In what has been a crazy World Cup we received yet another round of crazy games, where the team I tipped to win definitely didn’t go out again…leaving us with some of the most lopsided sides of a draw in history.
Uruguay v France
Uruguay squeezed past Portugal with a strong defensive display and their forward players making the difference up top. Portugal were probably the better side but after battling their way back into the game got caught out defensively. Sadly for Portugal, if Ronaldo is taken out the game then someone needs to step up and in this game and the World Cup none of the other Portuguese players managed to show up. Uruguay are by far the weakest team on this side of the draw, ironically if they had been on the other side of the draw they would arguably be the best team. Uruguay are the team that has the least to lose on this side of the draw, they’re also the only team on this side who can defend which makes them the very darkest of horses and in this World Cup who knows.
France played out a fantastic game with Argentina, they looked lightning going forward but weak at the back. France are without a doubt the most talented team in this competition, however after going 4-2 up in that game I found it really frustrating how they allowed Argentina back into the game by becoming so conservative. Argentina were all over the place, so many holes in defence, yet France were essentially time wasting rather going for the kill. Yes they won the match, but it should have been so much more comfortable.
France will be concerned about this game because they match up poorly against Uruguay. The positives for France is that in their last game they had numerous game winners show up (Mbappe and Pogba in particular) and that it seems that Cavani won’t be fit to start the match (a huge blow for Uruguay as he’s their best attacking talent). If France can score then they’ll win, if they struggle then Uruguay could do a snatch and grab. Deschamps is not a good game manager, the longer the match goes on the more nervous France will become and this will play directly into Uruguay’s hands.
Brazil v Belgium
The best game of the quarter finals between two of the best teams left in the competition. I didn’t see the Brazil game (damn work) but from the sounds of it they struggled a bit but were ultimately comfortable. What I find very surprising about Brazil is that they’ve only conceded one goal so far, I think this says a lot about their opposition so far, they’ve not been challenged at all and they very much will against Belgium.
Belgium had the easiest last 16 opponent and my god did they make a meal of it. Down 2-0 to Japan, Belgium looked done, they looked like their golden generation would once again flop massively on the biggest stage and then they turned it around. The substitution of Fellaini and Chadli allowed them to get more physical and it allowed them to brutalise the Japanese. This is their warning shot, they won’t be able to physically dominate any of the other sides they will play in the competition. They got away with one here, none of their big names showed up and they still got the win, that can’t happen twice.
The game itself will be very interesting. Neither team has really played anyone yet, so it will be interesting to see where both teams are. A dominant performance from either side could see them be proclaimed heavy favourites to win the tournament, a gruelling game with extra time could leave them too exhausted for the next round, so much to play for. It’s an unusual situation that in a game between Belgium and Brazil that Belgium are the more skilful side. It should be a physical battle between two strong teams, it will likely be open as both teams are shit at defending and on paper it reads like by far the best match of the round. Brazil will rely on Neymar to show up, Belgium have De Bruyne, Lukaku and Hazard (tree off bench) and it’s for that reason I think Belgium will edge this one.
Sweden v England
Sweden beat Switzerland in the other game I didn’t see from the last 16 (double damn work) and from the sounds of it I didn’t really miss anything (could be worse I guess). I didn’t need to watch the game to know what Sweden were going to do, they were going to be structured, contain their opponents by sitting deep and punish them on the counter and with set pieces. They’re an incredibly stuffy team, along with Uruguay they are the best defence in the competition and in the end this style of play generally comes unstuck.
In what was a poor mannered match England snuck through on penalties against Colombia. Both teams looked terrible, created very little and crossed the line of what is and isn’t acceptable on a football pitch. It wasn’t a good spectacle as a match but it was a good spectacle as a blood bath. The referee was completely out his depth, missed two red cards from headbutts, a Stones kick to the head which should have been a red, three separate English blatant dives and general Colombian misbehaving. I did find it odd that Colombia decided to play shitty games against England because as was shown after England went 1-0, they are weak defensively. It was very poor tactics from the Colombians and England took advantage and showed character to win their first ever World Cup penalty shoot out.
England should win this game, they are the much better side, having said all of that Sweden do match up well with them. England don’t have the players to break down a side which sits deep from open play. The question for Sweden is whether they will be able to not give away a penalty from a corner like every other team seems to be doing. The other issue is that the expectation in England is very much that they should make the final, hence the pressure is going to be on, whereas not making the semis wouldn’t be the end of the world for Sweden. Regardless of all of this, despite England’s susceptible defence and weak central midfield I think they’ll still be too good for Sweden.
Russia v Croatia
I tipped Spain to win the World Cup after Germany went out…I said this game would be an easy win…and here we are…again… Russia defended well against Spain, however it was more to do with Spain being limp than Russia being really good. Spain barely created anything all game and that is on the manager. Hierro must have known prior to the game that Russia would sit deep and offer little in attack, yet he started the game with two holding midfielders. He followed this gaffe up by playing them the entire 120 minutes. It was so frustrating to see Koke play as a third centre back whilst Busquets went and stood on one of the Russian players offering nothing in the process. Hierro then went ahead and made like for like changes, rather than going for it, when the only way that Russia were ever winning this match was on penalties, don’t even get me started on Pique being an idiot.
Croatia made it difficult for themselves as they played out a 1-1 with Denmark. Croatia were the shining light of the group stages and then followed it with an absolute stinker. I think they probably deserved to progress but my god they almost made a complete arse of it. Croatia go into this quarter final against the worst team left in the competition with an amazing chance to make the final for the first time ever. They need to be smart and clinical in this match, they need to get the game done in 90 minutes whilst making sure that none of their eight players one booking away from a suspension are booked. It’s a big ask but it could be the difference between making a final and heartbreak.
Croatia should win this match because they are a lot better than Russia, who themselves are a worse version of Denmark. With that in mind Croatia beat Denmark despite not showing up, I think they could do the same and sneak through again, however they shouldn’t ignore the furore of the crowd and the physicality of the Russian side. A couple of early goals and they can relax, if they allow Russia to frustrate them then they could be in trouble, whether in this game or the next.
Ok, so my second pick for the World Cup is out so I shall pick a new team who I think will win it all, also known as the kiss of death. I think I have to go for France now, I think they’re the best squad and their skill players showed up in the last game, if it wasn’t for their manager they would have been my pre-tournament pick, so I have now ended up here. I look forward to making my new pick for the semis.
So leave a comment and share your thoughts on what you thought of the last 16 and how the quarter finals will turn out.