By Steven Lin
The 2018 FIFA World Cup has been an intense rollercoaster ride.
From group stages to quarterfinals, many top football elite nations, including 2014 World Cup champion Germany, have been eliminated.
Superstars like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were unable to carry their teams to the next stage as Argentina and Portugal were wiped out before the quarter-finals.
The host nation, Russia, stunned the world with a victory against Spain in a penalty shootout round and advanced into the next stage.
Belgium is the first team in 48 years to overturn a two-goal deficit and win a knockout-phase match at the World Cup.
In the meantime, Croatia continues its fairy tale run with the victory against Denmark in the penalty shootout phase.
Who’s left in the quarter-finals? Which team has the highest chance to win the World Cup?
France vs. Uruguay
France and Uruguay are kicking off the first match of quarter-finals tomorrow at 7 a.m.
Both teams overcame their predicaments to advance into the current stage.
Uruguay defeated a strong Portugal side 2-1. France won a heart-pounding match against Argentina 4-3.
In a knockout phase, it is crucial for a team to maintain its momentum.
Currently France has momentum as their young star, Kylian Mbappe, stepped up and scored two goals during the match against Argentina.
The rise of Mbappe enhances France’s scoring prowess as French initially struggled in the group stage of the World Cup.
It also provides confidence for the whole squad in preparing for the match against Uruguay’s tenacious defending ability.
While France is trending in the right direction, Uruguay, on the other hand, might have some problems.
Their top scoring star, Edison Cavani, has a strong chance of being ruled out of the game due to left leg injury.
Cavani has scored three goals and losing him reduces Uruguay’s scoring ability; however, they still have an advantage with one of the best defences in the World Cup.
France versus Uruguay, a battle between a shield that could guard any attack and a spear that could penetrate any defence, is going to be a low scoring match, with France prevailing over Uruguay at the final seconds.
Brazil vs. Belgium
Belgium is, without a doubt, the strongest opponent Brazil has faced so far in the World Cup.
The scary thing is that Belgium is riding momentum.
Belgium became the first team in the past 48 years to overcome a two-goal deficit and win a knockout match against Japan with a stunning victory, 3-2.
The Belgians scored three goals in the later phase of game with approximately 20 minutes left.
With the victory against Japan, Belgium carries confidence in against Brazil, arguably one of the strongest teams in the world.
On the other side, Brazil is prepared to play against the potent Belgium.
The head coach, Tite, has released the starting lineups more than 24 hours prior the match.
Despite Brazil’s all-star, Gabriel Jesus, being inactive in the past four matches, he is selected as one of the starting squads.
Both teams excel in their attacking ability, but Belgium will need to make adjustments to its backfield defense before facing Brazil.
Look for a high-scoring match with Belgium prevailing over Brazil under regular time.
Russia vs. Croatia
The host nation, Russia, has been tremendous, but their World Cup journey could be ended by Croatia, the blackhorse of the World Cup series.
Croatia is peaking with no suspended players and no injuries, and has not lost a single game since the start of the group stage.
Croatia’s superstar and captain of the team, Luka Modric made amends for a past failure in the victory against Denmark.
Luke Modric missed the opening penalty in their shootout defeat against Turkey a decade ago. After 10 years, he redeemed himself by scoring an important goal during the penalty shootout and helped Croatia to advance into quarterfinals.
On the other hand, the Russians have no suspended players, but they have concerns over Yuri Zhirkov’s tendon injury.
Yuri Zhirkov is a Russian all-star midfielder who contributed greatly in controlling the pace of the Russian offence. His absence could reduce Russian’s attacking ability.
In the past, Russia and Croatia have met three times previously, and Russia has yet to steal a victory.
Russia needs to bring out its best on home court to compete against a healthy, confident Croatian squad.
Sweden vs. England
The Three Lions is facing some from Sweden, a team with no world-class talent, no obvious threat, but possesses a tough, collective team spirit.
The Swedes finally broke the penalty curse in the World Cup, defeating Colombia in the penalty shoot-out run.
England’s top scorer and a golden boot potential, Harry Kane, is currently the highest scorer with six goals in the World Cup series.
The victory against Colombia has given the English momentum.
On the other hand, Sweden has advantage in terms of handling a lesser pressure than England’s.
Sweden doesn’t have big names, but have been playing excessively well between their 4-4-2 and 4-6-0 squad formations.
One of the more noticeable players from Sweden is the goalkeeper, Robin Olsen, who is arguably one of the strongest goalkeepers in the series.
In the last four games, Olsen has successfully defended 31 corners; 11 of those against Switzerland in the knockout phase.
Could the golden boot chaser score a goal from Sweden’s intimidate gatekeeper?
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