1) Both semifinals kick off at 6am:

France v Belgium on Wednesday, Croatia v England on Thursday. (Watch it live on Sky, and/or follow the NZ Herald blog)

2) If you are recording any of the remaining World Cup games you can breathe easy - Sky says it has fixed the error which meant customers missed the penalty shootout in the Croatia v Russia quarter-final. "Any recordings will capture the extended game," a spokesperson assured NZME. "Customers won't have to manually extend their recordings."

3) France and Belgium are very familiar football foes, but have met just twice previously in the World Cup, the French winning both in games in 1938 (Paris) and 1986 (Puebla, Mexico), the latter being the third place playoff.


Overall, including a lot of 'friendlies', Belgium lead 30 - 24 with 19 draws. But in genuine tournament games, it is France who have won five, Belgium three, and three draws. They last met in 2015, Belgium winning the friendly by a goal in Paris.

4) Croatia and England will be meeting for the first time in a World Cup. They have met seven times with England winning four, Croatia two and a draw. In European Championship matches, Croatia lead 2 - 1. But England crushed Croatia in two World Cup qualifiers before the 2010 tournament in South Africa.

5) Typical odds to win the World Cup are now France 2-1, Belgium 11-4, England 5-2, Croatia 4-1.

6) For those into nicknames, France are The Blues, Belgium are The Red Devils, England are The Three Lions and Croatia are The Blazers or The Fiery Ones.

7) Current world rankings are Belgium third, France seventh, England 12th, Croatia 20th.

8) England (1966) and France (1998) have won the World Cup, Belgium and Croatia never. France lost the 2006 final to Italy.

Zinedine Zidane scoring as France beat Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final. Photo / Getty Images
Zinedine Zidane scoring as France beat Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final. Photo / Getty Images

9) France and Belgium will meet at Saint Petersburg Stadium

, with a capacity just over 64,000. Russian leader Vladimir Putin comes from this city, and there is a famous roller coaster park called Wonder Island next to the football ground. It will be a new World Cup venue for both teams.


10) England and Croatia play at Moscow's 81,000 capacity Luzhniki Stadium, the 1980 Olympic Games centrepiece. Construction of the site's new stadium — with athletics track removed — was completed last year. Neither team has played there during the tournament.

The Moscow stadium. Photo / Getty iMages
The Moscow stadium. Photo / Getty iMages

11) Belgium have lost Thomas Meunier

to suspension, after a second yellow card. All yellow cards are now wiped, meaning it will take a semifinal red card for a player to miss the final.

12) The four managers are Didier Deschamps (France), Roberto Martinez (Belgium), Gareth Southgate (England) and Zlatko Dalić (Croatia).

Both Southgate and Deschamps — defensive players — had long international careers for their countries.

As a player the celebrated Deschamps led France to 1998 World Cup glory.

Southgate is England's 17th manager since 1966 World Cup winner Alf Ramsay departed in 1974.

Spaniard Martinez, also a defensive midfielder, played for a number of mid-quality clubs in England where his managerial high point was at Everton.

Dalić began his managerial career with Croatian club Varteks, the last team he played for.

France's Didier Deschamps...in the frame to win the World Cup as a manager and player. Photo / Getty Images
France's Didier Deschamps...in the frame to win the World Cup as a manager and player. Photo / Getty Images

13) The four captains

all have links to the English club Tottenham Hotspur. France are led by goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, their captain since 2012 who has played more than 100 games for his country. Lloris is the longtime Spurs 'keeper. England are led by Harry Kane, the Spurs striker. Croatian captain Luka Modric played more than 120 games for Spurs before joining current European Champions Real Madrid. Belgium captain Eden Hazard was in talks with Spurs' before joining their London rivals Chelsea in 2012.

14) The semifinal multiple goalscorers in the tournament...Harry Kane (England) 6 (including 3 penalties); Romelu Lukaku (Belgium) 4; Antoine Griezmann (France) 3 (2 pen), Kylian Mbappe (France) 3; Luka Modric (Croatia) 2 (1 pen).

15) Average squad ages...Croatia 28, Belgium 27, France 26, England 26.

16) Average caps (pre-tournament)...Belgium 44, Croatia 40, France 26, England 20

17) Path to the semifinals.-
beat Australia 2-1
beat Peru 1-0
drew with Denmark 0-0
beat Argentina 4-3
beat Uruguay 2-0

beat Panama 3-0
beat Tunisia 5-2
beat England 1-0
beat Japan 3-2
beat Brazil 2-1

beat Tunisia 2-1
beat Panama 6-1
lost to Belgium 1-0
beat Colombia 1-1 (4-3 on pens)
beat Sweden 2-0

beat Nigeria 2-0
beat Argentina 3-0
beat Iceland 2-1
beat Denmark 1-1 (3-2 on pens)
beat Russia 2-2 (4-3 on pens)