World Cup Quarterfinal Previews and Predictions!

We made it, the round of 16 has come to a close. Not to brag, but I went 6 of 8 in predictions. I’m a genius.

This is where things heat up – the quarterfinals. This is an accomplishment for some teams already, and to say you’ve made it this far means you’ve got some talent (or some dumb luck).

Those who are here have capitalized on their chances, or other teams’ mistakes, and others have been plain dominant. But it’s onto the next round, with a place in the Semifinals on the line.

No more teams left who are marginally worse, but have somehow skated by.  Those teams are gone, and the teams moving forward are guaranteed to have to play at their best for 90 minutes or will go home.

We saw Spain bow out, losing in penalties to the hosts Russia, despite having the lion share of possession, shots, chances, and passes. A disappointing finish for the Spaniards as they were seemingly missing something in the final third to go ahead. But respect to the rooskies for making it here.

We’ve already seen Messi on a plane back to Barcelona after France flexed it’s muscles, with that absolute stunner of a shot from Pavard.

We saw an AMAZING penalty shootout between Croatia and Denmark (shout-out Subasic and Schmeichel), and Uruguay showed Ronaldo that he’s the Lebron to the Cavs (old joke now?). Ronaldo was not enough.

We saw a fantastic Belgian response to going down 2 to Japan, with one of the best counter-attacks I’ve ever seen and an amazing dummy by Lukaku. Then we saw the Brazilians take charge and shut down the fiery Mexican squad, Neymar and Firmino snagging goals to seal a 2-0 win.

And on the last day, we saw one of the more boring and missed-chance-filled games in the entire World Cup between Sweden and Switzerland – though credit to the Swedes who pulled off the upset and have turned into real dark horses.

Lastly we were treated to a PK shootout between England and Columbia, where Pickford made the save of his life and it’s why we love the World Cup so much. Everyone’s jinxing it, but it might be coming home. Happy for England pulling off that win, and happy for Columbia making it this far especially with James’ injury.

But we’re here, enough summation. Here’s where we stand: (again, image courtesy of CBS Sports because I don’t have time to make graphics. I’m busy.)

world-cup-bracket-england

So without further ado, your preview for the last eight here in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Uruguay vs. France (07/06 @ 10AM) 

I’m so pumped for this quarterfinal. These two teams have really grown into themselves and have actually showed up when they’ve needed to. France has a chip on its shoulder after knocking out Messi and Co., notching 4 goals led by the sensational Kylian Mbappe. To be fair, it was a floundering Argentinian squad that left Aguero and Higuain on the bench to start (as well as Dybala), but they showed up a decent bit to put the pressure on so good for France to make it through.

It’ll be much tougher to notch 4 goals against Uruguay, who has only allowed one goal in this World Cup. That’s a testament to Diego Godin and Gimenez, coupled with their connection with the likes of Cavani and Suarez up top.

Biggest problem for Uruguay that’s NOT the France team? Cavani is most likely going to miss the game. One of the better players at the tournament might be out, and that’s huge news for France. Uruguay will most likely turn its sights to Stuani as his replacement, who is the lesser player by quite a stretch. Suarez will always be dangerous, especially with Bentancour connecting through the middle.

For France, their strategy needs to target Godin, and shut down that wing play Uruguay is definitely going to fancy. Intercepted passes through to Suarez and no layoffs at the top of the box. Pogba needs to control that midfield like the Octopus he is (meaning he’s always involved for those who don’t know). Kante has continued to be strong in the tackle, and his press-play has been actually decent. Get the ball to Mbappe and Griezmann, and play into Giroud if he’s out there.

Honestly I believe the loss of Cavani might prove to be too much. While Suarez certainly might be enough to make me eat my words, I don’t think they’ll be able to consistently blast through that French defense.

Prediction: France 2-1 Uruguay

Belgium vs. Brazil (07/06 @ 2PM) 

In terms of big games, this might be the king. Two of the highest-rated teams in the world facing off in a Quarterfinal match is a treat for everyone. Brazil are the betters favorite to win the whole damn thing, against a team who has never won it.

But Belgium is strong.

Usually.

Going down 2-0 to Japan isn’t good. Coming back to score 3 straight to win in the final minute? Those are good things.

Brazil isn’t Japan though – they’re organized, compact when they want to be, and lethal as all Hell. Willian played fantastic in their 2-0 win against Mexico. Neymar being fouled might ruin the game for the casual spectator, but that’s extremely dangerous to handle for a team like Belgium, wrought with large, defensive-minded midfielders like Fellaini. We could see someone out for cards early on if someone makes the wrong tackle.

Other problems to consider: Casemiro is out on yellow card accumulation. Fernandinho most likely to replace – not the worst option at all.

Neymar has to be careful not to pick up another booking as he’s currently on a yellow. Philippe Coutinho and Filipe Luis join him in trying to make it through without a booking.

For Belgium, defender Jan Vertonghen and De Bruyne are carrying yellow cards. I don’t that will affect either of their play though, but just things to consider. I am hoping this game gets busted wide open, even if it makes my prediction wildly inaccurate. I can see tons of goals with the Brazil attack, and I’m thinking they might drop Gabriel Jesus and start Firmino, who looked more composed at the striker position.

I can also see Belgium doing it. Lukaku, Hazard, Mertens, and De Bruyne. Not to mention Carrasco and Batshuayi. That’s a lot of firepower for the Brazilians to deal with.

I’m waiting for a bloodbath and this just might be it.

Prediction: Belgium 3-3 Brazil, Belgium takes it on penalties 

Sweden vs. England (07/07 @ 10AM)

My prediction last round was that Sweden was going to go out to Switzerland. I didn’t think they’d make it out of the group. I’ve underestimated this team to this point, and they deserve our attention.

They have played extremely organized up until this point, and are really good at not allowing goals based off of that. But they’ve been able to put them in when they need to (CC: Mexico and Germany) and are clutch too. Not much more to be said. They’re going to force England to wing play, knowing their center backs are extremely tough to deal with. Honestly, they’ve been fantastic at the 50/50 game this World Cup and if they control that again, they have a good chance of making it to the Semis.

On the flip side, Kieran Trippier might be England’s player of the tournament. Kane’s gotten the goals but Trippier has been incredible. His wing play, his passing, and his tackling have been a cut above the competition. The England team as a whole is working really hard to have it finally come home.

Lingard and Sterling will need to be composed because they’ll be on the ball a lot but will have to work extremely hard to produce with Sweden’s defense. Maguire had a stand out game against Columbia actually, and Pickford obviously a contender for man of the match in goal. I think we might (or should) see Rashford come in earlier or even start on the wing or in behind Kane.

I think if England plays their game and doesn’t let Sweden frustrate them too much, we’ll see them in the Semis. Sweden can, however, make it through – DO NOT DISCOUNT THEM.

Prediction: England 2-1 Sweden

Croatia vs. Russia (07/07 @ 2PM)

The hosts did it – they upsetted Spain. Iniesta’s international career over, just like that. But to be fair, the Spanish played like it was 2010 and people figured it out years ago. Russia is a tenacious, hungry team fueled by being the host nation, and seeking its first World Cup trophy.

Golovin has played extremely well, as has Akinfeev in goal. Fernandes has been solid in the defense, as have Dzyuba and Cherychev up top. Not needing possession against Spain (21%) somehow proved to pay off, as they took it in penalties. They’ve won the majority of 50/50 balls up to this point as well, and finally have some technical skill to back it up. Their main concern is speed on the wings, and subsequent play into the middle.

Which is exactly what Croatia is going to attack. With Subasic besting Schmeichel in the penalty shootout against Denmark, Croatia made it through. Mandzukic has been in the right place at the right time from balls into the box, and Modric as always has been a revelation in the middle of the park alongside Rakitic.

A side note: the Modric penalty in the second overtime against Denmark before PKs. His team came up huge to make up for that miss, obviously, and it didn’t come back to bite him. But in addition, I certainly think this miss will only fuel him more for the upcoming game. I don’t see it messing with his play at all.

But Perisic and Rebic on the wings have actually been great to watch, Rebic in particular. He has been strong on the ball, technical at times, and is very fast on the counter. This will prove hard for the Russians to deal with, especially when they’re starting 38 year-old center backs.

If Croatia can tip the scale somewhat in 50/50 wins, and win the wing-play battle, they might effectively book their ticket to the Semi finals.

Prediction: Croatia 2-1 Russia

I’ll be going 4 for 4 this time around, but don’t quote me.

Pumped to see these teams play and even more pumped for some upsets and surprises like Pavard’s goal against Argentina.

Stay toasty, folks.

-Voggel

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