FIFA WC: Riveting Clashes Await as Contest Enters Business End
The second round of the World Cup in Russia is over and the tournament has stayed true to its theme of ‘upsets and heart breaks’.
If the group stage saw defending champions Germany take a leave, things became more intense in the next round, with Argentina, Portugal and Spain going out too.
Underdogs continued to grab headlines – host Russia, the lowest ranked team in the World Cup, knocked out Spain on penalties. And later, Denmark and Japan did enough to give Croatia and Belgium the much-needed wake up call.
The English side also found it tough against Colombia, only to beat them on penalties and live to fight another day.
But now, the Round of 16 is over and the last eight have been identified – and some exhilarating clashes await us.
Though Brazil and France are still there and look poised to win the cup, it won’t be a surprise if we have a new champion or old war horses Uruguay or England hold the trophy on 15 July in the Russian capital of Moscow.
The quarter finals will be played on Friday (6 July) and Saturday (7 July).
France vs Uruguay
In the first match of the quarters, Uruguay and France will be facing each other. Both sides look good after convincing wins in the Round of 16. France denied Messi a longer stay in the tournament while Uruguay ensured Portugal don’t replicate their Euro 2016 success.
The France vs Uruguay match will be all about French attack vs Uruguayan defense. Diego Godin and Co will strive to find an answer to Mbappe’s pace – who had a memorable match against Argentina.
The duo of Cavani and Suarez has also showed how the Uruguayan attack can’t be taken lightly. Cavani has scored thrice in his last two matches, so the French will be cautious of him. But there is an issue with his knee and there are chances that he might not start on Friday.
Brazil vs Belgium
The next match involving Brazil and Belgium is worthy to be a final of any competition. If previous matches are anything to go by, then this match can either be a goal fest or a stingy one – with either of the teams just squeezing through.
The Belgium team may be scoring goals galore in all their matches, but things may change against Brazil. With a defense that has conceded only one goal till now, Brazil look strong at the back as well as up front. Neymar and Firmino scoring in the last match has ushered in good news for the South Americans.
On the other hand, Belgium’s defense gave way to Japan as well as minnows Tunisia; so the only way they can get better of Brazil is by out-scoring them. And with Lukaku, Hazard and Mertens in their line-up, that may not be a tough task.
England vs Sweden
On Saturday, 7 July, the second day of the quarters, Sweden and England will lock horns for a semi-final berth. Not expecting many goals in this match, as Sweden like to sit back and opt for a counter attack.
England will be on a high after their triumph against Colombia, while Sweden will also look to carry forward their good run.
English captain Harry Kane will continue to play a pivotal role for the side and might be successful in penetrating the Swedish defense to get that important goal – which may end up being decisive.
Croatia vs Russia
Saturday will also see host Russia taking on Croatia, who, after a string of good matches, got a wake-up call against Denmark.
Russia, who knocked out 2010 champions Spain, have surprised everybody, even their fans, with the way they have progressed in the tournament. Nobody had expected them to go past the group stage.
Croatia with their star-studded midfield will look to get back to their goal-scoring form and will turn to captain Modric for inspiration. The Croatian defense has done well till now, especially their goalkeeper Subasic – the hero from last match.
Russia, on the other hand, would like to believe that offense is the best defense. With Cheryshev, Artem Dzyuba and Golovin having had decent outings – Russia will depend on their attack to take them deeper into the tournament.