Weekly English Premier League Opinion - World Cup Edition Quarter Finals Predictions
France vs. Belgium
This should be the final really, and whichever team goes through I think will end up winning the final. The circumstances of this difficult side of the bracket have left a few nations behind, while some other nations have used the good fortune to its fullest potential.
There was a lot of conversation about Belgium and their 3-4-3 system of play not really providing the best platform for them to express themselves. But Belgium did change, and credit to Martínez for making the change. The four at the back gave a greater license of freedom for De Bruyne and that was a very positive change, evidenced massively by Belgium’s capacity to create and score goals with limited possession versus Brazil. It might be a similar story again in this game with France the more dominant of the ball possession, but its goals scored that counts.
Bot teams have excellent defensive shape and are backed up by goalkeepers who are in good form, already they have been helpful in seeing their teams advance to this stage. The midfield of France is better equipped, they are better on the ball, which I think will lead to that greater possession statistic. Where Belgium were good against Brazil was on the counter attack, however, what France have in N'Golo Kanté is perhaps the best midfielder out of possession in world football, so I expect France to be prepared for the speed and precision of the Belgium counter.
In the attack, both teams are stacked. But it might be argued that the form of players coming into this game are inconsistent. Lukaku is playing well but not really scoring, Griezmann is scoring but not really playing that well. I think it will be an excellent game, I’m very much looking forward to it. I think it will just come down to which high profile players give more for their team, and I think that will be France.
France to win
Croatia vs. England
This game will be equally intriguing, if maybe not as high in quality. These are two evenly matched teams, and both will think they can beat the other, both will be confident of beating the other.
I don’t think it will be anywhere near as open as the other semi-final, I think this will be a cagey, very safe affair with neither team wanting to risk much or maybe even risk anything at all. I think it will be low scoring and long. Certainly, extra time will be a high probability. Maybe more than that as well.
Croatia have quality, we know that, and we have seen that quality across some games in the World Cup, but they can’t demonstrate that quality consistently. On their day and with all the big names playing well, they could destroy England. But there is nothing to suggest that I have confidence in Croatia showing that.
Equally I have been unconvinced by England. There strongest route to goal seems to be set-piece corner kicks so more of their game plan needs to create ways to win corner kicks. Passing the ball sideways across the defensive group doesn’t suggest that this is part of their game plan. I would like to see players take more responsibility on the ball, either stepping into midfield with possession from the three central defenders or greater risk taking in the attacking midfield. If England are too safe, if they don’t take risks then they might lose out. I’m hoping to see a semi-final performance from England.
I don’t think Croatia will show up and I think England will have enough to win through.
England to win
By Jonny Carter - Chicago Fire