And then there were eight

Friday, 6 July, 2018

What began on 14 June with 32 teams is nearing its end on 15 July, but before we get to the World Cup Final the quarter finals have to be sorted and they begin today and finish tomorrow. The candidates are Uruguay, France, Brazil, Belgium, Sweden, England, Russia and Croatia.

Part of the fun of the World Cup is making predictions, so here goes:

Uruguay vs. France, Nizhny Novgorod. Referee: Néstor Pitana (Argentina). According to the latest reports, Edinson Cavani, Uruguay’s star striker, is probably out of this evening’s game due to injury. If true, it’s a massive blow to the South Americans and his absence would tilt the scales further towards France, who can depend upon Mbappé to run Godín ragged. France, however, are more show than substance at times so it will be interesting to see how they’ll cope with the physical “toughness” (dirt) they’re going to encounter today. Verdict: France by a metre.

Brazil vs. Belgium, Kazan. Referee: Milorad Mažić (Serbia). With Belgium, we were promised another “golden generation” that was going to knock the socks off every team that dared stand in its way. And what happened against Japan? A Belgian winner in the last minute. Brazil, on the other hand, have changed their ways since that 7-1 hammering by Germany in 2014 and they’re one of the most efficient teams in the tournament. Neymar adds that extra element of Brazilian eccentricity, even if it’s mostly gaudy, but he’s usually good for a goal. Verdict: Brazil by a mile.

Tomorrow, the second group of quarter finalists.

France 1998

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