After a scintillating four day of football period that left many shocked by some performances such as Spain’s terrible show against Russia, the 2018 Fifa World Cup enters a two-day hiatus from July 4th to July 6th after which the last eight teams will battle to play in the semifinals.
Uruguay vs France
Uruguay did an impressive job thrushing Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal 2-1 in normal time, and are the best defensively-organized side left in the competition. They will take on France which finally came alive in a fuss less 4-2 dispatching off Argentina, a rather weaker team.
Expect the immovable object of Uruguay’s defense to meet the irresistible force of Kylian Mbappe and company. Kylian Mbappe is already the teenager with the most goals in the world cup history, but this game is too close to call. This game pits two teams who approach the game differently, France always wants to dominate the game and score plenty of goals while Uruguay is more comfortable defending and keeping clean sheets. It could go to extra times or penalties to solve this mystery.
Prediction: Uruguay will make it tough on France, and this one has extra time and penalties written all over it. A real clash of styles, but I hope France squeeze past Uruguay
Brazil vs Belgium
Brazil finally meet a worthy foe, the great attacking side that is Belgium. After Belgium came from 2 goals down to squeak past Japan 3-2, it was clear that this is a side that has so much talent on the bench. However, Brazil will not be as friendly as Japan were in relinquishing a two-goal advantage. The suspension of Casemiro could be vital. Manchester city’s Fernandinho will be the man tasked with feeling the sizeable gap left in midfield. I quite fancy Brazil here and a high scoring game is likely between some of the world’s best attackers. The battle between Thiago Silva and Lukaku will be a great one to watch, and Belgium will have to be careful against Willian and Neymar on the wings.
Prediction: Brazil has the experience and defensive stability to push Belgium all the way. Belgium will have to be more defensively solid than they were against Japan, otherwise, Brazil will beat them handily.
Russia vs Croatia
The hosts have outdone themselves by getting to the quarters. During the turgid game against Spain, they look out of their depth but held on through sheer willpower and team spirit to win via penalties. They meet a Croatia side that underperformed against Denmark yet one that surely has a much better side. This could be a very one-sided game, if not in goals, then at least in possession and territory. I would be very surprised if Croatia did not advance to the semifinals.
Prediction: I expect Russia’s run to end here against Croatia who were disappointing against Denmark yet have at least another two levels they can reach.
England vs Sweden
England battled valiantly past extra time and penalties against Colombia in a game that was disappointing in quality but not drama. At one point in the game, the commentator Peter Drury was quite convinced that a red card was imminent, but the referee chose to be lenient. Sweden will be opponents who have battled adversity all the way to the quarters, beating Mexico handily and then squeezing against Switzerland in a game that was not the best advert for world cup football. Both teams are very good at set pieces, and while I think England are the better side, they will be pushed all the way by a Swedish side that is easily the tallest team left in the competition.
Prediction: England has a better side than Sweden yet may not be built to break down a stubborn defense such as Sweden’s. England will have to play at their best to sneak a 1-0 win here.
In summary, while many of the more heralded sides such as Argentina and Germany have exited the competition, teams such as Russia and Sweden are making history. The quarterfinals may not be all brilliant games full of attacking prowess and goals but may turn out to be tight affairs for example England vs Colombia game. They are still a must watch, however, and I will be backing Brazil, France, England and Croatia to makeit to the semifinals.