The Last 8

The 2018 World Cup Quarterfinals

We’re going to try these predictions again. At this point quite a few stages of this unpredictable World Cup has thoroughly kicked our butts so we’re not going to ask you to place bets at your bookie based on anything we say just yet BUT we do have something going for us and that’s this: We may have been wrong about some of the final scores but we did predict how the games would possibly go and that’s because we really do know our stuff. We really are mas…..ahhhh never mind, we’ll shut up now and just get to it.

Uruguay v France

Tise Okuo: Can the French perform well in a game were they’re supposed to be the major aggressors? Will the absence of Blaise Matuidi cause an imbalance for Didier Deschamps? Can Kylian Mbappe perform against a set of defenders who actually know what they are doing (i.e. the anti-Argentina)? Will Edinson Cavani be fully fit because if he is, he is on an absolute tear now and will score. Can the tigerish Lucas Torreira shut down Paul Pogba’s influence? Will Uruguay punish France’s defensive errors?
Griezmann has called Uruguay the Atletico Madrid of this cup and he’s right, they outwork, out-hustle, and out-stifle teams. In that game versus Argentina, France looked like the attacking machine everyone wants them to be but that defense invited them to do so and Uruguay will not be so kind. This could be a really boring game decided by whichever team’s attackers are more clinical at finishing half chances and more importantly, which defense makes less mistakes. Suarez + Cavani vs Mbappe + Griezmann + Giroud may be a wash BUT Godin + Gimenez > Umtiti + Varane
Prediction: Uruguay 2-1 France (*if Cavani plays)

James Wilkinson: Which version of France’s attack will show up – the one with Kylian Mbappe looking like a star or the one that’s frustrated us all World Cup? Even if France can look fluid going forward, will it even matter against a Uruguay defense that has been near impenetrable so far? Is Cavani going to be fit enough to make the impact needed against an equally stout French defense? Complacency seemed the cause of some of the goals against Argentina, will France be able to stay locked in against a Uruguay side that aims to lull opponents (and fans) to sleep? This really has the potential to be a rock fight of a match.
Uruguay is a strong as they come defensively and absolutely will not be caught vulnerable. France is best understood as a defensive juggernaut who just happens to boast some awesome attackers. I don’t think it will be pretty, I don’t think it will be fun. But France is the better team of these two, and Deschamps’ tactics actually fit this matchup. France just keep plugging along.
Prediction: France 1 – Uruguay 0

Brazil v Belgium

Tise: Will Martinez start Vincent Kompany (it’d be a mistake) or supersub Fellaini (he should as it might be smart to win that midfield steel battle early)? Can Eden Hazard provide more direct influence on Belgium attack? Will Kevin De Bruyne once again be playmaking from deep? Will Tite give Roberto Firmino the start over Gabriel Jesus? Can Philippe Coutinho punish Belgium with his electric movement? Will Neymar keep up his scoring string?
Japan ripped all kinds of holes behind Belgium’s fullbacks until they tired out and Martinez gave them something else to worry about with Fellaini and while Brazil has been quite adept at switching passes quickly behind fullbacks, they do have wingers who can trouble Belgium IF they decide to swing passes that way. If Belgium maintain that starting central midfield of Witsel and De Bruyne, Brazil will punish them, that midfield can fly against Japan, Panama and Tunisia but that’s far too lightweight versus A Selecao. Brazil have made a few enemies with Neymar’s ‘antics’ but they’re a team can beat opponents in a host of ways. Belgium will certainly look to own the play and dominate possession v Brazil and that will be their first mistake.
Prediction: Brazil 3-1 Belgium

James: Will Belgium trot out a back three again against a team much better equipped to harm their Wingbacks? If Japan was creating space behind not-a-wingback-playing-wingback Yannick Carrasco, what sort of horrors will Willian unleash? Is replacing suspended Casemiro with Fernandinho no big deal or something to worry about? Can Marcelo recover in time to rectify Brazil’s suddenly leaky fullback situation? Lots of attention has been brought to Neymar’s… ummm… antics – so it’s worth noting he’s on a yellow card and would miss the semi’s if he gets carded from simulation. Will King of the Island of Misfit Toys Marouane Fellaini come up big yet again? Belgium had looked like World beaters in the group but only escaped at the death in the round of 16. Brazil has rounded back into form and looks once again the
best team in the world. This is a heavyweight fight between two of the remaining favorites. Expect drama, expect excitement, and expect Brazil to eek out a win against their stiffest challenge so far.
Prediction: Brazil 3 – Belgium 2

Sweden v England

James: Will Sweden continue to finish in front of net with the quality of a middle school JV team? How will England deal with the organized, cohesive, strong Swedish defense without the presence of a true creative player in midfield? Sweden has the size and intelligence to stymie England on set pieces, can England create more chances from open play? Will the mass of Englishmen constantly shouting “It’s Coming Home!” finally jinx a historically snakebit England side? Versus Colombia, England escaped by the narrowest of margins in PK’s, and suddenly the bracket has opened up and it looks like their curse has been lifted. Not so fast my friend. Sweden are the worst possible matchup for England. They’re incredibly organized in defense and will frustrate an England side devoid of creativity. If it weren’t for Sweden’s inability to actually score goals, England would be in real trouble. They’ll pull this one out, but it’s not going to be any more pleasant than the first one. Good thing they’ve fixed their PK issues, right? RIGHT?
Prediction: England 0 – Sweden 0, England wins in Penalties

Tise: Can the Swedes totally stifle yet another attack at the World Cup? Can the Swedish attack finish their chances more efficiently? Will the absence of Mikael Lustig affect Sweden’s compactness in defense? Can Harry Kane keep up his assault on opposing goalies? Can Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli finally come into their own? Will the English defense be able to cope with Sweden’s physical attack?
England are going to face an almighty fight from a Swedish team that is very stifling and tough to break. Harry Kane will have to be at his sharpest to get England through this round, this will be a really close fight and 90 minutes may not settle it.
Prediction: England 1-1 Sweden* (the Swedes win on penalties)

Russia v Croatia

James: Will Croatia show more than they did in their 120 minutes against Denmark? Both teams just played matches with extra time, so will tired legs create costly mistakes late? Will Russia try and pack deep like they did against Spain or play the open expansive style that sent them through the group? Akinfeev developed a reputation as mistake prone and then went supernova between the pipes against Spain, can he possibly be that good again? Will a certain Russian political figure be watching the match from the VAR room, just waiting to threaten the officials in a crucial moment? Russia is suddenly the plucky underdog in the quarters, but barring – how can I put this – outside intervention, it feels like their run is coming to a close. Croatia are a strong team top to bottom who you feel will come out with something to prove. Croatia to the Semis and the host nation bows out honorably
Prediction: Croatia 3 – Russia 1

Tise: Will Coach Cherchesov set his side up to play the counter attacking [park the bus] game or will the Russians be as aggressive going forward as they were in the group phase? Will Artem Dzyuba continue to torment opposing defenses? Can the Russians show the same strong mentality against a more direct Croatian side? Can Russia stifle Croatia like the Danes did? Will Ante Rebic be more clinical in front of goal (Or Kramaric if he gets the starting role)? Will Luka Modric be funneled into that deep playmaking role once again (He’s better and more influential further forward)? Will Croatia take some time off and fall asleep or will they maintain the intensity for the full game? Can Croatia show a viable plan B if Russia stifles them?
Croatia would be the bet if this were an ordinary game but this is the World Cup quarterfinals and the Russians are the host nation. If Russia plays conservatively and parks the Lada Niva, they’ll have good odds to win this game. If they come out to attack and try to be more expansive, it’ll spell trouble for them. I’ll bet on the adrenalin rush getting to Russia and them trying to play like they did in the group stages.
Prediction: Croatia 2-1 Russia

 

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