World Cup 2018: All the Semifinalists, Ranked

Only four teams of the 32 that entered the World Cup three weeks ago are left in the tournament, and a new world champion will be named on Sunday.

None of the four semifinalists made it to the same level four years ago and two of them—Belgium and Croatia—have only made it this far once, while England has reached the semifinals only twice in its history.

Here, Newsweek has ranked each of the four surviving teams and its prospects.

GettyImages-993841112 Eden Hazard during training at the Guchkovo Stadium in Dedovsk, outside Moscow, on July 8, ahead of the team's 2018 World Cup semifinal football match against France. Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

Belgium

This might be Belgium’s first appearance in a World Cup semifinal since 1986, but make no mistake, the Red Devils have earned their place in the last four. If the first hour of its round of 16 games against Japan saw familiar weaknesses resurface, its quarterfinal performance against Brazil was a timely reminder of the abundance of talent running through this team.

Roberto Martinez got his tactics spot on and Belgium’s front three ran riot, with Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne tearing through the Selecao’s defense at will. While their back three could struggle against the pace of France’s forwards, this is the Red Devils' best chance of reaching a World Cup final.

The perennial chokers for so long, will the golden generation of Belgian soccer seize its moment?

France

Having disposed of Argentina in the round of 16, France was expected to face a much sterner test against Uruguay. Instead, it comfortably strolled to a 2-0 win, displaying the kind of tactical discipline that in the past has often separated World Cup winners from the rest.

Unlike Belgium, Les Bleus have the experience of playing on the big stage—this is the team's third semifinal of a major tournament in 12 years—and it continues to resemble a team still not playing at its full potential.

The likes of Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann could pose a serious threat to a Belgian defense not exactly blessed with pace, but Didier Deschamps’s men will have to be wary of Belgium’s attacking trio.

As Argentina showed, France can be susceptible defensively.

England

The recurring criticism of England throughout the tournament is that it has yet to face a real test. After emerging from a relatively easy group, the Three Lions scraped past Colombia on penalties and beat Sweden 2-0 on Saturday, to book its first World Cup semifinal in 28 years.

While it’s true England hasn't faced any of the tournament’s big hitters yet, it has displayed the kind of carefree attitude that always escaped its predecessors and the chance of competing for soccer’s biggest prize for the first time since 1966 has generated a sense of euphoria England hasn’t experienced in years.

Gareth Southgate’s men will almost certainly have to work harder against Croatia than they have done so far in the tournament, but their momentum will take some stopping.

Croatia

GettyImages-993526646 Luka Modric celebrates after Croatia beat Russia on penalties at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi on July 7, 2018. Croatia will play England in the semifinals on Wednesday. Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Having dazzled its way through the group stages, Croatia was somewhat pedestrian in its two knockout games and needed penalty shootouts to overcome Denmark and Russia.

However, if the fluidity seems to have disappeared and the legs feel heavy after playing 240 minutes of soccer in six days, the euphoria of reaching a first semifinal since 1998 should provide the perfect tonic.

In Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, Croatia has two of the best midfielders in the world and should provide England with its hardest test yet. Crucially, Croatia will go into the game on Wednesday as the underdogs, a role that has always suited it.

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