We are now down to the quarter finals stage of the FIFA World Cup 2018 and the action is really starting to hot-up, now the teams are only two matches away from the final. The action kicks off today with two block-buster matches between Uruguay and France at 3pm on ITV and Brazil and Belgium at 7pm on BBC One. Tomorrow afternoon we have the eagerly anticipated clash between England and Sweden followed by Russia and Croatia, who complete the quarter final matches and from a personal perspective I’ll be cheering England on to what I hope will be their first World Cup semi-final appearance since 1990.
Uruguay are on a seven match winning run and they have scored fifteen goals and conceded just one. They seem to be improving with every match, especially since they adopted a more offensive approach that brings strikers Suarez and Cavani in to the game more. However, Cavani is likely to miss this match through injury, which means Uruguay will most likely revert to a more defensive set up for this encounter and try and nick a one goal win in normal or extra-time.
France’s best performance came against Argentina in the last-16 round but there are still concerns regarding their defensive capabilities. France also have a poor record against Uruguay wining only one of the last eight International encounters, which does not bode well for their chances of winning this match in ninety minutes. Both teams will likely adopt a cautious approach, at least for the first half, and if goals are going to materialise the majority are likely to come in the second half.
Brazil take on Belgium tonight at the Kazan stadium in Kazan and five time champions Brazil are favourites to progress to the semi-finals. After a slow start to the tournament favourites Brazil are improving with each match and with their star-studded attacking line up starting to fire and a defence in miserly mood, it’s going to take a very good performance to knock them out. Brazil are unbeaten in their last fifteen International matches, winning eleven and drawing four, scoring thirty and conceding just three goals. At this World Cup they have won three and drawn one, scoring seven and conceding just once.
Apart from their miraculous escape against Japan, Belgium have impressed during the tournament winning all four matches, scoring twelve and conceding four goals. However, their comeback from 2-0 down to beat Japan 3-2 revealed some serious concerns for Belgium and manager Martinez is now under pressure to resolve these issues, otherwise his tenure is likely not to last for long if they are knocked out after a poor performance. However, this scare might have been a blessing in disguise for Belgium as they have the chance to now rectify it, rather than it being exposed in a match of this magnitude.
Belgium have an even more impressive unbeaten run than Brazil going back twenty three matches, of which they won eighteen and drew five, and they lost only one of their last nine World Cup matches. They also won their last six International matches in a row, scoring eighteen and conceding six, albeit against inferior opposition including a second string England eleven last week. Martinez has a dilemma for this match in terms of how to approach it tactically. It’s unlikely he’s going to be gung ho and change things drastically given what’s at stake, even though their performance against Japan cried out for a more offensive approach that plays to the strength of their attacking prowess.
With the wealth of attacking talent on show it’s unlikely this game is going to end goalless and hopefully both teams will go out and play football rather than adopting dirty tactics or gamesmanship in attempt to influence the result. Brazil are more settled and confident in their system heading in to this match, especially in defence, and this could prove to be the difference between the two teams tonight.
From a betting perspective, Brazil are reasonable value at shades of odds against to edge their match against Belgium in normal time. I think they are better defensively than Belgium and their attackers will have more freedom in the final third compared to recent opponents, who set up purely to frustrate them and to limit their attacking prowess. Also, I think Belgium are suspect at the back and if they continue to play and defend as they did against Japan, then they could find themselves behind and in trouble again. However, if this does occur, Brazil are unlikely to be as generous as Japan were.
World Cup 2018 Quarter Finals