Brazil versus Mexico (July 2, 2018 3:00pm)
Spain are out of the World Cup as we rightly predicted, in the hands of football minnows Russia, since the days of Soviet Union, Russia are making it to the last eight for the first time ever, they did what they had to do, defend deep and with lots of discipline too. Brazil saw how Uruguay bested Portugal over 90 minutes, they saw how their arch rivals lost in the hands of Le Bleus, they witnessed the fall of the super talented Spaniards in the hands of lowly Russia, they have to be wary of banana peel in the form of Mexico. Mexico lighted up the World Cup with their jaw dropping performance against Germany, no one gave them a chance against the defending champions, they were fearless, they went for it without holding back, they got what they wanted and even went one better against Korea, but for a moment in their final group match, they looked like going out of the world cup in an embarrassing fashion, 3:0 loss to Sweden meant they had to wait for the result at the other end, it was in their favour and they had South Korea to thank for that, all that are behind, now they face one of the surviving favourites, Brazil. Man for man, talent for talent, Brazil is gulf apart but Russia and Uruguay have proven that you can achieve anything if you believe, yes Brazil are the favourites to progress, but Javier Hernandez, Hirving Lozano, Guillermo Ochoa and Carlos Vela would definitely have other ideas. How will they set up? Brazil are still built around Neymar, although the main driver is Phillipe Coutinho, the flexibility of Paulinho will prove handy to the dynamics of the Brazilian midfield, not sure Tite would be cautious, why should he? If his boys can hug the line neatly and cut back for tap ins, Mexico will crack over time like they did against Sweden and be hurt; what can Mexico do? Unfortunately they can’t sit back and allow bombardments; they have to do exactly what they did against Germany, go for it fearlessly, attack and defend together, but unlike they did against Sweden, they must take their chances when they come.
Verdict: Mexico to advance
Belgium vs Japan (July 2, 2018 7:00pm)
Japan made it here simply because Senegal let them, they went through on fair play which was down to the amount of yellow cards they bagged after head to head and goals difference proved equal; they fought back against Senegal in their second group game to level twice and went on to lose to an already eliminated Poland, the way they closed out the game, passing around like they got nothing to lose when a goal to Senegal or Poland could get them eliminated showed lack of ambition and the champion stuff it takes to play at this level. Belgium have been the most impressive team so far at this World Cup, winning all three including the 1:0 triumph over the 3Lions of England, you can argue they only played Panama and Tunisia, but you must remember those teams didn’t just lie there for the cane, their tactics won the games as they relied on long balls and spatial passes, on paper there is nothing of a miracle to be expected from the Japanese but this is the FIFA World Cup that lookS like one for the underdogs. Japan would rely on the quick feet of Takashi Inui, all Belgium need to do is to peg him back with the runs of Thomas Meunier and Carrasco, he turns into a wing-back and will not too often think of going forward; in the middle of the pack, it’s very hard for Japan to fashion out anything with the presence of steel like Axel Witsel and Kevin De Bryune, they should be wary of over the top passes and inward runs of Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku should be fit enough to step up and deliver again, he has four goals already and he’s not willing to stop scoring, it will take more than luck, discipline and a bad day for the Belgians for Japan to stand a chance; if Belgium underrate Japan, looking ahead to their more difficult quarter final fixture, Roberto Martinez knows he has to get there before he plans for that, so no chance for japan.
Verdict: Straight win Belgium