Croatia have impressed the most, the fairplay regulation isnt fair and Africa hittings a modern low at the tournament
When does England's semi-final kick off?
Gareth Southgate's team is now in the ” easier ” half of the depict and everyone with an England shirt on can plot a route to the last four or, if you're feeling truly optimistic and entirely blind to the country's record on the big stage, the final itself.' Well played chaps' hollered the headline on the front page of The Sun, after an understrength England side lost 1-0 against Belgium to avoid a quarter-final with Brazil. This is the same nation that has won two knockout matches at major tournaments- against Denmark and Ecuador- since Stuart Pearce tucked away that penalty against Spain at Euro 1996. Colombia, for the record, were quarter-finalists four years ago and they've won six of their last eight World Cup games. Be careful what you wish for. Stuart James
Croatia are the team of the tournament so far
Croatia were viewed as dark horses in some quarters, imagination to go deep into knockout rounds, although it is debatable whether such a tag was appropriate for a squad that contained players such as Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic. Either way, they have been the star turn thus far. When the depict was stimulated, Croatia's was the group of death. Nigeria had arrived with a reputation for youthful dynamism; Argentina's spoke for itself while nobody could underestimate Iceland. Croatia induced short work of all three, particularly Argentina in a statement performance. They did not even need to beat Iceland but they did so anyway, with a starting XI that demonstrated nine changes to illustrate the depth of Zlatko Dalic's squad. Modric has been outstanding while all around him there has been slickness, savvy and ruthlessness. The players believe they can top the achievement of their country's Class of 98, which reached the semi-final. David Hytner
Fair play? No way
So Japan are the first country to qualify for the last 16 via Fifa's fairplay rule. There's a certain irony to that, given that Japan played out the final eight minutes plus added hour of their game against Poland trying, in the words of their coach, to “stay put”. They had no interest in passing forward, assaulting, tackling or – the unthinkable- scoring an equaliser to take control of their own destiny. Instead, Akira Nishino, the Japan coach, openly admitted that he decided to totally rely on events 400 miles away in Samara and, with that in intellect, sent on a sub to preach the importance of killing the Poland game by basically not playing a football match any more. It should be noted that Poland were not blameless in those miserable closing stages, yet they did at least have the excuse of being 1-0 up. Japan, on the other hand, hurled in the towel when they were losing against a team that had already been eliminated, and left Colombia to do the job for them. Doesn't sound much like fairplay. Stuart James
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