We’re just a couple of days away from the semi-finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ and there’s still plenty happening in Russia in the lead-up to the big games.
A Croatian defender has avoided a ban from the last-four clash against England following a FIFA investigation after his side’s quarter-final win over Russia.
RUSSIA WRAP: Semi-final match-ups confirmed
Elsewhere, Belgium’s Eden Hazard is proving he’s quite adept as a tipster, while a Russian legend has called it a day after his side’s dramtic exit.
All that and a little more in our Russia Watch.
VIDA FREE TO FACE ENGLAND
FIFA has given Domagoj Vida a warning over his conduct but the Croatia defender is free to play against England in the World Cup semi-final.
The centre-back was investigated over comments he made in a social media video after Croatia's quarter-final victory over hosts Russia.
Appearing alongside former Croatia international Ognjen Vukojevic - with whom he played at Dynamo Kiev - Vida said: "Glory to Ukraine."
The phrase has been used by Ukrainian anti-Russian nationalists, with Vukojevic adding: "This victory is for Dynamo and Ukraine."
FIFA's disciplinary code prohibits "political slogans in any form" with "anyone who provokes the general public during a match" facing a two-game ban.
However, FIFA confirmed on Sunday that Vida will not be punished over the incident.
Vida, an extra-time goalscorer in Croatia's defeat of Russia on penalties, will now be available as his side aim to reach the World Cup final for the first time.
HAZARD THE PSYCHIC?
It seems Belgium skipper Eden Hazard isn’t just a remarkably good footballer.
The Red Devils and Chelsea playmaker also seems to be a pretty good tipster having successfully predicted his nation would meet France in the semi-finals, even before the tournament started.
On his Instagram account, Hazard used the FIFA World Cup™ predictor to show a France-Belgium semi-final, although he was slightly off in the other semi, tipping England to face Argentina.
Hazard also foresaw Uruguay beating Portugal before falling to France and Brazil beating Mexico ahead of Belgium emerging as quarter-final winners.
So will his prediction of Belgium facing England in the final come true? Will know in a few days’ time.
MBAPPE EXPECTING “WEIRD” REUNION WITH FRENCH IDOL
France starlet Kylian Mbappe admits it will be bizarre to see his former idol Thierry Henry on the Belgium bench when the two nations fight for a place in the FIFA World Cup™ final on Wednesday (AEST).
Henry, a 1998 champion with Les Bleus, finds himself in a peculiar position leading into the semi-final encounter in St Petersburg as he plots the downfall of his home nation.
The former Arsenal forward has assisted Belgium boss Roberto Martinez since 2016 and could provide valuable insights into the team he represented on 123 occasions.
Mbappe, long likened in playing style to Henry, anticipates mixed feelings from both sides.
"It's going to be weird to see Thierry again. He is someone I like a lot," the teenager told Telefoot.
"There is a lot of respect between us. He was a great player, he inspired me.
"He is French, but he will be on the bench of the opponent. It will surely be weird for him too."
RUSSIAN VETERAN HANGS UP HIS BOOTS
Sergei Ignashevich has announced his retirement from football following Russia's World Cup quarter-final defeat to Croatia.
The 38-year-old defender returned to the national team for the finals and played a key part in his side's surprise run to the last eight.
Ignashevich, who won a record 127 caps for his country, played in all five of Russia's matches and scored in their two penalty shoot-outs in the knockout phase, including on Saturday in Sochi, where Croatia triumphed 4-3 after a 2-2 draw.
"There's an endless stream of messages on WhatsApp and Instagram and no way to tell everyone, 'Thank you for the kind words'," he wrote on his official Instagram page.
"I couldn't imagine that I would finish my football career on such a high note!
"I'm happy I was part of this team, with this coach, and of our country's football for nearly 20 years."
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