So we are down to eight teams in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and the casualty list of footballing giants continue to grow. Germany was the first to go, following by Argentina, Portugal, Spain
France vs. Uruguay 6th July @ 10PM
Hats off to both teams who had to fight their way to this stage. France won 4-3 against a subpar Argentinian side whilst Uruguay won 2-1 against a relentless Portuguese side.
Les Bleus will have their work cut out for them against La Celeste. The French side has an array of attacking talents but how will they come up against the steely defenses set up by Uruguay?
Key Battles: Mbappe , Griezmann and Giroud vs. Godin and Ceceres
The French attackers have five goals shared amongst them, whilst the Uruguayan defense has only conceded one goal in four matches. This will surely be a battle of speed, skill and strength vs astute positioning and tough tackling. These are the guys who only allowed Ronaldo to have one shot on target and blocked four of them. The French trio will have to come up with something special to sneak, storm or speed past the giants that stand before them.
Cavani and Suarez vs. Varane and Umtiti
It would be a dream scenario for any club to have the Uruguayan attack pairing of Suarez and Cavani. They have a shared tally of five goals between them and are looked well poised to overcome the young French defense. The speedy Central defenders will have to be at the top of their game for them to have any hopes of stopping their opponents.
Advantage: France. Why you ask? There are no glaring weaknesses in their team and they have the stronger midfield with Pogba and Kante. Sure they might get caught on the counter or from open play, but i don’t expect them to loses possession of the ball easily. Uruguay should be able to put a goal past them, but France will most certainly be able to secure a victory by at least one goal.
Brazil vs. Belgium 7th July @ 2AM
With an immense amount quality in their squad, there was very little chance Brazil was going to lose out to Mexico. A nervy 2-0 win, but not their best performance.
Belgium had to come from two goals down to turn the tides against a very determined Japan. They left it late to come out winners in the 3-2 thriller!
Key Battles: Neymar JR and G.Jesus vs. Vertonghen and Alderweireld
For all his antics and theatrics, Neymar still remains one of the best no.10s in the world, and despite only registering one assist this tournament – G.Jesus’s speed is a force to be reckoned with. Seven goals in four matches in a decent return, but not what a squad like Brazil should be achieving. The Belgian defense has only conceded 4 goals in 4 games, however they are prone to mistakes as seen in their recent run in with Japan.
Coutinho, Willian and Paulinho vs Witsel, E. Hazard and De Bruyne
Both midfields are very well balanced with speedy dribblers and creative playmakers coupled with a more straightforward ball playing midfielder. It is honestly going to be a case of form coming in to this match, both sets of players cannot afford to lose focus during the match. Any dip in concentration could prove costly, as their opposite numbers need only half a chance to create opportunities.
R. Lukaku vs. T. Silva and Marcelo
It is amazing how this Brazil squad is so blessed with talent in every department. Bad enough Lukaku will have to deal with Silva, but if Marcelo is fit for the match – he’s going to have to wrestle with both of them. At 33 years of age, Silva might have lost some of his speed, but he more than makes up for it with his reading of the game, strength, positioning and tackling. Captain Marcelo has matured in to arguably the best full back in the world and is currently at his peak. Lukaku is probably going to get very limited chances at goal, and hopefully he is fine form to convert what he gets or rue the consequences later.
With the squad depth and talent, the advantage here goes to Brazil. Belgium can continue their run in the World Cup if they stay focused and hungry for 90 minutes and look to exploit the Brazilians should they happen to switch off. It’s definitely going to be an exciting match with both teams playing to win. With the likes of Neymar, Coutinho, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne playing, this is going to be very interesting to watch.