Four mouth-watering clashes to finalise the four teams for the semi-finals.

After three weeks of intense competition, we are now down to the final eight team in the 2018 World Cup. This World Cup has thrown up several shocks and surprises and lived up to its billing as one of the best World Cups in recent times.

Many of the pre-tournament favourites, like Germany, Spain and Argentina have been knocked out of the competition and will watch the game from their respective homes, while there have been a few teams who’ve surprised everyone and made it to the last eight, which includes the likes of Russia, Sweden and Croatia.

Here, we take a look at what to expect from each of the quarter-finals and the players who may miss out.

  1. Uruguay vs France

Two teams who have been dominant in the group stages as well as their Round of 16 games, Uruguay and France topped their respective groups and then won their tough Round of 16 games.

Luis Suarez and co. knocked out Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, thanks to Edinson Cavani’s brace, while Kylian Mbappe starred in France’s impressive, come-from-behind victory over Lionel Messi’s Argentina side.

It will be a game between Uruguay’s well-organised and structure defence – who’ve only conceded one goal in the tournament so far – against a strong, powerful and attacking France side led by the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba.

It looks like Uruguay may be without their star striker Edinson Cavani, who sustained an injury in their Round of 16 game against Portugal, and will most likely be replaced by Christian Stuani. Meanwhile, Blaise Matuidi will be suspended for the game after accumulating two yellow cards and will be replaced by Corentin Tolisso or Thomas Lemar in the starting line-up.

Prediction: Uruguay 1-2 France

  1. Brazil vs Belgium

Brazilian teams have always been associated with the word ‘flair’ and this team is no different. But in their quarter-final match, they will be up against another side who have quality and flair all over the pitch – Belgium.

Brazil and Belgium were favourites to progress deep into the tournament prior to the start of the World Cup, and they’ve stuck to the script to the T. Like Uruguay and France, Brazil and Belgium dominated and topped their respective groups.

While Brazil breezed through their Round of 16 clash against Mexico, their quarter-final opponents had a tougher task. Against Japan, Belgium were down 2-0 in the second half but showed resilience and class to fight back and secure a 3-2 victory in the dying moments of the game.  

Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro is suspended from their crucial quarter-final clash after accumulating two yellow cards and will most likely be replaced by Manchester City’s Fernandinho in the middle of the park, while Marcelo could also return to the side after missing out on their last match due to injury.

Belgium manager Roberto Martinez has no injury or suspension worries and will most likely name an unchanged team for their game against the Brazilians.

Prediction: Brazil 2-1 Belgium

  1. Sweden vs England

The last time Sweden went past the Round of 16 stage in a World Cup, they went all the way to the semi-finals, in the 1994 World Cup, where they were beaten by eventual winners, Brazil. Most pundits wouldn’t put it past them to beat their quarter-final opponents in this year’s World Cup, England, and once again make it to the semi-finals.

England has had a mixed World Cup in terms of performance, but have got the job done when needed, unlike past English teams. The English won a penalty shootout in the World Cup for the first time against Colombia in the Round of 16 after dominating a dull match.

Meanwhile, Sweden eked out a victory against Switzerland in the Round of 16 match by a solitary Emil Forsberg goal. Both teams have a pragmatic approach, unlike the teams from the first two quarter-finals, and will look to get a goal and shut shop.

The Swedes will be without experienced defender Mikael Lustig, who will be suspended for the game and will most likely be replaced by 23-year-old Emil Krafth. England have their own injury worries as Ashley Young and Jamie Vardy will have to pass a late fitness test. If Young is not fit enough, he will be replaced by Tottenham’s Danny Rose in the left wing-back position.

Prediction: Sweden 0-1 England

  1. Russia vs Croatia

Not many would have predicted hosts Russia to make it out of the group stage of the 2018 World Cup, let alone progress to the quarter-finals! The Russians have surprised all and have taken every opportunity with both hands, including a Round of 16 victory via a penalty shootout against 2010 World Cup winners, Spain.

Their opponents, Croatia, have been the surprise package of this tournament, beating Argentina convincingly in the group stages, and then winning via penalty shootout in the Round of 16 against Denmark.

Croatia, led by their enigmatic captain Luka Modric, have star players in midfield, which includes Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic and Modric, while they also possess a strong backline. The Russians have shown that they can be stubborn in defence, as was evidenced in the game against Spain, and will make themselves tough to beat.

Croatia have all players available for selection, but Russia will be sweating on the fitness of winger/defender Yuri Zhirkov, as well as winger Aleksandr Samedov.

Prediction: Russia 1-3 Croatia

Conclusion: 

We are all pumped-up for the final clash, tell us your prediction in the comments section below!

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