France and Croatia are through to the World Cup final. Here are our picks for the best performers in the semi-finals.
Jordan Pickford (England)
England’s World Cup dream is over after they surrendered a first half lead to Croatia in Moscow. Despite the loss, Pickford can hold his head high after a superb campaign which saw him make five saves in the semi-final. At just 24 years old, it seems he has more tournaments to come.
Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia)
Early indications suggested that Kieran Trippier would be the stand-out full back in Croatia’s clash with England, but Vatreni wrestled back control of the match thanks to two superb contributions from Vrsaljko. First he crossed for Ivan Perisic to score the equaliser, before his goal line clearance prevented the Three Lions from retaking the lead in extra time. No England player had more possession of the ball than the Atletico man.
Raphael Varane (France)
Varane made six clearances in France’s win over Belgium. Faced with the physicality of Romelu Lukaku, the Real Madrid defender came away with his fourth clean sheet of the tournament, the highest number for any player involved.
Samuel Umtiti (France)
In some matches the result is decided in a single second. Toby Alderweireld was nowhere to be seen as Umtiti lost his marker and planted a header past Thibaut Courtois early in the second half. He also made seven clearances during the game, more than any other player. His contribution ensures that the French dream is still alive.
Ivan Strinic (Croatia)
The team needed a left back, ok?
Kylian Mbappe (France)
Only Benjamin Pavard took more touches of the ball for France than young Mbappe, whose authority on the game grew with each passing minute against Belgium. His pace allowed France to counter on the right flank, and he could have claimed an assist with a cute piece of skill to put Olivier Giroud through on goal. Strinic will have his work cut out in the final.
Paul Pogba (France)
Often associated with flair and flourish, here Pogba was determined, disciplined and, arguably, dull. It worked wonders though. No player won more aerial duels than the Manchester United midfielder (three), while only Blaise Matuidi completed more tackles in the win over Belgium. His reward? A second international final in two years.
Blaise Matuidi (France)
Having missed the match with Uruguay due to suspension, Matuidi was thrust back into action against Belgium and it looked as though the rest did him good. He recovered possession nine times during the match and seems certain to start in Sunday’s final.
Eden Hazard (Belgium)
Hazard completed 11 of his 12 attempted dribbles against France, while 48 of his 50 passes found their mark. To be so involved in a game and only lose possession on three occasions serves to demonstrate his brilliance at this World Cup. There’s a vacant number 7 shirt at Real Madrid…
Mario Mandzukic (Croatia)
Mandzukic’s 32nd goal for his country was certainly his most important as Croatia reached their first ever World Cup final. The Juventus forward was quickest to react to a loose ball in the England penalty and, from that moment, the outcome was never in doubt. His unerring finish sparked wild celebrations from the stands, while one poor cameraman got more than he bargained for when the entire Croatia squad jumped on him.
Ivan Perisic (Croatia)
Not content with scoring Croatia’s equaliser, Perisic came close to adding a second moments later when his shot cannoned back off the base of the post. However, he was involved once again as his header set up Mandzukic for the winning goal. Mario may take the headlines, but Ivan was the man.