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The four remaining teams in the World Cup are unburdened by the past as they seek to reach the July 15 final
Published in Saudi Press Agency on 08 - 07 - 2018

Thoughts of history and playing greats of the past are never far away at World Cup semi-finals, according to dpa.
And so in England, 1966 seems but yesterday and the names of World Cup winners Bobby Moore or Geoff Hurst, or 1990 semi-finalists Paul Gascoigne, are present in English hearts and minds.
In France, 1998 winner Zinedine Zidane and 1982 and 1986 semi-finalist Michel Platini are among Les Bleus greats never to be forgotten.
In Belgium, the likes of Jean-Marie Pfaff, Jan Ceulemans, Franky Vercauteren, Enzo Scifo and Eric Gerets bring back memories of the Red Devils' one and only last four appearance, in Mexico 1986.
And in Croatia, the talk these days will also be of the quality of brilliant 1998 semi-finalists Davor Suker, Zvonimir Boban or Robert Prosinecki and the national team's only last-four until now.
Now a new generation of players will be out to create their own footballing history when France meet Belgium, and Croatia play England for a place in the July 15 final in Moscow. And the past really means little for most of them.
Belgium and Croatia will now be seeking a first World Cup final appearance, while France could reach a third following 1998 and 2006, and England have to go back to Wembley 1966 for their one and only final.
But in an unusual World Cup in which world champions Germany fell at the group stage, Spain and Argentina in the last 16 and record champions Brazil in the quarter-finals, none of the four remaining teams seem overly burdened by history or exaggerated expectations.
"I wasn't born the last time England reached a World Cup semi-final (in 1990)," England keeper Jordan Pickford pointed out when asked about past glories.
"We have always said we would it take one game at a time but we can go on and create our own history." The last time Les Bleus were in the last four at a World Cup, a penalty from captain Zidane gave France a 1-0 win over Portugal in Germany 2006.
Now the French - with England the joint-second youngest squad of the 32 finalists according to statistics firm Statista - will be looking to the likes of 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe to help propel them into the final again when they come up against Belgium in St Petersburg on Tuesday.
Didier Deschamps, the 1998 World Cup-winning captain, has seen his side grow at the tournament after two impressive victories over Argentina and Uruguay. A new chapter is ready to be written.
"We have some margin to get even better," Deschamps said.
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez meanwhile sees his much-vaunted golden generation on the verge of greatness after showing resilience in coming from two goals down to beat Japan, and tactical awareness in putting Brazil to the sword.
It's been quite a journey for the Spanish coach as well, whose longest spells as a midfielder were with English sides Wigan and Swansea, while as a coach he has arrived at the World Cup via Everton and a 2013 FA Cup win with Wigan.
England meanwhile take on Croatia on Wednesday in Moscow in another match in which the shifting sands of tournament play now make it difficult to pick out a clear favourite. That would not have been the case after Croatia dismantled Argentina 3-0 just over two weeks ago.
But two knock-out games which have gone to extra-time and penalties have rebalanced the scales ahead of their semi-final against an improved England squad with its feet on the ground.
"We know where we are. We're not the finished article," said England manager Gareth Southgate, himself a novice at national level.
He has already seen his players write their own history with their penalty shoot-out victory over Colombia in the last 16, and who could deny him the feeling that there is more to come?


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