Five Belgians make our Team of the Round.
Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)
Courtois made a total of nine saves in Belgium’s win over Brazil, including an athletic leap to deny Neymar in the dying moments. The Chelsea goalkeeper is the only member of the Red Devils squad to have played every minute of their World Cup campaign, and his efforts mean that their stay in Russia will last a little longer.
Raphael Varane (France)
Having been absent through injury when France hosted the European Championships in 2016, Varane has seized his opportunity this time and, at just 25, is the veteran of Les Bleus’ back line. He put his side ahead against Uruguay with an accurate header and won seven aerial duels to keep the opposition at bay. A real leader.
Vincent Kompany (Belgium)
Belgium are through to the semi-finals for only the second time after a historic victory over favourites Brazil. At the heart of the Red Devils’ defence, Kompany made two tackles and seven clearances, while no Belgian made more accurate passed (43) or boasted a higher success rate (93%).
Harry Maguire (England)
Two years ago Maguire was among the fans in France watching England at the European Championships, but his performances at club level have led to his inclusion in the squad this time around. He put in a dominant display against Sweden with his first international goal and a clean sheet. England march on.
Benjamin Pavard (France)
Pavard continued to boost his profile with a clean sheet in France’s victory over Uruguay, a match in which Kylian Mbappe was the only starter to boast a higher pass success rate (89% to 88%), while nobody took more touches of the ball than the Stuttgart defender (101). Five of his ten international caps have come in the World Cup.
Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium)
It was only the magnificent form of Mo Salah that kept De Bruyne from claiming every Premier League award going last season, and his considerable talent was on display once again on Friday. The Belgian number seven doubled his side’s lead with a ferocious strike and Brazil seemed at danger every time he took possession of the ball. That’s five wins out of five for the Red Devils in Russia.
Luka Modric (Croatia)
Modric has, unsurprisingly, been one of the stars of the tournament so far and he was typically influential as Croatia overcame Russia to reach the final four. Over the course of 120 minutes he played 89 accurate passes (a match high), including an assist for Domagoj Vida’s header, and had 139 touches of the ball. Could he win the coveted Golden Ball award?
Denis Cheryshev (Russia)
The dream is over for Russia, but it would be fair to say that they surpassed expectations. Their star player has been Villarreal winger Cheryshev, and it was no different in the Fisht Stadium as he put the hosts ahead with a ferocious strike from distance. It was his fourth goal of the competition; only Harry Kane boasts more.
Antoine Griezmann (France)
A goal and an assist for Griezmann against Uruguay, although the former will not go down as one of his greatest. His second half strike was certainly powerful, but Fernando Muslera’s should have kept it out. Griezmann won’t mind though!
Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)
Lukaku was Belgium’s not-so-secret weapon against Brazil as he hassled the Selecao backline with his usual physicality. Operating on the right wing, a tactic deployed by Roberto Martinez when the two were at Everton, he cut inside to propel the Red Devils’ numerous attacks and set up De Bruyne for the second goal. Interestingly, he had the fewest touches of any outfield player to feature for more than 45 minutes.
Eden Hazard (Belgium)
Only Kompany had more touches of the ball for Belgium than Hazard (63 to 62) as the Chelsea forward gave his defining performance in a red shirt to date. He completed all nine of his attempted dribbles in the game. Should Hazard repeat such feats against France, his nation have a strong chance of reaching their first ever final.