After 56 games the World Cup 2018 is down to its final eight teams, the national writes. The quarter final could go as predicted, or it could be as unpredictable as all previous matches. But all the four matches are up for analysis to answer the question: who will win the cup?
France vs Uruguay
France won Group C thanks to two wins and a draw, before two goals from Kylian Mbappe helped them win a seven-goal thriller with Argentina in the last 16. Uruguay had a 100 per cent record in Group A and two goals from Edinson Cavani inspired them to defeat European champions Portugal 2-1 on Saturday in the second round.
To say that previous meetings at the World Cup between the two teams have not been thrillers would be something of an understatement. They played out goalless draws, in group games, at the 2002 and 2010 World Cups. They also met in the group stages in 1966, with Uruguay winning 2-1. The teams last played in a friendly in June 2013, where a Luis Suarez goal gave Uruguay a 1-0 victory.
France were brilliant going forward against Argentina, but Mbappe and his teammates will not be afforded the same gaps in defence to run into by Uruguay. With Cavani’s injury doubt which likely to be limited Uruguay even if he does feature, the extra quality that France have makes them favorite.
Brazil vs Belgium
Brazil have improved as the tournament has progressed. After being held by Switzerland they won Group E by beating Costa Rica and Serbia, before Neymar and Roberto Firmino were on target in their 2-0 win over Mexico in the second round. Belgium scored nine goals in winning Group G and then came from two down to beat Japan 3-2 in the last 16 thanks to Nacer Chadli’s stoppage-time winner.
The positive omen for Brazil here is that the last time they won the World Cup in 2002 they defeated Belgium in the second round, with Rivaldo and Ronaldo both scoring.
Belgium will feel fate might be on their side after their fight back against Japan. But Brazil looked impressive against Mexico, and with Neymar getting fitter and more effective with every outing, the Belgians should be concerned. Brazil is favorite to win the match and move closer to that sixth world title.
Sweden vs England
Sweden showed considerable resolve to clinch top spot in Group F by beating Mexico, just days after experiencing the agony of a last-gasp defeat to Germany. A 1-0 win over Switzerland has got the side, featuring Al Ain’s Marcus Berg, into the quarter-finals. England went through in second spot in Group G after victories over Tunisia and Panama, before they triumphed on penalties against Colombia in the second round.
England’s 3-2 win over Sweden at Euro 2012 was their first win over the Scandinavians at a major tournament. They met in the group stages at the 2006 and 2002 World Cups, with the encounters ending respectively 2-2 and 1-1.
Sweden showed their mental strength in how they responded after losing to Germany, but England will have gained confidence from the manner in which they got past Colombia. With Harry Kane in superb form England’s captain could be the difference maker again, and they are predicted to reach the semi-finals with a victory.
Russia vs Croatia
Russia got off to a flier by beating Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening game of the tournament, and they went on to qualify in second place in Group A. They rode their luck at times against Spain, but knocked out the 2010 world champions on penalties to reach the quarter-finals. Croatia also made it to the quarter-finals thanks to spot-kicks, which got them past Denmark in the second round. Before then Zlatko Dalic’s men won Group D with maximum points.
The teams have never met at a major tournament before. Croatia beat Russia 3-1 in a friendly in November 2015 with Mario Mandzukic among the scorers.
This is where the adventure ends for Russia. Given they are the lowest ranked side in the competition getting to the last eight is a huge achievement.
Croatia were not good against Denmark, but Dalic, the former Al Ain manager, will know his side got away with that display and they should have too much for their hosts. Craotia is predictably to win against Russia.