What a Game!
With only 8 teams remaining going into this weekend this has been another great 2018 World Cup.
Here’s a breakdown of final 8 for you, but first, let’s talk about what you may have missed:
1) Wo Sind die Deutschen?
The defending world champs had an exceptionally bad start and never made it out of the group stage. After losing to Mexico, they then dropped another against South Korea and that was auf wiedersehen for Germany. Many fans had high hopes for them this year and have always loved their style of attack football, but it just wasn’t to be.
2) Hai Nihon!
Ok, they squeaked out of the group stage, but then they just barely missed the quarters after blowing a 2-0 lead against Belgium – arguably the Luckiest Team on Earth (more on that below).But how awesome for Japanese football to get so close. And both the team and their fans might just be the classiest bunch to go to a World Cup. Well done Japan.
The 2018 Word Cup Final 8
Belgium vs Brazil
(2 p.m. ET at Kazan)
Perhaps these Belgian dark horses have a shot. After 2 big wins in the group stage, they pulled off a comeback not seen for over 50 years in coming back from a 2-0 deficit after a scoreless first half. Japan’s fade might be the emotional lift the Red Devils need to go against Brazil on Friday. But this ultimately may come down to coaching – Belgium might need to swap their entire bench and starter rosters to keep that momentum going.
Brazil, while always a frightening team to go up against, haven’t been putting up the points as in previous Cups. There’s a ton of talent there but I’m wondering if they’ve been intentionally cruising a bit to save themselves for the finals.
Prediction: It’s either going to be 4-0 Brazil if I’m right about the cruise-control, or Belgium will win the emotional fight and win 2-1.
Results: Yes, we hedged our bets on this but the final was 2-1 Belgium as predicted, and at this point, they are the masters of the counter-attack in 2018. If they don’t succumb to nerves, this is a Final-ready team.
Uruguay vs France
(10 a.m. ET at Nizhny Novgorod)
Unless playing against England, I’ve always had a soft spot for Les Bleus. They put up a world-class team every four years and play great ball. This year they have one of the great strikers in Mbappé and they’ve yet to lose a game in this Cup. Griezmann looks strong and Pogba brings his 2014 Cup experience
With Cavani’s health questionable, we’ll see how Uruguay keeps it together. They haven’t lost a match yet but they’ve had a somewhat easy path so far. Suarez is always tough and they have beaten France in all their previous matchups.
Prediction: Its the World Cup – history doesn’t matter. I’m picking France 3-1 as a frustrated Uruguay peaked against Portugal and – did I mention I that soft spot?
Results: We called the spread but were off by a goal each. Still, France won 2-0 as Uruguay brought none of their early power and Les Bleus just walked off with this one.
England vs Sweden
(10 a.m. ET at Samara)
In spite of an early 1-0 loss to Belgium, England has been looking strong – sorry Panama. Kane is always a leader, that Pickford save and Delph just had a baby.
There’s a lot of good emotional energy going on for England, and they’ve shown toughness throughout this World Cup.
The underdog Sweden lacks big name players, but are solid and technical. Even the British paper, The Guardian, seems to favor Sweden but we wonder if they’re just keeping the boys on their toes.
Prediction: If Sweden wins this, I’ll clean their locker room to Japanese standards. I feel a lot of scoring coming here. Let’s call it 4-2 for England and Sweden’s second goal will come late in the second half when nobody really cares.
Result: Right about the spread; wrong about the high-scoring. Sweden just didn’t bring much creativity to the game and England was just too strong.
Russia vs Croatia
(2pm at Sochi)
First of all, fair play to Russia for putting on a great show. both as hosts and for playing some solid football. While not the strongest team in the finals, they have solid defense and anything can happen this late. We don’t see them making the Final but it’d be great to see them in the semi round.
They struggled with Denmark but they stomped Argentina…Croatia is a bit hard to figure out. Certainly a good team but Russia still has a lot left to show us, especially with the home team advantage.
Prediction: Russia 2-1 but this is a toss-up for me.