Uruguay vs France (July 6, 2018 3:00pm)
Yes! The quarter finals of the ongoing FIFA World Cup is upon us and we’re buzzing, what a fiesta it has been, bookies struggling to get things right as some teams keep defying obvious odds, here in Novgorod Stadium, it’s 1930 winners Uruguay up against 1998 winners France in what must be a game of two different philosophies, free scoring fleet footed attack at war against the stingiest of defences anywhere in the world. France entertained us against Argentina, although one must question their defence that shipped in three but in modern football, as long as you outscore your opponents, you’re safe. Uruguay conceded for the first time in 2018 when Pepe rose the highest to head in an equalizer in their 2:1 success over Portugal in the round of 16, Uruguay were clinical, decisive, disciplined and credits must be given to Arsenal bound Lucas Torreira who tirelessly ran down the Portuguese.
How will they both line up? France are without Blaise Matuidi so they will have to deploy someone else to do the dirty job on the likes of Luis Suarez, the long ball strategy that worked brilliantly against Argentina might need a tweak here, Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez aren’t known for wanderings so they would be hard to catch on the break, but if they do come forward for corner kicks, they must watch their lines for a certain Kylian Mbappe who runs faster than time.
Sadly, Uruguay are short upfront, second round hero, Edison Cavani won’t be fit enough to start against Le Bleus, Christian Stuani of Girona is expected to stand in for him and how much impact he can make against the French defence is left to be seen. Uruguay will keep it simple, stay patient without the ball and depend on the efficacy of Torreira as they try to nullify the fireworks of the French Midfield.
France can only be undone here by their showman, he has been more of a liability than anything else, he is one of the best central midfielders in the world but his inability to keep it simple and employ the basics when needed proves his Achilles most times, Paul Pogba has to step up today or lose another chance to prove his worth. Expect this to drag a bit, half time draw very likely.
Verdict: Uruguay to advance
Brazil vs Belgium (July 3, 2018 7:00pm)
This fixture would have been preferred by many as the final fixture of the tournament, such a shame they have to meet at this stage. It’s the World Cup, to be the best you have to beat the best, step up champions, it’s time to prove your worth. On parade in this fixture would be the best of talents in the European leagues, continental championship winners and loads of domestic title winners, Eden Hazard up against Phillip Coutinho, Neymar up against Romelu Lukaku, Marcelo against Vertonghen, Kevin De Bryune up against the surprise package of the just concluded season, Paulinho… what a game we have on our pretty hands.
On paper it’s even, wherever you look at on the pitch, quality apiece, but someone has to want it more, now it boils down to the quality of the bench and the tactics of the managers, experience against adventurous youthfulness – Roberto Martinez proved how much of a tactician he is when he brought on two players to turn back the hands of time in their near embarrassing situation against Japan, the Asians were two up quickly in the second half and the Red Devils were on the brink of crashing out, on came Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli, the two struck late on to hand Belgium a famous comeback victory, one what would last long in both teams’ memories, one for despair of the agony that comes with such defeat from a victory position and one for the sweet feeling of victory that was clawed from the jaws of defeat.
Brazil has all the rich history to rely on, Belgium has a bright future to trust with the quality of talent at their disposal, this would be a cracker that could go either ways; Brazil will set up to attack and take the battle to the Belgians, the Red Devils will rely on the devilish over the top passes from their intelligent KDB but the movement and decision making of Lukaku is important, in goal, Allison Becker is more trustworthy than the often careless Courtois, great talent but too much nonchalance, in defence, they both have suspects but they both don’t care as long as their midfield can orchestrate and create chances, this has goals written all over it in obvious inks and golden pens.
Verdict: Both to score, Brazil to advance.
Strictly the writer’s opinion
Feature Image: from DNA India