World Cup semifinals: Pressure on Belgium's golden generation, England can outlast Croatia
With the quarterfinals done and dusted, there are just four teams left standing at the 2018 World Cup.
Out of Belgium, France, England and Croatia, who will book a place in the final on July 15?
Belgium vs. France, Saint Petersburg
It's a game between two European neighbours and arguably the two teams that have produced the most outstanding performances so far.
Belgium's so-called golden generation have fallen short in recent tournaments, failing to deliver at the past two European Championships and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but their destruction of the Brazilians in the quarterfinal was the performance of a team that believes it can become world champions.
France, who laboured through their group with only three goals in three games against Australia, Peru and Denmark, showcased their incredible depth of talent when teenager Kylian Mbappe led their second-round dismantling of Argentina in Kazan.
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France are perhaps peaking ahead of their time, with Didier Deschamps' young team viewed by many as not likely to mature into potential World Cup winners until Qatar 2022.
Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Samuel Umtiti, Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann will almost certainly all be around in four years' time, but for Belgium, this World Cup has to be their moment. With so many players in or approaching their 30s, Roberto Martinez's men have to grasp this opportunity or risk seeing it evaporate forever.
But Belgium -- led by outstanding efforts from Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku -- were so hot against Brazil, they go into this game against their big-brother neighbour as favourites.
France have the greater pedigree -- winners in 1998 and finalists in 2006 -- but Belgium are the team that seems to have come together at just the right time in Russia.
The Belgians, having kept Neymar quiet against Brazil, must find a way to do the same with Mbappe, but Vincent Kompany's return to fitness ensures that Martinez can rely on the Manchester City captain's experience to marshal the defence.
France, in turn, have to find a way to nullify De Bruyne and Hazard, but the Belgians possess more match winners.
Do they have the mentality to beat France in a huge game? That is the only real question.
Croatia vs. England, Moscow
An unlikely semifinal matchup at the start of the tournament, Croatia and England now stand on the verge of the World Cup final after negotiating a favourable route to reach this stage of the competition.
England have eliminated Colombia and Sweden, while Croatia, so impressive having won their group with three victories, have been taken to penalties by Denmark and Russia in the knockout rounds.
But having twice endured the draining yet ultimately successful ordeal of extra time and penalties, the big question over Croatia going into Wednesday's semifinal will be how much they have left in the tank.
Will goalkeeper Danijel Subasic, the shootout hero against Denmark and Russia, be fully fit after appearing to injure his hamstring late in Saturday's game against Russia?
England have no such fitness concerns after coasting to a 2-0 quarterfinal win against Sweden in normal time in Samara, but manager Gareth Southgate does have tactical questions to answer before the Croatia clash.
Should he break up the attacking midfield trio of Jesse Lingard, Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli to accommodate an extra holding midfielder (Eric Dier) to help snuff out the threat of Luka Modric, or did their combined performance against Sweden make a change a gamble?
If it boils down to a football contest in Moscow, Croatia's ability on the ball will be a huge test for England.
The two countries have a colourful history, having met seven times since Croatia earned its independence in the early 1990s.
England won 4-2 at Euro 2004 in the only meeting at a major tournament, but the most famous encounter was in November 2007, when Croatia's 3-2 win at Wembley denied England a place at Euro 2008 and earned manager Steve McClaren the nickname of the "Wally with the Brolly" after he forlornly patrolled the touchline under an umbrella.
The past two meetings have ended in big wins -- 4-1 and 5-1 -- for England, so Southgate's men will have no fear on Wednesday, and their extra energy could be decisive.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_