Now that Germany has been eliminated and out of the way, a new World Cup champion shall be crowned in Russia at the 2018 FIFA World Cup!
The World Cup is indeed a memorable event just like a person's 50th birthday, but it only happens once every 4 years and the entire world is watching. Which team is going to hoist the FIFA World Cup Trophy come July 15?
It certainly won't be the powerhouse and defending champs Germany, as they were knocked out in the group stage. It also won't be Lionel Messi's team Argentina and Ronaldo's team Portugal. This year actually has a high possibility that a completely different champ will emerge victorious!
The World Cup bracket is quite difficult to predict as there will always be huge surprises lurking about. On Thursday, the group stage concluded and the final 16 participants are finally set.
What exactly is the optimal bracket for the World Cup challenge? Whether you're a newbie or a true fan of sports betting, refer to the bracket below and make your picks.
And then there were just four left...
The 2018 FIFA World Cup is definitely a whole new different ballgame, as it will hold its first-ever semifinals that will not include the likes of Argentina, Brazil nor Germany.
Four countries are left standing in Russia, all are European and all have a good shot at lifting the trophy in Moscow on July 15.
Pre-tournament FIFA ranking: 20
Quarterfinal result: 2-2 (4-3) vs. Russia
After playing for 120 minutes in each of the last two matches after enduring two ill-fated penalty shootouts, Croatia advances to its very first World Cup semifinal since 1998.
Zlatko Dalić's team has the talent to win this tournament, but it has indeed taken a beating that definitely will take its toll on his players. The Croatian team is now dealing with multiple injuries to its key players, and that includes quarterfinal goalkeeper hero Danijel Subašić, who has stopped 4 penalties in Croatia's 2 penalty shootout wins in this World Cup.
They also have an outstanding group-stage form that have pushed lesser opponents aside during the knockout stages, and quality-scoring chances have been quite few and far between for players like Andrej Kramaric, Ivan Perisic, and Mario Mandzukic.
But with Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic with them, Croatia is still a force to reckon with as they have the world's most dominant midfielders, a factor of distinct advantage against semifinal opponent England, and their vital key to winning the first-ever World Cup.
Pre-tournament FIFA ranking: 12
Quarterfinal result: 2-0 vs. Sweden
After the pressure of the round-of-16 penalty-shootout win over Colombia, the victory against Sweden on Saturday was smooth-sailing for the England team.
Apart from the three vital saves from Jordan Pickford, the Three Lions took care of things against Sweden with ease. A goal from a set piece, their 8th of the tournament, gave England the boost it needed in order to take control of the game right before Dele Alli's 58th-minute header made it impossible for the Swedes to reach and the defense led by Harry Maguire aka ‘Great Wall' subdued an attack from their opponents.
England's efficiency could still have its weakness though, as Gareth Southgate's team had just three goals from open play. Should it fail to come up with answers from dead-ball incidents, it's definitely going to be a flaw that could cost them the trophy.
With Southgate, Pickford and captain Harry Kane, this England edition has shown a calmness and composure that fans aren't accustomed to seeing, and that's one factor that has been a key to their success so far, and it will be put to the test once again this upcoming week.
Pre-tournament FIFA ranking: 3
Quarterfinal result: 2-1 vs. Brazil
In the quarterfinal against Brazil, Belgium manager Roberto Martinez made a tactical risk and it paid off quite handsomely.
The inclusion of Nacer Chadli and Marouane Fellaini to the starting XI turned out well, as Fellaini allowed Kevin De Bruyne (the best player in the whole quarterfinals part) to play much higher up the pitch. Meanwhile, Brazilian midfielders Paulinho and Fernandinho were neutralized by Chadli.
With Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and De Bruyne deployed in a front three, the Red Devils chewed Brazil's defense apart on the counter in the first half, and the three seemed to score almost every time they attacked. Without the suspended defensive midfielder Casemiro, whose absence left the Seleção back line exposed, Brazil was left like sheep surrounded by wolves.
However, Belgium is not totally perfect. Brazil actually had several quality chances to score in the early parts of the game and then dominated the second half with 17 shots to just one from Belgium.
Pre-tournament FIFA ranking: 7
Quarterfinal result: 2-0 vs. Uruguay
After a thrilling victory over Argentina in the round of 16, Les Bleus had made themselves known that they are indeed a strong team to contend with, and they have proven it by defeating Uruguay 2-0 last Friday.
A dominant defense that has been consistent throughout the tournament had completely rendered the Uruguayans disabled, who seemed helpless without injured striker Edinson Cavani.
France's midfield tandem N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba have risen up to become the best in Russia, while Antoine Griezmann who has kind of struggled to find his top form at the World Cup had performed his best so far in this tournament against Uruguay.
Match 61: France vs. Belgium - July 10, 2018 (21:00 local time)
Match 62: Croatia vs. England - July 11, 2018 (21:00 local time)
Which team are you rooting for?