The footballing world may have been rocked and shocked by some of the results in the 2018 World Cup – but we now know the eight teams that have progressed to the World Cup Finals. The four teams in the top-half of the draw may well be the four teams that many fans and pundits predicted would be facing each other at the quarter-final stage, with Uruguay, France, Brazil, and Belgium all having been favourites to win their World Cup Finals Groups.
However, I doubt anyone predicted the four teams left in the bottom-half of the draw would be facing each other in the quarter-finals. Croatia were only second favourites behind Argentina in their group and many predicted Croatia would have exited at the hands of France in the round-of-last-16, if the draw had gone to plan. However, the Croats have also avoided a last-8 clash with Spain, with the Spanish humbled by host nation Russia at the first knockout stage.
Meanwhile, Sweden were only third favourites to progress from their group behind Germany and Mexico but have taken full-advantage of Germany’s poor form to set up a quarter-final clash with England, who are the highest-ranked team left in the bottom-half. The 2018 World Cup looks to be one of those tournaments in which just about any team could beat any other team but let’s see if we can shed some light on how the quarter-finals may pan out.
World Cup Quarter-Final Matches
Uruguay vs France (Friday 6 July, 15.00)
Brazil vs Belgium (Friday 6 July, 19.00)
Sweden vs England (Saturday 7 July, 15.00)
Russia vs Croatia (Saturday 7 July, 19.00)
Uruguay vs France
FIFA’s fourteenth highest-ranked team Uruguay take on the seventh-ranked team France in the first quarter-final and both teams have some truly world-class players. However, after exciting wins over Portugal and Argentina in the last round, it’s hard to know what to expect from two teams that have scored just one goal between them in their last five meetings. That goal was scored by Uruguay as they beat France 1-0 in a friendly in 2013. Uruguay also looked more impressive during the group stage, where they won all three games without conceding a goal or extending themselves too much.
Meanwhile, France were unimpressive in beating Australia and Peru in their opening two group games, whilst their 0-0 with Denmark was hardly even a match. The round-of-last-16 matches make interesting reading though, with both teams having less than 40% possession of the ball. However, they were both brilliant on the counter-attack as France scored with all four of their shots on goal. Meanwhile, Uruguay scored with two of their three attempts on goal, in a match where they only had five shots. If both teams choose to adopt those counter-attacking tactics one again, this could be very cagey, and there could easily be less than 2.5 goals.
Uruguay vs France Prediction: Less than 2.5 goals @ 1.44 PaddyPower
Brazil vs Belgium
The two highest-ranked teams remaining in the tournament clash in what many are predicting may be the game of the tournament. Belgium certainly seem to have discarded the negative tactics that saw them exit at the quarter-finals in Brazil in 2014, when they had also won their first four games. However, whilst those five games produced just six goals in regulation play, Belgium’s four games so far at this World Cup have produced 16 goals.
Having already conceded two goals against both Tunisia and Japan, it’s hard to see Belgium keeping a clean-sheet against Brazil and, therefore, they may decide they just need to score more than their opponents. That looked unlikely against Japan. However, Belgium showed there that they have something that many teams don’t appear to have at this World Cup – a Plan B. Hopefully, this won’t be an anti-climax after I’ve built it up as a potential goal-fest. Either way, I’ll be playing more than 4.5 goals.
Brazil vs Belgium Prediction: More Than 4.5 Goals @ 6.50 PaddyPower
Sweden vs England
Sweden have got used to being the underdogs through the whole World Cup process. They weren’t expected to qualify from a qualifying group that contained France and the Netherlands. Having managed to make it to the qualifying play-offs, they were also expected to lose to Italy. They were then drawn in a potential group of death with Germany and Mexico but, despite being unlucky losers against Germany, they now find themselves in the quarter-finals having again been the outsiders against Switzerland in the round-of-16.
England have achieved pretty much what was expected of them at the beginning of the tournament. They finished second in Group G behind Belgium and struggled to beat the winner of Group H Colombia. However, instead of facing Germany at this stage as expected, England now face Sweden. Sweden have really struggled to keep the ball in their last three games, having had just 24%, 33%, and 32% of the possession.
However, they’ve kept three clean-sheets out of four. That could spell trouble for an England side who’ve only managed two-shots on target in both of their last two games against Belgium and Colombia. Therefore, it’s easy to see this being a draw at full-time before, perhaps, climaxing in another nail-biting penalty shootout.
Sweden vs England Prediction: Draw @ 3.40 PaddyPower
Russia vs Croatia
Croatia impressed as much as any team in the group stages and they have plenty of potential match winners. However, they did seem to freeze against Denmark, despite quickly cancelling out an early goal by the Danes. They’d been deadly in front of goal in their first three matches, yet could only score one of their six shots on target, whilst restricting Denmark to just three shots on target. Croatia should beat Russia but the majority of support will be for the home nation.
However, Russia were extremely lucky to beat Spain after the Spanish players failed to score any of their nine shots on goal. Meanwhile, Russia scored with their only shot on goal as they claimed just 21% of the possession against Spain. Croatia aren’t quite as good at keeping possession as Spain but have more firepower at their disposal. Therefore, though Croatia couldn’t land odds-on quotes to beat Denmark in 90-minutes, it’s somewhat of a surprise to see them priced up at much bigger odds to beat Russia in regulation play.
Russia vs Croatia Prediction: Croatia To Win @ 2.20 PaddyPower