In a wild weekend of matches we saw France come out as a tournament favorite by eliminating Messi and Argentina, Ronaldo suffer the same fate by losing to Uruguay, Croatia win on penalties and of course Spain losing to underdogs Russia on penalties as well.
France (4) Argentina (3). Messi was knocked out by Kylian Mbappe and France in a goal-scoring thriller early on Saturday morning, ending his underwhelming campaign. He may not have played the tournament they needed in order to win, but every single one of his teammates let him down in almost every match especially on defense. In the match though, there were 5 goals scored from minute 41 to minute 68, three of which were scored by France. With two goals and the unbelievable run to set up the first goal, Mbappe announced to the world he is the golden boy of the tournament in spectacular fashion.
Uruguay (2) Portugal (1). Edinson Cavani led the line for Uruguay, scoring both goals for the Uruguayans. Portugal won the stat sheet in almost every fashion and controlled a lot of the match, but that’s almost where Uruguay is most successful. Their defense can withstand a lot of pressure and as I said in my preview, they can counter attack in the blink of an eye. That’s exactly what they did as Cavani provided two absolutely stunning goals on the break.
Spain (1) Russia (1). (3-4 pens). This one is simple; the Spaniards didn’t deserve to win this match. After keeping 80% possession and 600 more completed passes than the Russians, they only provided 5 shots on goal in the 90 minutes of regulation. They sat with the ball with no urgency and expected something to come out of it, and it didn’t. They played with a sense of complacency that doesn’t get you anywhere in the World Cup and I could not have been more wrong about them going into this match. I guess that’s what you get when you try predicting the most unpredictable sporting event in the world.
Croatia (1) Denmark (1). (3-2 pens). Croatia go through on penalties, as the match started with 2 goals in the first 4 minutes but failed to provide one for the other 116 minutes. The match was overall pretty even although Croatia had the slight statistical edge. The goalies were spectacular during the shootout as half of the 10 penalties taken were saved.
Four matches in and four left as we look to fill out the remaining spots in the Quarterfinal. Let’s get rolling…
All-Time Record: 256-232-67
World Cup Record: 23-22-7
Monday, July 2
10:00 am EST
Brazil v. Mexico – The Brazilians are looking to get back on their feet after 3 relatively average performances in the Group Stage while the Mexicans look to rebound after their blowout loss to Sweden. I have been severely underwhelmed with the Mexican defense in this tournament especially when they went down to Sweden, as they looked as if they gave up completely and had no clue how to play a goal down. I see Brazil getting back their form here and making the Mexican defense overwhelmed just like against Sweden. If Mexico allow Neymar and Coutinho any space and don’t attack them physically, they will be in serious trouble. The injury blow of Marcelo not being available hurts as he is so great in pressuring up the wing, freeing that space up in the midfield but they have the depth to overcome it for now. This could be a push here at -1 and with the tight matches we’ve had all Round of 16 this one may be a bit risky, but I like Brazil to keep Mexico’s Quarterfinal curse alive here. Plus, this is where Brazil start to show up in every World Cup. Brazil (-1).
2:00 pm EST
Japan v. Belgium – A lot of this match may depend on the health of Lukaku who has been fully cleared for the match, but may be thrown off of his game. He is returning from ligament damage in his ankle from the match against Tunisia and his fitness will be crucial for Belgium’s goal production. My concern going into the tournament for Belgium was their injury prone nature, but if they are 100% then I don’t see them having any issues here. They’re going against a Japan team that had one win in the Group Stage and it was against a Colombia team who played man down for 87 minutes. Even then, they almost couldn’t secure the three points and I think they will have serious trouble against Belgium here. It goes against one of my rules to pick relatively high spread and I know I said this last time and it didn’t work out for me, but I can’t fade Belgium after watching them run away with Group G. Belgium (-1.5).
Tuesday, July 3
10:00 am EST
Sweden v. Switzerland – I was high on Sweden coming into the tournament and they’ve certainly lived up to my expectation. Clearly they aren’t messing around as they won a group that consisted of Germany, Mexico and South Korea. They will be going up against a Switzerland team who hasn’t accomplished anything substantial in the tournament outside of their opening day draw to Brazil. But both will be missing key players due to yellow card accumulation. Sebastian Larsson, who has started every match and is the veteran in the midfield, will sit for Sweden. For the Swiss, they will be missing arguably two more important players in starting center back Fabian Schar and team captain and defensive partner Stephan Lichtsteiner. Expect the Swedes to pressure that left wing to try to expose the Swiss replacements and I think they will be successful in doing so. This one screams draw after 90 minutes, but I give the edge to Sweden as they’ve had a much better tournament all around and will match up nicely with the Swiss. Sweden (Pick +110).
2:00 pm EST
Colombia v. England – Colombia have really grown into the tournament after their opening loss to the Japanese. James Rodriguez and Juan Quintero have taken control of the team on the offensive end and they will seriously cause England some trouble if they are allowed space. The winner of this match could be the favorite to make the Final after Spain’s loss, and both countries know what it would mean to get there. For England it comes down to two men; Harry Kane and John Stones. Kane obviously because his goal production will be necessary if they want to win, but Stones will need to be composed and on his game if he wants to contain Falcao, James and Quintero. I think where England could get exposed though is on the wing if Quintero, Cuadrado and James stay out wide as only Kyle Walker will really be able to handle their pace and ability. It will be interesting to see if Southgate, England’s manager, sticks with the 3-5-2 formation against those skilled players. For Colombia, they must accept that this will be one of the first matches in which they most likely will not be in control for the full 90 minutes as England play possession-based and slow soccer. If Colombia get sucked into playing at the same pace as the English, they will find themselves outside of their comfort zone and right where England want them to be. I want to ride Colombia due to their form but England’s side is more quality from top to bottom and they have the depth to be able to make the crucial changes down the stretch of the match. I think England show the world they’re back and take this one in 90 minutes. England (-0.5).
Thanks for following along per usual, and I hope everyone can enjoy their 4th of July. The Quarterfinals start on Friday, July 6th so we will have a couple days off around the 4th to celebrate our country that isn’t in the tournament.
Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.