Benjamin Mendy to fill in at left back this season. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are going to be goal poachers with Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane, and Raheem Sterling providing service. However, the title chase will be closer with one team, in particular, having an amazing summer in the transfer market: Liverpool.

The Reds had a fantastic season in 2017/18 and got even stronger in the summer, adding the duo of Naby Keita and Fabinho to shore up the midfield. Both players fit right into Jurgen Kloop's system, with the former having a great motor to press. Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Mo Salah all come back healthy as well. Liverpool even went out and spent money on a quality keeper in Brazil's Allison, who sures up the backline and makes the Reds a dangerous contender in the Premier League. One question worth asking given Klopp’s system: will they run of steam in the second half of the season? If that happens in the middle of a serious title chase, we could see another Liverpool collapse.

Any year in the Premier League is a toss up, but with City being so far above everyone else and Liverpool improving, it’s hard to talk yourself into another big club being a title contender. At least right now. I expect the race to be pretty close, but for now, these are my two teams.

Class 2: European contenders

Manchester United
Tottenham Hotspur
Chelsea
Arsenal
Leicester
City

I’m just gonna get this out of the way right now... I don’t see Burnley making a push like they did last season. Sean Dyche’s team did a fantastic job of playing park-the-bus soccer and making the Europa League out of it. They made great use of set pieces and defended like crazy, but we know what happens when you mix a Europa League run with trying to compete in the Premier League. Ask Southampton and Everton; it creates a disaster in one competition or another. The Clarets are going to naturally have to make a sacrifice about which competition to care for; but even if they solely focus on the Premier League, they will need another monster season to qualify for Europe.

As for who will actually be competing for European qualification, expect the rest of the big guns to be competing for Champions League. Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho’s comments have made things especially wild around Old Trafford. The whole thing regarding Anthony Martial raised a few eyebrows but thankfully there are people at United who realize his value. Making Marcus Rashford the number 10 is a big deal; hopefully, he can get more playing time this season. Mourinho has a lot of decisions to make attacking wise and if he can’t get it right, he may be on his way out.

Antonio Conte is finally out at Chelsea, and the Blues have brought in their man from Napoli. Maurizio Sarri will bring an exciting style to Stamford Bridge and hopefully convince Eden Hazard to stay with him by getting more attacking help. Adding Jorginho to boss the midfield along with N’Golo Kante is a big boost. Chelsea fans hope Sarri can make Alvaro Morata look at least 20% of what he was last year. I think if Morata is given a chance in Sarri’s system, he will have a fine season. But one man who is on his way out is Thibaut Courtois. Chelsea reportedly have his replacement lined up in Kepa, but it means even more shuffling defensively. You also have to wonder how Conte’s back three now fit with Sarri’s 4-3-3 system. Marcos Alonso will have real problems playing as a full-time left back.

No movement in the transfer window have left Tottenham fans mad as there have been barely any incomings to the club. Losing Toby Alderweireld and Moussa Dembele won’t ease any of the tension. Spurs still have a super talented squad and manager Mauricio Pochettino will have his guys ready to go. Harry Kane will still be smashing in goals and the likes of Heung Min Son, Christian Eriksen, and Dele Alli will provide a ton of offensive support, but they needed an upgrade on their squad to take the next step into title contention. Sadly for Spurs fans, there was no upgrade at all.

Arsene Wenger is finally out and Unai Emery is in at Arsenal. The Gunners have a potent attack with Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette up front. Emery will have to figure out make the two strikers together instead of what happened last season when the latter was moved out to the left wing and looked all out of sorts. The midfield got a boost with the addition of Uruguay’s Lucas Torreira. He can be a good cover in front of Arsenal’s shaky backline and will look to be their backbone in midfield. It’s a project that Emery has got in his hands. Wenger left him a depleted squad, and it'll take a couple of years for Emery to get his type of players. Expect another topsy-turvy year from the Gunners.

Another team I would like to throw in for Europe contention is Leicester City. Even after losing Mahrez, they made some smart signings in Ricardo Pereira, Richard Ghezzal, James Madison, and Danny Ward. All of those signings strengthen a talented and dangerous squad with Jamie Vardy still up top, and Ndidi and Vicente Iborra solid in the midfieldl. Getting Jonny Evans to play in the back will help the backline depth, especially if Harry Maguire leaves (which he might this transfer window or next).

Class 3: Mid-table

Crystal Palace
Wolverhampton
Everton
Watford
Newcastle United
Fulham
West Ham
Burnley

The team who will get the most eyeballs here will be Wolves. Like Newcastle last year, they are easily a mid-table team and won’t be fighting for their lives this season. They brought in a lot of quality players in the past two years, and the way they ran the Championship showed they can make some noise in the table. I know it’s ambitious to put them in the top 9 but you can argue given the troubling summers the three teams behind them in the list, it’s not unreasonable. Crystal Palace had a good end to the summer and given the chaos in the middle of the table, if they keep Zaha they will be fine.

Newcastle has had a very troubling summer with Rafa Benitez expressing his concern for the lack of transfers. It’s not out of reason for them to be in the relegation race when the season comes to a close, but I think Benitez is a talented enough manager to pull them out of it.

Fulham will be fun too and they kept their best young players, which bodes well for them staying up. Everton is a toss up under Marco Silva; they could be in contention for 7th, but given how their pre-season has gone it seems they are in a fight for 10th place again. West Ham hope their signing of Felipe Anderson will be a big boost for them; he's a smart purchase who can spark the Hammers offensively like Dimitri Payet did a couple of years ago.

Class 4: Relegation Zone

Bournemouth
Southampton
Brighton
Huddersfield
Cardiff City

There are two teams here who are good bets to land in the relegation zone: Huddersfield and Cardiff City. Both clubs, talent-wise, don’t have enough firepower to stay in the Premier League. It was a miracle that Huddersfield stayed up last year, and this year will be even harder for them. They’ve made some signings which could help them stay up, so it’s an automatic drop but it’s hard to see them trying the same thing they did last year and have it work.

The last relegation spot will come between Brighton and Southampton. Much like Lille in France, Southampton's drop in quality has been shocking and sad to see. The Saints were once in the Europa League, now they are fighting for their Premier League lives. They are going to have to rely on a young core to get them out of this. Bournemouth is also in here but Eddie Howe can get the job done, much like Rafa at Newcastle.

Full table prediction

  1. Man City

  2. Liverpool

  3. Manchester United

  4. Spurs

  5. Chelsea

  6. Arsenal

  7. Leicester

  8. Crystal Palace

  9. Wolves

  10. Everton

  11. Watford

  12. Newcastle

  13. Fulham

  14. West Ham

  15. Burnley

  16. Bournemouth

  17. Southampton

  18. Brighton

  19. Huddersfield

  20. Cardiff City

 

2018-19 Ligue 1 power rankings: PSG vs. everyone else

With the European football leagues getting underway this week, The Barber's Chair is taking a look at each of the major soccer leagues across the pond to see how each club stacks up this season.

Ligue 1 Power Rankings

With Ligue 1 set to begin on August 10, we will have one of Europe’s top leagues back in action. The French league will receive more attention as the national team recently won the FIFA World Cup, and with it came the attention of casual fans to less established French stars. Let’s rank which teams have the best chance to be crowned champions this season.

Class 1: Title Contenders

PSG (Paris Saint-Germain)

Source: AFP

Source: AFP

The champions are in a class of their own, winning the league for the fifth time in the last six seasons. Since 2011, the Paris-based squad has been trying to become one of the biggest teams in Europe, and has been relentless in acquiring the best players by paying large transfer fees. Last season’s purchase of Neymar put them in conversation as a destination for top-tier players, and he didn't disappoint, scoring 19 goals in 20 Ligue 1 appearances before his debut season was cut short due to injury.

The World Cup gave further attention to PSG, and it also brought Kylian Mbappe to superstardom. He's only 19 years-old, and his improvement is what can bring PSG closer to competing with Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League. PSG were able to acquire his rights from Monaco and were also to get a hold of Gianluigi Buffon after the legendary goalkeeper departed with Juventus.

This could be a breakout season for the squad with several players like Mbappe and Presnel Kimpembe now a year older. However, several defenders are aging, so look for PSG to monitor the minutes of Dani Alves and Thiago Silva as they prepare for what they hope to be a long season.

Falcao Moncao 2018 AFP.jpg

Class 2: European qualification spots

Monaco
Lyon
Marsielle

Monaco, Lyon and Marseille are strong enough to challenge PSG for the Ligue 1 crown, but in the end they'll most likely be playing for second place.

Monaco has been the most consistent of the bunch, and the only team to win Ligue 1 in the last six years of PSG dominance. They've been focused on getting younger, acquiring players like Aleksandr Golovin, the Russian star of the World Cup who will be making his debut in a top European league. Other transfer signings like Willem Geubbels, who has plenty of potential at 16, is too young to have a major impact this season. However, Monaco still has Radamel Falcao, one of league’s top strikers.

Lyon and Marsielle are two teams that also made few changes from the previous season. Both made signings that were influenced by focusing on the future. The signings of Duje Caleta-Car for Marsielle and Tanguy Ndombele for Lyon are great for their team's long-term futures, but ultimately leave both squads a bit behind Monaco and a significant gap from PSG this year. Lyon will need Memphis Depay to have another great season to hold off Marsielle, and his development will have them at equal level with Monaco. Marsielle missed out on qualification for the UEFA Champions Leauge this past season, finishing a point behind Lyon. Look for that to be the major focus for Rudi Garcia's squad.

Class 3: Mid table

Rennes
Bordeaux
Nice
Saint-Etienne
Montepellier
Nantes
Dijon
Amiens
Guingamp
Angers

Nice will receive the most attention of the mid-table tier, as former French star Patrick Vieira makes his Ligue 1 managerial debut after managing New York City in MLS. NYCFC made improvements in Vieira's two and a half seasons in the Bronx. In his time there, they were an aggressive and entertaining club to watch as defenders pressed high, similar to Vieira's own style of play.

Source: Getty

Source: Getty

Nantes is another team that made a managerial change with the Portuguese Miguel Cardoso looking to push the squad to a top-five finish. Theosan-Jordan Siebatcheu is a player to watch for Rennes, as he helped Reims receive promotion to Ligue 1 last season. The American-born Frenchman may push to join the United States national team, as he has not made the debut with the senior French squad.

The rest of the teams in this class will need players who are under the radar to have career seasons to catapult themselves to the top. Dijon is the team who has the best chance to improve as they jumped from 16th to 11th in the past two seasons since returning to Ligue 1. They finalized the purchase of Naim Sliti, and will look for Wesley Said to take the next step.

Class 4: Relegation dangers

Lille
Strasbourg
Caen
Nimes
Reims

Lille was once a top-level team in France, but they've suffered a drop in play in recent years. The focus is now on them to avoid relegatio after a large amount of managerial changes. A top-five finish this upcoming season is unlikely, but they will hope for a top-ten finish for the sanity of their fans.

The Counter Press EP 20
2018 World Cup Final preview: France vs. Croatia
Photo Credit: AP 

Photo Credit: AP 

We have arrived at the final destination - Moscow, home of the World Cup Final, pitting two teams in France and Croatia who both deserve to be in this position. This past month of soccer madness has flown by with heart-stopping turns at every point. It's been a thrilling tournament and one of the best we have seen so far this century. Plenty of drama, stoppage time goals, underdog stories like home nation Russia and the resurgence of England, and the powers like Brazil, Argentina, Spain and Germany all bowing out before the semi-finals. Now the world holds its breath in anticipation of who lifts the trophy in 2018.

Croatia

Let’s not beat around the bush here; Croatia is the underdog. When the knockout brackets were first revealed, a Croatian run to the final was something many thought might happen but nobody predicted it in the way that it did. After two back to back penalty shootout wins, Croatia needed extra time again in their semi-final matchup against England, a team with tired legs but the deserved favorites. It usually doesn’t bode well when a team who has played 240 minutes in the past two games has to play catch up, but after England took the early advantage, Croatia slowly but steadily began to inch back into the game with Ivan Perisic's second-half equalizer. England’s back three was solid for much of the tournament but they were prone to mental lapses. While it certainly looked poor on Gareth Southgate’s side to lose focus like that, credit to Croatia for pouncing on them. It sort of felt like the second leg of Juventus vs. Spurs where Tottenham had two defensive lapses and the Italian side punished them. All it took was Kyle Walker to not check who was behind him when trying to defend a cross.

From there the tide shifted as England looked mystified and Croatia was dominating in the midfield, a strategy which always bodes well for them. In extra time again you wondered how Croatia’s legs would feel but they kept pushing on when Mario Mandzukic found the back of the net in the 109th minute for the winner. England's back line lapsed yet again as John Stones didn’t react quick enough to a bouncing ball in the box. It was a bizarre play as everyone on the pitch seemed to stop and watch the ball bounce towards Pickford; everyone except for Mandzukic. It was a nervy final 11 minutes as Croatia hung on to advance to their first World Cup final.

France

France faced a much tougher opponent in Belgium, but like their final opponents, they did much of the same thing they had done throughout the tournament: Grab a goal and hold steady.

France hasn’t looked too flashy in this tournament and outside of the Argentina game, their offense has looked lackluster. But it doesn’t matter to Didier Deschamps men. They just keep getting the job done and have gotten the results necessary to advance. They did the same thing against Belgium. France let Belgium dictate a lot of the possession this game and pick them off on the counter, a strategy Belgium used against Brazil, but it was a lone goal off a set piece from Barcelona center-back Samuel Umtiti that sent them through.

The game turned from there as France hunkered down and absorbed all the Belgian pressure. Belgium had a lot of chances on goal but couldn’t seem to beat Hugo Lloris and the French defense. To France’s credit, it was a tough backline to beat as Umtiti and Raphael Varane held down Romelu Lukaku and N’Golo Kante did a good job breaking up key passes while neutralizing the dangerous Kevin De Bruyne. It wasn’t the most pretty win or the most aesthetically pleasing win but once again, it’s just about getting the job done. Now France finds themselves one win away from winning a major tournament and can finally exercise the demons that haunted them after Euro 2016.

It’s a similar situation with France face as - like Portugal in 2016 - they face an inferior opponent in a final but they should be ready for this one. Losing at home in a European final doesn’t just wash away easily and it shouldn’t. There is a lot of those guys playing now who were there in Paris that day, watching Portugal go crazy as they snatched a cup winning goal without their best player in Cristiano Ronaldo on the pitch. One has to be wary about France playing inferior opponents but they should be solid.

The key in this matchup will be the midfield. It’s Modric and Rakitic versus the likely trio of Pogba, Matuidi, and Kante. Simply put, whoever controls the middle wins, but this one is much more crucial for Croatia, especially since their wings will have to defend a lot more with Mbappe and Griezmann able to leak out for counters. Strinic can’t be left alone against Mbappe as we saw what happens when you give the wonderkid any sorts of space. This will force Perisic to track back and at least account for Mbappe presence, so a lot of the offense will come through the middle of the park with the Croatian duo springing passes to unlock the French defense. France has three high motor players of their own with two of them having enough offensive quality to scare Croatia’s backline. If Matuidi and Pogba are able to get up in attack with Giroud being the holdup man and occupying the center-backs, Croatia could be in for a very long night.

Croatia will have to play a lot of defense while somehow making sure that they have enough time to get Rakitic and Modric going. This opens up Mario Mandzukic as a key man for Croatia as he alone will probably be up in attack unless Andrej Kramaric starts as a CAM with the duo in a double pivot behind him. But you could see Rakitic and Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozovic in a pivot with Modric up top. There is a lot of shifting which could go on in the Croatian midfield as manager Zlatko Dalic has a lot of options.

Prediction

Croatia has been fun and like France, they haven’t been flashy but they are effective. This team won’t quit and I see them coming back in this one to equalize some time in the game. But then France is going to get a winner in the second half and hold on. It will be a World Cup to remember for Les Blues.

2-1 France

2018 FIFA World Cup Semi-final preview: England vs. Croatia
Photo credit: REUTERS

Photo credit: REUTERS

We are now at the second semi-final of the World Cup, and while we had a clash of powerhouses on one side, on the other there's some surprise teams hoping to make the final. Both England and Croatia needed some luck to get here, but now each faces their toughest test of the knockout rounds in each other. It’s just shows how wild and unpredictable this World Cup has been.

Croatia

After topping Group D, Croatia needed back-to-back penalty shootout wins to advance to the semi-finals. The first one took place against Denmark after a gut-wrenching save on a Luka Modric penalty shot in the dying moments of extra time kept the Danes in it. But Modric and his teammates stepped up and thanks to some poor penalties by Denmark, the stage was set for Ivan Rakitic to win it.

Their next match against Russia was another slogfest as Croatia came back from an early goal to tie the game and eventually take the lead in extra time. However, Russia came back strong and equalized to force penalties. There goalkeeper Danijel Subasic came up with a huge save and two missed spot kicks from the hosts, opening the door for Rakitic yet again to win it and send his country to the next round.

It’s been a stressful journey for Croatia but there are on the doorstep of reaching a semi-final. This wasn’t entirely out of left field considering their runs in Euro 2016 and how the group stage went. It was just how they got to this point which was interesting.

England

England didn't have the same struggle on their end, but they did avoid crisis in the round of 16 against Colombia. A tie at the end of stoppage time meant English fans worst fears: penalty kicks, a heartbreak they're all too familiar with. But this time it was different, as Eric Dier exorcised the demons of World Cup past and lifted the Three Lions to the quarterfinals, where they cruised to an easy 2-0 win over an upstart Sweden team.

The key for England to advance will be the midfield. Can the trio of Jordan Henderson, Dele Alli, and Jesse Lingard somehow slow down the duo of Rakitic and Modric? Both Croatian midfielders do a lot of work and usually set up in a double pivot, each playing a different role with Modric being the controller and Rakitic being the guy who has an insane work rate and can clean up if necessary. Give them enough time and they will run the game with ease, especially Modric, who has a legitimate shot at winning the Golden Ball.

If the Croatian midfielders are able to spring passes forward to the likes of Ivan Perisic on the wing, England’s back three could be in major trouble. It will be up to Henderson to make sure he can make life difficult for Croatia. Lingard will be asked a lot as well but given his role at Manchester United, defending for a lot of the time shouldn’t be a tall task. While Croatia does have holes in their defense, England can’t forget they are facing two high-quality guys who can break them if given the chance. Modric and Rakitic are game changers and control just how well this Croatian team will play. Whichever team controls the middle of the park wins this game. 

Prediction

Both England and Croatia have done well to get here. Granted it wasn’t the strongest opposition but they played with the cards they were given. It’s a tough matchup for both teams and it’s an even one too. I have to go with the stronger side here and it’s Croatia.

2-1 Croatia