What a World Cup it has been! VAR, stunning eliminations, simulations, exaggerations...scoring.
Thirty-two teams started this dance and only eight remain. By the end of this weekend’s matches, we will know the identity of the big four.
Before we chat all about it, let’s take a quick look at the upcoming games!
URUGUAY v FRANCE
Kylian Mbappe has arrived and his sun shines brighter than any other stars on show. Apologies to Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and Luis Suarez. I’d also include Mbappe’s PSG teammate, Edinson Cavani on the apologies list, except he’s confirmed out on account of the calf injury suffered in the Round of 16.
Uruguay’s defense, led by Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez is the best in the world, but with so-so fullbacks, they could struggle to contain Mbappe, Griezmann, and whomever replaces the suspended Blaise Matuidi (Pavard is starting).
My heart wants Uruguay, but my head tells me France.
BRAZIL v BELGIUM
A match fit for the finals! There are more stars on display here than there are in the Hollywood Walk of Fame, right Chris Manfredi? Oh and Chris, what’s the scoop on Neymar getting Hollywood casting calls to star as “Soldier-A, KIA” in every single one of the next batch of war movies? His death scenes are Academy worthy!
There are any number of players I would have to consider calling up to my Earth 23 should we ever be invaded by a highly intelligent alien civilization that challenges humankind for control of our planet: Neymar, Coutinho, Casemiro, Marcelo, Alisson, Kevin De Bruyne, Jan Vertonghen and Eden Hazard come to mind, but I could dig harder if necessary.
Belgium is a very good team and against any other opponent would have been favored to advance. Alas, this is probably as far as they’ll go. It won’t be their fault, and they will not disappoint. It’s nothing personal, it’s just Brazil.
SWEDEN v ENGLAND
I don’t believe in guarantees... but it sure is tempting to guarantee a penalty shootout to decide this one, ain’t it?
On paper, England should run away with this one. I don’t think there are many of us who can confidently name three Sweden players AND the clubs they play for. But, make no mistake about it... this Sweden team is arguably the best remaining “together” group with Uruguay as the only possible exception. This Sweden team also has an impressive collection of scalps on its resume, including Italy, Netherlands and Germany (true, they lost that game at the death but they did eliminate the reigning champions from the group stages!).
Who knew, before the tournament kicked off that it would be Sweden and not Iceland that would Scandi-shock the world?
England, led by Harry Kane, who has ascended to Top 5 in the World status, will end Sweden’s run. It won’t be pretty, but it will happen.
RUSSIA v CROATIA
All bets are off! This should be a Croatia victory, but who knows?
Croatia looked vulnerable against Denmark, and Russia beat... SPAIN!!!!
Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic, Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic (among a number of others) offer lots of class and talent. Russia, on the other hand may lack world-class talent but offer belief. And there is great power in self-belief.
It’s been a very nice story for Russia in this World Cup, but I’m afraid there will not be a repeat of 2002 when co-host South Korea shockingly made it to the semifinals. The road to the finals ends here for Russia.
How are your fantasy teams doing? Have you enjoyed this World Cup? What team has surprised you the most? What team has disappointed you so? Let’s chat in the comments below!