Weekly English Premier League Opinion - World Cup Edition Quarter Finals Predictions
Quarter Final Predictions
The quarter finals are massively unbalanced, with all four teams on one half of the bracket stronger than all four of the teams on the other side. However, it has played out this way and these are the games. There are some very tough matchups to call.
Uruguay vs. France
France have looked more dominant as the games have gone on, the settling on a system of play and settling on a group of players within that system is serving them well. Both teams will be missing first choice players, but I think France can cope with that better than Uruguay. The only consolation I can see for Uruguay with the Cavani injury, assuming that he doesn’t play, is that his omission gives Uruguay the tactical option to play with one striker and beef up the midfield where France are strong. I think the coach’s team selections will have a substantial influence of the outcome of this game.
France to win
Brazil vs. Belgium
What a game. This should be the final, perhaps. Both teams should genuinely feel that they can win the whole thing, but one big team is going home after this game. Lots has been spoken about the Belgium system of play, the 3-4-3 leaving them a little lightweight in the center of midfield. Brazil overpowered Mexico in the last round in this area of the field, and I fear that unless Belgium address this tactical weakness and adopt a more conventional 4-2-3-1 and mirror the Brazil formation, Belgium might get caught. Both teams have an excellent attacking threat, so it might just be the other half of the game that decides this one. Tough to call.
On a side comment, the antics of Neymar are becoming a disgrace. Few would deny that Neymar has contributed well to the Brazil cause and he is admired for his football skills. But he’s fast losing respect and fast losing friends due to his diving, crying and rolling around. Yes, flair players should be protected, all players should be protected, and Neymar has received above a reasonable amount of physical attrition, but football doesn’t need the additional antics.
Brazil to win
Russia vs. Croatia
Croatia have demonstrated their inconsistency, occasionally outstanding and yet often unconvincing. Depending on which Croatia shows up, the result could go either way. There is no doubt that Russia have exceeded expectation, so even if they dropped out here this World Cup will have been a veritable success for the host nation. There is little doubt that a devoted home crowd will play their part in the game as well. Soccer logic suggests that Croatia will walk through this game easily, but this World Cup hasn’t always operated with clear logic. I think Croatia should be able to cope with the direct Russian tactics, and their ball possession through attacking midfield could dominate this game.
Croatia to win
Sweden vs. England
Both nations came through tough examinations in the round of 16. Neither team looked particularly impressive in victory, but perhaps that doesn’t matter anymore. The Sweden team is crammed full of bang average players, there are very few high-profile names, but their collective is undeniable. Sweden are here on merit and will be a challenge. The Sweden game plan will be simple, they will play direct, play physical and play to their strengths. But I think England can cope with that. What England have in addition though are better players with the ball. England are better at retaining possession and they should threaten more because of that ball retention. Tactically this is a good matchup for England and I think they will come through, somewhat comfortably.
England to win
By Jonny Carter - Chicago Fire