Uruguay vs France 10 AM ET, July 6th, 2018, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
Two powerhouses in world soccer face off each in the quarterfinals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Uruguay has won two World Cups, those wins came in 1930 and 1950; France has one World Cup win from 1998. Both teams did not look good in their first two games respectfully, but both have looked better in their recent game. France beat Argentina in a thrilling 4-3 win to advance to the quarterfinals; France came from behind a 2-1 deficit to beat Argentina in regulation. France looked really good in the attacking areas of the field, led by up and coming Kylian Mbappe who had a fantastic game against Argentina. The defense was not good since they conceded three goals against a struggling Argentinian side, proves to be a concern for this French squad. Uruguay has looked solid on both sides of the pitch, attacking and defending. Their attack may have taken a hit with star striker Edinson Cavani set to miss the next match and will be missed for Uruguay, especially after his fantastic performance against Portugal in the round of 16. Uruguay will continue to depend on its solid defense, Uruguay have only conceded one goal at the World Cup and that came in the last match against Portugal. This will come down will France be able to create opportunities and play at a fast pace and not let Uruguay’s stingy defense get to them. With Cavani most likely not playing in this match, Uruguay will rely on their defense to push them through this game and hope Luis Suarez can carry the load at the attacking end due to the absence of Cavani. Expect this game not to be a goal fest and do not be surprised if this game goes into extra time. Extra time would favor the Uruguayans more than the French, so look out for that.
Prediction: Uruguay 1-0
Brazil vs Belgium 2 PM ET, July 6th, 2018, Kazan, Russia
Probably the best quarterfinals match up out of the four possible, Brazil take on Belgium. This game will provide lots of exciting attacking play, so expect goals from both sides. Brazil has not won a World Cup since 2002 and is looking to bring this World Cup home especially after bottling it four years ago when it was played in their backyard. After a shaky 1-1 draw against Switzerland, Brazil continues to get and look better with each game. The attacking part of their game is looking more fluent while their defense have looked solid with only conceding one goal so far at the World Cup. Belgium got here by beating Japan 3-2 in the round of 16 and for a second it looked like they would be going out. Belgium came from behind a two goal deficit to beat Japan, scoring the winning goal in the 94th minute of the game. Belgium’s golden generation look to lead Belgium to their first semifinals at a World cup since 1986; when they recorded their best finish at a World Cup, finishing fourth. This is the chance for this generation of players to make their mark on Belgium soccer history by beating the current favorites of the tournament Brazil. This game has all the making of being a World Cup classic, let’s hope that will be the case.
Prediction: Brazil 3-2
Sweden vs England 10 AM ET, July 7th, 2018, Samara, Russia
Now we get to the other side of the bracket, where this side looks a lot easier than the other side. England look to make it to their first semifinals at a World Cup since 1990, while Sweden look to do the same for the first time since 1994 (when the World Cup was hosted in the United States) where they finished third. England got here by winning a dramatic penalty shootout against James Rodriguez less Colombia. England really should have not struggled against a Colombia with their star man Rodriguez but they did have trouble. Colombia sat back and defended and tried to hit England off counter attacks, as a result England should have been able to control the tempo of the game. But without a true playmaker in the midfield for England, this was going to be a tough task. England at the end barely got by Colombia and are now in the quarterfinals where they are set to face a tough Swedish team. Sweden continues to play their brand of soccer, team plays hard together, everybody defends; it is like if one player goes down the whole team will go down together. Sweden are tough to break down, their defense have been nothing short of excellence at the World Cup, will prove to be a tough challenge for England. This match will be hard to predict, meaning it will be more interesting to watch in order to see how this game plays out.
Predictions: England on penalties
Russia vs Croatia 2 PM ET, July 7th, 2018, Sochi, Russia
Many did not expect Russia to advance out of the group stage, let alone get to the quarterfinals. Well they are here and now the hosts look to continue their magical run by making another step forward and that is getting to the semifinals. Russia got here by beating Spain on penalties, in a game where many were surprised to have gone that far, especially as Russia were major underdogs coming into that game. There is no doubt that Russia will have the home crowd behind them in Sochi, and this something they can use to their advantage in this match against Croatia. Four out of the past six hosts of the World Cup have gotten to the semifinals; can Russia make it five out seven? Croatia has looked fantastic during this World Cup, even if they struggled against Denmark in the round of 16. First half they played very well, after that they slowed down but they were able to grind out the win to advance to the quarterfinals. This Croatia team has a special bond and everyone has one goal in mind, getting to the semifinals and matching and try to go farther than what the 1998 Croatia team did at the 1998 World Cup. Croatia has the chance to do that since they are favorites coming into this match. Croatia is better at most positions, maybe even every position than Russia. Spain is also better at every position than Russia and that did not help them. Point is when you get to the knockout stages of the World Cup you cannot take any team easy or you will be caught by surprised. Add the fact you are facing the hosts, who have the home crowd behind them, you cannot take them lightly even the slightest.
Prediction: Croatia 3-1
Dino Pavleka: @dino_ATL
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