There were 32 teams who headed to Russia with the hope of glory. After weeks of upsets, controversy and heartbreak, we are down to the final eight. One of these eight teams will go down in history as World Champions.
This Friday, it is the turn of the strong side of the draw. You could argue these are the four best teams left in the competition, but of course only two will advance…
URUGUAY vs FRANCE
Uruguay are unlike any of the other ‘big’ sides left in the tournament. Their play is built on a watertight defence, marshalled by Diego Godin, and they look like they might actually be able to keep a clean sheet against anyone. The game plan is to contain, then deliver a killer punch through Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.
France have a better defence than others – yes, I’m looking at you Belgium(!) – but are still vulnerable when the opposition get goal side of N’Golo Kante.
Their best display of the tournament came in the last 16 where they thrived in transition. Didier Deschamps will need a different game plan as Uruguay won’t do them the favour of a high line like the reckless Argentinians did.
Kylian Mbappe and Cavani were the respective heroes to get to this stage. Mbappe will probably not be as effective in this one, however, as Godin and Jose Gimenez will not allow him the space to make those electric runs into. Cavani, on the other hand, is a good bet to score any time at 12/5.
France lack natural width. With Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and Corentin Tolisso (who is filling in for Blaise Matuidi) all occupying the centre of the pitch, the full-backs have a massive role to play in stretching Uruguay.
Deschamps’ side have lacked balance all tournament and are at serious risk of looking like their underwhelming group stage selves again here.
Uruguay are big underdogs at 18/5 to win the match. That price is way longer than it should be given the quality down the spine of the side, and the clear frailties in this France team.
TIP: Cavani to score and Uruguay to win @ 8/1
CORRECT SCORE: Uruguay 2-1 France (Priced at 16/1 with 888sport)
BRAZIL vs BELGIUM
These two are entertainers. The array of attacking talent on display is astonishing, this match is the top of the quarter-final schedule and has the potential to be one of the all-time great World Cup matches.
Brazil did enough to beat Mexico, despite their defence looking vulnerable for much of the first half. Poor Mexican decision making aided their cause, but the quality shone through eventually as Neymar and Philippe Coutinho took charge.
Paulinho’s off-the-ball runs have been key offensively for Brazil. The Barcelona man has a big role to play defensively in this one, however, as he’ll likely be charged with monitoring Kevin De Bruyne. Belgium’s midfield has problems of its own, namely not actually existing. Axel Witsel will be left exposed again.
Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens and Romelu Lukaku are all set to start. Roberto Martinez’s plan is to out gun every opponent, this match could resort to a straight attacking shootout.
Belgium are always a good bet to concede multiple goals, but that trio along with De Bruyne could terrorise this Brazil back line.
With their full-backs advancing up the pitch, Brazil risk being caught in a three-on-three when Belgium break. Casemiro has a crucial role to play as usual.
Belgium have the same issue, however, with their wing-backs providing the width in attack, which will leave acres of space for Neymar and Willian to stretch the outside centre-backs.
Sure, these matches are often a let-down, but are Belgium capable of boring? They’re certainly not going to nullify Brazil, and their own talent will at least have some impact on the match. Expect goals, expect a lot of them.
TIP: Over 3.5 goals @ 11/4
CORRECT SCORE: Brazil 3-2 Belgium (Priced at 28/1 with 888sport)
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*