World Cup predictions: Paul Mariner, Ricardo Puig survive to advance to final

The World Cup has entered the final straight with just four matches still to be played -- and that means we're one step closer to discovering who will be crowned our predictions king.

Gab Marcotti, Craig Burley, Steve Nicol, Stewart Robson and Alex Pareja failed to make it through the quarterfinal stage and are left to consider what might have been. It was particularly harsh on Alex, who was going through until Russia forced a late 2-2 draw vs. Croatia. That robbed Alex of a correct score, and in turn gave Mauricio Pedroza a correct score. It can all change so quickly.

We've got a good mix of pundits for the semifinal stage: Paul Mariner and Ale Moreno (ESPN FC), Mauricio (ESPN Deportes), Leonardo Bertozzi (ESPN Brasil) and Ricardo Puig (ESPN Mexico). The two pundits with the highest score in this round will go head to head for the predictions crown in the third/fourth placed playoff and the final. In the result of a tie for the top two the tiebreaker will be tournament average.

The first semi-final on Tuesday sees France take on Belgium. Four of our pundits have gone for Les Bleus over Roberto Martinez's Red Devils, and it could be a real battle to reach the predictions final as Ale, Leonardo and Ricardo have all gone for a 2-1 victory. Paul, though, sees it being far tighter and says 1-0 to France. Only Mauricio is backing Belgium, saying it will be 2-1 to them.

UPDATE: France come through our first semi-final with a 1-0 win over Belgium thanks to a Samuel Umtiti header. Four of our experts pick up the 10 points for Les Bleus' victory but only Paul Mariner picks up the 20-pt bonus for predicting the exact scoreline.

Mariner has a 20-point cushion going into our second semi-final but with three of his rivals hot on his heels his place in the final is far from secure. Come back tomorrow to see how our lads do predicting Croatia vs. England.

And then on Wednesday it's the turn of Croatia to meet England. Yet again four experts go the same way.... England. Ale and Leonardo once more match the same scoreline, 2-1 -- so if they are level for second we'll have to split them on tournament average! Paul and Ricardo, however, say it will be just 1-0 to Gareth Southgate's men. Mauricio says 1-1 and that means penalties!

UPDATE: As has been the case all tournament, we had plenty of drama both on the pitch and with our predictions. Croatia's 2-1 win in extra time means no points were earned in the second game. With the scores standing pat, FC TV's Paul Mariner advances on the strength of nailing the exact 1-0 scoreline for France-Belgium.

Our second finalist wasn't so easy to confirm as Ricardo Puig, Ale Moreno and Leonardo Bertozzi all landed level on 10 points for the round. When going to our tournament points per game tie breaker, Puig came out on top (10.8ppg), narrowly edging Ale Moreno (9.23ppg) and also finishing ahead of Bertozzi (8.18ppg).

So that's that. We started with 29 pundits and we are down to our final two. Paul Mariner vs. Ricardo Puig. Two pundits left and two games left to pick. Who will take home the crown? Will it be the former England international Mariner who "brings it home" or ESPN Mexico's ace pundit -- and apparently predictor -- Ricardo Puig?

Our pundits know what they are talking about, so that means a France vs. England final. Right?

Pundits get 10 points for a correct result and a bonus 20 if they get the scoreline too.

Who will take home the crown? Find out this week.

See how all of our pundits got on in the quarterfinals. Plus, it's not too late to join the pundits' league in Match Predictor.