After a sluggish group stage, the French have finally woke-up dispatching Argentina in style. With Croatia already beating Argentina 3-0, it’s hard to determine how big the magnitude of their victory was, but it highlighted the threat of France as an attacking force.
Kylian Mbappe came to the world’s attention with his brace against Messi and co, and if he continues to impress, then he may add to the cutting edge of Antoine Griezmann to make France an irresistible attacking force, especially on the counter.
Starting slowly and being under the radar at the tournament’s start is never a bad thing. Beating Uruguay will be a tough task, but will rubber-stamp them as a potential World Cup favourite.
Odds to Win World Cup
A realistic tournament winner. If they can beat Uruguay, they can beat anybody left in the tournament. Finalist at least.
Uruguay have a win-at-all-costs mentality coupled with their mastery of the dark arts, which when added to the quality they possess up front and in the heart of their defence mean they are a tough nut to crack.
Ultimately, they more than most teams, would have benefitted from being in the other half of the draw. Having already beaten the reigning European Champions Portugal in the knockout stages, to then go on and beat the French and Brazil/Belgium, to get to the final, will be a tough task mentality.
Also, with Edinson Cavani’s injury, who has scored three goals already this tournament, their chances to get past the French have been served a bitter blow.
While visiting the FIFA Museum last week, on an interactive video console there, I predicted Uruguay to get to the final against Croatia. Cavani’s injury may have derailed that prospect. Quarter-finalist.
In the 80’s and 90’s I always loved Brazil, but I’ve turned lukewarm in recent years. This Brazilian World Cup team haven’t really impressed yet. If Mexico had more composure in the final third, Brazil’s second round match may have been a different story. A 1-1 draw against an average Swiss team also wasn’t didn’t impress. They will have to move through the gears and be on tip-top form to get past Belgium.
I’m going with the trend of South American teams not having the best of success in European based World Cups, to predict they’re going out in the Quarter-finals.
The second half of Belgium vs Japan, was for MOMS money, the best half of the tournament so far. Japan at two-nil had Belgium by the balls and were out playing them at times, but Belgium showed they can change the way they play and demonstrated a character that has been missing in recent tournaments.
Belgium will have to improve further to get past favourites Brazil, but they have the players to do it…but do they have the team?
Semi-finalists. Sticking my neck out to say they’ll somehow get past Brazil.
Organisation is second to none. BBC’s Jermaine Jenas compared them to a well-drilled Championship side, which I can see his thinking, as they lack any real star quality. There’s no real match-winners like Martin Dahlin or Tomas Brolin to add a killer instinct to the well-drilled outfit.
They have an impressive head-to-head record with England and have drawn in their 2002 and 2006 encounters. They’ll be no surprise if they take England to penalties, but there are doubts to whether they can win in the 90 minutes.
There are perhaps another gear in England’s young team, so sorry Swedes, you’re leaving Russia this weekend.
MOMS was very cautious about the England hype train after wins against Tunisia and Panama, as they were teams England should have beaten.
Belgium was a none event considering both teams played changed teams, but the triumph over Columbia on penalties proved that this young England team has character when faced with adversity.
If Southgate had to pick his preferred quarter-finalist opponent, Sweden would have been top of the list out of the seven other teams left. Plus, the England boss finds himself in the weakest half of the draw, making passage into the final an actual reality.
England’s passing and movement against Columbia was perhaps beyond initial expectations before the tournament and they largely controlled long spells of the Columbian game. To go deeper into the competition though, England will have to be more ruthless in creating chances from open play, starting against a stubborn Swedish team.
Kane’s six goals have largely resulted from corners, including three penalties directly off corners, as well as two finishes off corners. He hasn’t actually had many shots in open play.
England have only beaten Sweden in two of their 15 meetings, including those two draws at the World Cup in 2002 and 2006. That is a concern, but nothing that can’t be overcome.
This World Cup is wide open and a realistic path to the final has been laid down in front of Southgate’s men.
The home bookies making England third favourites is biased and they’re obviously protecting themselves, if England do strike gold. Realistically, semi-finalists.
Spain have been the fall guys before against South Korea, losing their manager obviously didn’t help their cause, but Russia can pride themselves with getting past one of the legit favourites without having a proper shot on target bar penalties.
Home advantage and all that entails with home support and match official influence will certainly make Russia tricky to beat in the quarter-finals for Croatia, with the semi-finals offering Russia a very satisfactory climax to the World Cup.
They’ll need to do more going forward to get past Croatia though.
Russia will perhaps be content to finishes quarter-finalists considering their pedigree going into the tournament. They have performed a lot better than expected and disposing of Spain is a big feather in their cap.
Mentality is key. It let down previously talented Yugoslavian teams in the past, but if they can keep their heads and belief, Croatia could better their 1998 efforts. They will perhaps never have a better chance of getting to the final and potentially winning the World Cup.
In 1998, Croatia lost 1-0 to Argentina in the group stages, this time round they beat them 3-0. In 1998, they dispatched Germany 3-0 in the quarter-finals, so they must be respected and will have no fear of any country left in the tournament.
Croatia are MOMS’ favourite from this side of the draw, if they play to their potential. Russia is a potential banana skin though, but Croatia vs England would be a tie to look forward to.
I’m going to stick to my prediction after the group stages finished and say losing finalist. They weren’t too impressive against Denmark though, so England will fancy their chances if they do meet in the semi-finals.
Predicted World Cup Semi-finalists
France vs Belgium
England vs Croatia