Brazil and France are favoured with oddsmakers to win their quarter-final matches at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia on Friday. The Selecao will be in action against Belgium in Kazan, while France will attempt to break down Uruguay's stingy defence in Nizhny Novgorod.
Saturday will see England, fresh from Tuesday's dramatic win on penalties over Colombia, face defensively sound Sweden in Samara. The last eight will conclude later the same day when hosts Russia welcome Croatia to Sochi's Fisht Stadium.
- Uruguay: 333-100, France: 20-21, Draw: 21-10
- Brazil: 27-25, Belgium: 43-20, Draw: 43-20
- Sweden: 4-1 England: 19-20 Draw: 62-25 (Per Oddschecker)
- Russia: 289-100, Croatia: 32-25, Draw: 21-10
Brazil to Progress, but Uruguay Can Upset the Odds
Unlike four years ago, the Selecao can have confidence in a strong defence. Centre-back Thiago Silva continues to lead the line brilliantly but may miss the presence of Casemiro in front of him, as the Real Madrid holding midfielder is unavailable due to suspension.
Fortunately, coach Tite can draft in Manchester City enforcer Fernandinho to anchor midfield. The 33-year-old may also be better on the ball than Casemiro.
If Fernandinho and Silva can keep Lukaku and Co. quiet, Brazil have the attacking resources to edge in front and stay there. A forward line led by Neymar, but also featuring Willian, Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino will trouble a Belgium defence breached four times in as many matches.
By contrast, Uruguay have only conceded one goal so far, during the 2-1 win over Portugal in the last 16. It came from a set piece, meaning La Celeste have yet to be undone from open play, which is bad news for a France team coming off a thrilling 4-3 win over Argentina.
Les Bleus found plenty of space in the last round, with Kylian Mbappe's pace a constant threat in behind. The rapid forward won his country a penalty and bagged a brace in Kazan.
Despite his tender years, the 19-year-old is already outdoing the sport's biggest names on this stage:
Mbappe is the player Uruguay have to control, with their knack for defending deep and in numbers sure to prove vital.
If the game stays close, La Celeste have the firepower of their own to catch France cold, provided strikers Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez are fit.
The latter scored twice to beat Portugal but left the game with a hamstring problem, leaving Suarez hoping his strike partner can play on Friday, per Goal's Joe Wright: "I include myself in the three million Uruguayans waiting for Edi."
In a separate report, Wright also noted how Suarez "pulled up with apparent discomfort in his right leg" while participating in a training session on Tuesday but managed to continue.
Being without Cavani would only make Uruguay more determined to stifle France and force an open side into a cagey, close game.
Predictions: Brazil 2-1 Belgium, Uruguay 1-0 France
England and Croatia to Go Through
England finally ended a jinx in penalty shootouts and can carry that confidence into a match against a resourceful Sweden. The Three Lions will need to remain patient against a side drilled to stay in a compact shape, sit deep and break in numbers.
Pulling Sweden's defensive block apart will demand fluid movement up top. Specifically, the front three of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard must rotate and interchange positions freely.
The onus will be on Kane to drop off the front and take markers with him, leaving room for Sterling and Lingard to spin in behind him. Lingard's ability to create chances in the final third will be just as important:
England have enough pace and perceptive movement to stretch Sweden, turn early superiority into goals and take a team not built to chase games out of its comfort zone.
Croatia will get past Russia by using their own talented midfielders to deny their gifted counterparts the ball. Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic ensure this team uses the ball as well as any in the tournament.
Russia will have a hard time chasing shadows and getting their own skilled creators, Denis Cheryshev and Aleksandr Golovin, involved.
Predictions: Sweden 0-2 England, Russia 1-3 Croatia