World Cup Quarter-Finals Analysis by Ex-Bafana star Matthew Booth
…the quarter-finals are upon us! Here is my prognosis.
Uruguay vs France:
Edison Cavani is a serious doubt for the small South American nation and having scored two sublime goals in the last 16 round it would be a serious blow to The Sky Blues attacking impetus especially if you take into account that Suarez, despite his high work ethic, has looked a little lethargic when it comes to sharpness in front of goal.
France despatched Uruguay’s much larger and lauded neighbours. The battle that will pique my interest will be the telepathic duo of Godin and Gimenez versus the spritely genius of 19 year old Killian Mbappe.
Prediction: French win.
Brazil vs Belgium:
This battle royale is undoubtedly the marquis game of the round and Roberto Martinez has described this match-up as a ‘dream match’ where both teams are set up to score goals as opposed to putting emphasis on ball possession. I agree with him, hence my prediction below. Both teams tend to play with one defensive midfielder and this is only in name as they love to get forward and contribute in forward positions as well. With Casimero out, what a luxury Tite has in being able to call on Fernandinho to fill the role.
The Belgiums have shown calm and character in the previous round after having been 2-0 down with 30 minutes left on the clock they called on Fellaini to give them the long ball option while continuing to play the short ball build up with a sense of inevitability. Martinez
has the small headache of whether to start Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli who were both impactful off the bench.
The attacking units could very well balance out so whoever manages to get their defensive midfielder higher up in the game could tip the scales in their favour.
Prediction: More than 2,5 goals.
Sweden vs England:
The Swedes are not a team which is blessed with ball-players and their possession stats speak volumes of how they reached the quarter- finals…discipline, character, high work-ethic, defensive organisation and, against Switzerland, a large degree of luck as it took a weak Forsberg shot and fortuitous deflection off Akanji for them to progress.
The English attacking unit will have to be patient and make the right choices in the attacking third of the field. Leading up to this game, rest and rejuvenation of tired legs will be all important for Southgate to get right as his team looked legless in extra time against the Colombians after having dominated for most of normal time. Walker will be suspended which begs the question of Southgate: back four or stick with three? Walker provided much needed pace to cover Stones and McGuire but if Cahill or Dier slot in a back three that element will be lacking. Having said that, the Swedes don’t have much pace up front.
Prediction: England win.
Russia vs Croatia:
The hosts have done remarkably well considering their preparation leading up to the WC2018 and despite being exposed by Uruguay in their final group game they held their nerve and showed off their defensive capabilities with the aging Ignatiavich and his
inexperienced partner, Kutepov keeping Costa quiet. Dzagoev and Zhirkov are unlikely to take part. What Spain lacked with Iniesta being benched, Croatia will have in Modric. He and Rakitic have been the midfield combo of the tournament so far, complimenting each other like hand to glove.
Prediction: Croatia win in extra-time.
Enjoy the quarter-finals…they promise to be another enthralling round of WC2018.
Do zhvidanya (Until next time)