By Elton Gomes
The 2018 edition of the FIFA World Cup can be said to be the most exciting and dramatic football world cup as the big guns including Germany, Argentina, Portugal, and Spain have bowed out. The tournament in Russia has seen defending champions Germany exit in the group stage, it has set a record for the highest number of own goals, and put to test the hotly debated virtual assistant referee system.
The tournament has reached the quarterfinals stage. After a pulsating world cup, no team would want to take their opponents lightly any more. France, Uruguay, Croatia, Russia, Brazil, Belgium, Sweden, and England have qualified for the quarterfinals. As the world prepares to witness this dazzling display of football, here’s a brief analysis of the quarterfinals.
France vs Uruguay
The Les Blues will go head to head with Uruguay at Nizhny Novgorod on July 6. France will look to Kylian Mbappe after the 19-year-old’s brace saw France defeat Argentina 4-3 in the round of last 16. Mbappe will be up against Uruguay’s defenders Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin. Uruguay will rely on star strikers Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani to breach the French defence, though Cavani might be doubtful to start the match. Cavani limped off after scoring in the match against Portugal, which Uruguay won 2-1. France looks to have the upper hand in the match as they are favourites to win it. Moreover, no South American side has won on European soil for the past 60 years.
Brazil vs Belgium
Brazil will face Belgium at the Kazan Arena on July 6. All eyes will be on Neymar’s antiques as the Brazilian is in top form. Neymar’s play-acting received more coverage than Brazil’s 2-0 win over Mexico. Belgium scripted a remarkable comeback after being two goals down to defeat Japan 3-2 within 90 minutes. The Red Devils will look towards Romelu Lukaku who has been in outstanding form since the start of the tournament. Yannick Carrasco and Nacer Chadli will also look to threaten the Brazilian defense. Alongside Neymar, Brazil will depend upon Roberto Firmino and Paulinho. A disciplined Belgium will look to overcome a pacy Brazil, but it seems that Brazil might win this one.
Croatia vs Russia
Russia is in high spirits after defeating Spain 4-3 via penalties, but they will need to do a lot more to overcome an inspired Croatia who defeated Denmark 3-2 on penalties. The two teams will face each other at Sochi on July 7. The odds favour Croatia as they defeated Russia 3-1 in a friendly game in 2015. Russia may be concerned over the fitness of veteran player Yuri Zhirkov, and will have to put on their best game to overcome a Luka Modric-inspired Croatia.
Sweden vs England
Sweden will face England at the Samara Arena on July 7. After defeating Switzerland 1-0, Sweden will look to continue their fantastic run in Russia. England will be counting on their captain Harry Kane to disrupt the Swedes. A gritty Sweden will be highly optimistic going into the game. Gareth Southgate’s England managed to overcome a penalty shootout against Colombia and will hope to maintain the momentum as they enter the game as favourites.
If Brazil and France win their respective fixtures, the teams could meet each other in a very exciting semi-final. The winner of the Russia-Croatia match will face England or Sweden in the second semifinal match. In a highly unpredictable world cup like this, results could swing in anyone’s favour. Nonetheless, the world cup has produced some outstanding football stars and has set the tone for Qatar in 2022.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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