A total of 32 teams made it to the World Cup Finals in Russia this summer, after the Round of 16, 24 of those teams have seen their interest in the tournament ended. Only eight teams remain in contention to be crowned the World Cup holders 2018.
A Favourable Draw?
One of the strange things about having a pre-determined draw, is that after the group stage, it does become possible to map your progress to the final, although of course some unusual results can throw up a few unexpected teams progressing.
That is certainly the case in the bottom half of the draw in Russia this summer. While France take on Uruguay and Brazil face Belgium in the top half, arguably the four strongest teams remaining in the tournament, the remaining quarterfinals see England face Sweden, while Croatia take on hosts Russia and the winner of those two games will face each other in the semifinals.
In short, what it means is that England’s defeat to Belgium in the group stages has the potential to work out more profitably for Gareth Southgate’s team in terms of the quality of potential opponents they would face in the run up to the final, than it would have done had they won the game.
Let’s now preview each of the four quarterfinals and bring you our top tips for each, with the odds provided courtesy of bet365 Sport (and correct as of 1pm BST on Wed 4th July 2018).
FIFA World Cup Quarterfinals
France v Uruguay
- Venue – Nizhny Novgorod
- Kick Off – 3pm
Possible Uruguay XI – 4-1-2-1-2 – Muslera, Cacares, Laxalt, Godin, Giminez, Torreira, Nandez, Vecino, Betancur, Cavani, Suarez
Possible France XI – 4-2-3-1 – Lloris, Pavard, Hernandez, Umtiti, Varane, Kante, Pogba, Mbappe, Griezmann, Tolisso, Giroud
- France to win – Evens
- Uruguay to win – 18/5
- Draw – 11/5
I think the France v Uruguay clash has all the ingredients to be another fabulous game, but I don’t think it will be anywhere near as open as the France v Argentina clash in the previous round. The French definitely found form in that game, but prior to that had looked somewhat below par in the group stages of the tournament.
In contrast, I feel Uruguay, along with Belgium, have been the most consistently strong team in the competition thus far and with their solid defence just conceding the one goal in the tournament thus far, and with Cavani and Suarez seemingly gelling nicely in attack and amongst the goals, I think this is far from straightforward for France.
Indeed, I think the French will need to put in another masterful performance here to win this one and I am not sure that they have that in them again. As such, I think the Draw at 90 minutes is the best bet here and then I feel that Uruguay would have the edge as the game goes into extra time and potentially to a penalty shootout.
France may be the favourites here, but I think Uruguay could cause a bit of an upset here and make it into the semifinals.
Brazil v Belgium
- Venue – Kazan
- Kick Off – 7pm
Possible Brazil XI – 4-3-3 – Alisson, Fagner, Felipe Luis, Thiago Silva, Miranda, Fernandinho, Paulinho, Coutinho, Neymar, Willian, Gabriel Jesus
Possible Belgium XI – 3-4-2-1 – Courtois, Alderweireld, Kompany, Vertonghen, Meunier, Chadli, Witsel, De Bruyne, Mertens, Hazard, Lukaku
- Brazil to win – 11/10
- Belgium to win – 11/4
- Draw – 11/5
This is certainly the most eye-catching of the four quarterfinals with two teams blessed with outstanding individuals, plenty of attacking flair but enough defensive issues to ensure that we are likely to see goals.
Brazil have done satisfactorily at the World Cup so far, but I don’t think they deserved to be such hot favourites here. I think Belgium have been the stronger, more dangerous and more consistent of the two teams and while Brazil can rely on the individual brilliance of Neymar and Coutinho at times, Belgium can say the same for the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne.
Furthermore, Belgium’s main striker Romelu Lukaku has four goals at the tournament, while Brazil’s striker, Gabriel Jesus is yet to score (and there is speculation he could be replaced by Firmino for this game).
This is another game that I think is far from a conclusion and while I think Brazil may just nick this one, I think it will be close run thing and I would not be surprised if the result goes in Belgium’s favour.
Sweden v England
- Venue – Samara
- Kick Off – 3pm
Possible Sweden XI – 4-4-2 – Olsen, Krafth, Augustinsson, Granqvist, Lindelof, Svensson, Ekdal, Forsberg, Claesson, Toivonen, Berg
Possible England XI – 3-5-2 – Pickford, Maguire, Stones, Walker, Trippier, Young.A, Henderson, Lingaard, Loftus-Cheek, Sterling, Kane
- Sweden to win – 15/4
- England to win – 10/11
- Draw – 12/5
England now face their first World Cup quarterfinal since 2002, when they went down 2-1 to Brazil in Japan/South Korea and this time around, their opponents will be familiar adversaries Sweden.
England have a poor record against Sweden, although they have won two of the last three encounters between the teams, that said, Sweden have won the most recent, when Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted four goals in a 4-2 win for the Swedes back in late 2012.
However, with no Ibrahimovic in their attack, the Swedes are a little toothless up front and have relied on their defensive solidity to get this far, as well as opportunist finishing. They have scored just six goals to reach this stage, England have managed nine, Harry Kane alone has six in the tournament thus far.
I think this is a game which will see England have more possession and that will eventually lead to them going in front and when Sweden push to level, I can see England catching them again on the counter, so I am going to back an England win here and hope that we don’t have to suffer through penalties once again.
Russia v Croatia
- Venue – Sochi
- Kick Off – 7pm
Possible Russia XI – 3-4-2-1 – Akinfeevm, Kutepov, Ignashevich, Kudryashov, Zhirkov, Fernandes, Zobnin, Kuzyayev, Cheryshev, Golovin, Dzyuba
Possible Croatia XI – 4-1-4-1 – Subasic, Vrsaljko, Strinic, Vida, Lovren, Brozovic, Rebic, Modric, Rakitic, Perisic, Mandzukic
- Russia to win – 3/1
- Croatia to win – 6/5
- Draw – 21/10
The host nation have defied all expectations to reach the quarterfinals and their win over Spain in the Round of 16 was greeted with as much disbelief as it was joy across Russia. They now face another tricky test in the form of Croatia, a side that looked so impressive in the group stage, but who laboured to victory on penalties against a well-organised Denmark side.
Russia to me do not have the attacking players to combat Croatia offensively, so I’d expect them to set up as they did against Spain, though I feel Cheyshev will likely start to try and offer them a greater threat going forward. Unfortunately though, I feel if they do this, then they are handing the initiative to Croatia.
If you let Modric and Rakitic boss the game in midfield, with Perisic and Rebic providing real pace and goal threat from wide, not to mention Mandzukic in attack, I think that is a recipe for real problems for Russia and if Russia do sit back, I can see Croatia winning this one comfortably.