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The possible semifinalists of FIFA World Cup 2018
Everyone says that FIFA World Cup 2018 has been a tournament of upsets. But if you take a look at the history of World Cup, you shall find many instances of teams considered strong probable winners being knocked out of the tournament. Every World Cup has its share of upsets and heartbreaks and this World Cup is no exception.

I am an ardent fan of football and a former football player too (local club level). From 1986 onwards I have been watching World Cup matches. My way of observing the World Cup is to watch all group matches before predicting anything. The group matches give a clear indication of a team's strengths and weaknesses. By doing a neutral analysis one can predict the probable results very easily.

On my Facebook page I had predicted wins for both France and Uruguay over Argentina and Portugal respectively. Many had criticised me by arguing that superstars like Messi and Ronaldo can do miracles. Yes miracles do happen but not always. All but two predictions of mine in the group of sixteen turned out to be correct. Only Spain losing to Russia and Columbia losing to England was against my predictions. Now I'm going to analyse the upcoming quarterfinal matches without committing to any team of individual player.

Uruguay versus France

France is world number seven as per FIFA rankings whereas Uruguay is world number 14. Market odds for France are 17/4 whereas for Uruguay 16/1. So as per rankings as well as market odds, France should be favourite. However, I have some reservations against naming France as the favourite team. France has a weak defence. Recall the match between Argentina and France. Although France won it due to its strikers especially Mbappe but it also conceded three goals. On the other hand Uruguay has one of the best defence lineups in this tournament. Its midfielders too are very cohesive and complimenting and it has two world class strikers in Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. Thus, I think Uruguay will win the match by 2-1 or 3-2.

Brazil versus Belgium

Brazil is world number two team in rankings whereas Belgium is ranked at three in the world. Ideally the final match should have been between Brazil and Belgium, however, one of the two teams will be knocked out on 6 July. As per market odds Brazil is favourite with 3/1 whereas Belgium’s market odds are 13/2 at the moment. Thus, by rankings and market odds, Brazil is favourite. I also think so because according to my analysis both Brazil and Belgium have equal strength in the midfield and attacking forwards. Belgium only trails a bit in its defence. Not to forget that a team like Japan (61st rank in the world) scored two goals against Belgium taking a 2-0 lead before eventually losing to Belgium 2-3. Brazil has of late been playing well especially in the second half. Since Neymar’s faking has crossed limits, at times he can be irritating albeit he's the main stay of the Brazilian side. The result most likely will be 2-0 in favour of Brazil.

Sweden versus England

England is number 12 as per FIFA rankings whereas Sweden is number 24. Market odds too are in favour of England 9/2 whereas Sweden’s odds are 25/1. Thus it appears that England is favourite. However, Sweden is really playing much better than its ranking. It not only topped its group but also defeated world number six ranked Switzerland in the pre-quarterfinal. On the other hand England is comparatively a young team and just managed to defeat Columbia (16th ranked team) in a penalty shootout in the absence of Columbia’s star player James Rodriguez. Thus, I hold no team as favourite in this quarterfinal with a slight advantage to Sweden.

Russia versus Croatia

Croatia is 20th ranked team in FIFA world rankings whereas Russia is ranked 70. Market odds for Croatia are 13/2 whereas for Russia they are 25/2. Russia has home advantage and is also upbeat after knocking out a very strong team like Spain. But then, Croatia is playing really well. It has strong defence, good midfield and fast attacking forwards/strikers. Thus I don’t see Russia repeating any miracle or upset. Croatia should win 3-0.

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