With eight teams left, the heat is turning up! Several of football’s juggernauts have already been eliminated, making the prospect of a first-time champion a strong possibility. Half of the teams still in the tournament have never won the World Cup! While one side of the competition’s bracket looks “easier” than the other, this World Cup has taught us to expect the unexpected.
(All kickoffs are EST)
Uruguay vs. France (7/6 10:00am)
Having limped off injured during their win over Portugal, Uruguayan hopes of progressing to the semifinal will surely depend on the status of player Edinson Cavani. The striker bagged the only goals for the South Americans en route to their 2-1 victory but he is questionable for their game with les Bleus. France, fresh off their win against Argentina, have a clean bill of health and will look to striker Antoine Griezmann to lead the line. The Atletico Madrid player has not exactly looked his best this tournament, but still has plenty left in his repertoire and will want to add to his two-goal tally at this World Cup. France to win.
Belgium vs. Brazil (7/6 2:00pm)
Needing a last-minute winner to complete their comeback over Japan, Belgium manager Roberto Martinez will certainly be making sure that his players are abundantly aware that they cannot afford to get off to such a sluggish start against powerhouse Brazil. While the Samba Boys did not necessarily dominate Mexico in their previous match, Brazil is not the type of side to let a two-goal lead slip often. And again, while this tournament has been full of surprises, Brazil will be working extra hard to avenge 2014’s humiliating exit in front of their own fans. Adding to their chances is the fact that attacking midfielder Douglas Costa has returned to training having missed the last match due to injury. If Belgium are to win, they’ll need stars Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku to be at their best. The two have already combined for half of Belgium’s goals this tournament. I expect this match to entertain as both countries like to play attacking football and I would not be surprised if it came down to penalties. Brazil however to progress.
Sweden vs. England (7/7 10:00am)
With the massive task England dealt with last match now behind them, Gareth Southgate’s boys can head into Saturday’s matchup with Sweden full of confidence. Beating Colombia on penalties was an immense relief for both players and fans alike as it is no secret that spot-kicks have often been the scourge of the Three Lions in past major tournaments. Adding to that confidence is the fact that striker Harry Kane has been in lethal form. The Tottenham Hotspurs player is the tournament’s top scorer at the moment with 6 goals. While I wish I could leave this match’s preview short and sweet, I’m hesitant to do so because Sweden surprised me and much of the football world with their 1-0 victory over Switzerland in their last match. The Swiss, on paper, had the better players…but we all know once the whistle blows, things might not go as planned. The football wasn’t pretty, but Sweden won’t mind as they’re into the quarterfinals for the first time since 1998! Regardless, England to win.
Russia vs. Croatia (7/7 2:00pm)
Despite Russia’s shock victory over Spain last round, this preview I can keep short. (Gulp.) Croatia did not play to the level we’ve become accustomed to this World Cup against Denmark (needing penalties to advance), but they’re still very much leaps and bounds the better side in this match against the host nation. Credit to Russia for getting this far, but they’ll be spectators come Sunday. Midfielder Luka Modric is in the conversation for this tournament’s Golden Ball, and I fully expect the Croatian to deliver. Croatia to win.