Everything You Need to Know Before the Start of the World Cup Semifinals

Including the viral #NeymarChallenge.

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The World Cup semifinals kick off in Russia this afternoon when the favorites to win the whole thing line up against the most impressive attacking team in the whole tournament. France, favored by oddmakers to hoist the cup Sunday, and Belgium, whose 14 goals lead all teams in Russia, kick off at 2pm.

Both countries have shown off their offensive firepower so far in the tournament, with France’s Kylian Mbappe emerging as the breakout star of the World Cup and Belgium’s triumvirate of Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne looking unstoppable. But both teams also have world class goal keepers in France’s Hugo Lloris and Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois. Tuesday’s winner might come down which one of those two can best withstand the onslaught that awaits him.

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Wednesday will bring the other semifinal, which has England and Croatia battling for the second spot in the final. The Brits are the favorites to advance, thanks in part to golden boot front-runner Harry Kane, who’s slotted home six goals in England’s five games. Croatia isn’t scared though, with head coach Zlatko Dalic declaring that his team was able to keep Messi scoreless in its group round match against Argentina, so Kane shouldn’t be a problem either.

While the semifinal matches are today’s World Cup headline, they’re not the only story. Even with Brazil being sent home by Belgium, Neymar is still in the news. And not for something good. 

The Brazilian superstar has been widely mocked for his dramatic reactions to seemingly innocuous offensives on the field in Russia and now he’s inspired meme. They call it the #NeymarChallenge. 

And Brazil’s not the only country no longer in Russia that’s getting attention. So too is the U.S.A., which never even made it there.

Rumors are swirling this week about a potential new coach for the USMNT. One outlet is reporting that Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli has received an offer to guide the stars and stripes back to the World Cup in 2022. There are plenty of others who could take the job, but whoever it is will be dealing with a team that disappointed in qualification for this World Cup and needs to take a step forward to make it in 2022. 

If all this has you wondering why the U.S. is so middling when it comes to international soccer, Business Insider spoke to an expert to get answers. 

This is what soccer writer Noah Davis says it boils down to:

– Youth soccer in the U.S. is too expensive, limiting the talent pool to those who have the money to afford to play. 

– The U.S. lacks coaching and scouting talent.

– The country is so big that it’s hard to find the stars.