Tuesday 17 July 2018

World Cup player watch: The calm before the semi-final storm

The latest on what the players at the World Cup have been up to ahead of the semi-final clashes in Russia.

England defender Harry Maguire plays darts during the media access at Repino Cronwell Park (Owen Humphreys/PA)
England defender Harry Maguire plays darts during the media access at Repino Cronwell Park (Owen Humphreys/PA)

By Josh Luckhurst, Press Association Sport

There have been 60 matches, 157 goals and four penalty shootouts – but just four teams remain in the 2018 World Cup.

England secured their first semi-final place in the tournament for 28 years after seeing off Sweden 2-0 on Saturday, with only Croatia standing in their way of reaching the final following their dramatic penalty shootout victory against hosts Russia.

Belgium dispatched Brazil to advance to the last four and the Red Devils will take on France, who edged past Uruguay, for a place in Sunday’s final at the Luzhniki Stadium.

Here is how the players prepared for their semi-finals.

France

France flew out to St Petersburg for their last-four clash with Belgium…

Happy Monday 🤙 #family #coupedumonde #equipedefrance #fiersdetrebleus

A post shared by Steve Mandanda (@stevemandanda1) on

.. But the journey seemed to much for young superstar Kylian Mbappe as his team-mates mocked him for watching too much ‘Rugrats’.

On arrival, Didier Deschamps’ side trained at their temporary home.

The Sky is the limit 😀✈️ #FlyingBlue @kimpembe3 #fiersdetrebleus

A post shared by Djibril Sidibé (@djibrilsidibe_s3) on

Belgium

Belgium held their final training session before the crunch semi-final at their Moscow Country Club base before making the journey to St Peterburg.

Big game tomorrow! Let’s go! 🇫🇷vs🇧🇪! #1 #redtogether

A post shared by Thibaut Courtois (@thibautcourtois) on

Croatia

Croatia players were less vocal on social media after narrowly progressing to their first semi-final appearance since 1994, but it cannot be denied that the players are not motivated for Wednesday evening.

England

England seemed to have created a relaxed yet competitive atmosphere at their training base in Repino, and the darts and bowling competitions have continued as much as their on-field progression.

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England defender Harry Maguire plays darts during the media access at Repino Cronwell Park (Owen Humphreys/PA)
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England wing-back Ashley Young bowling during the media access at Repino Cronwell Park (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Young turned 33 on Monday and Manchester United team-mate Marcus Rashford was quick to wish him a happy birthday before the elder statesman took on media duties.

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Ashley Young speaks during the media access at Repino Cronwell Park (Owen Humphreys/PA)

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