The quarter-finals of the World Cup get underway with two mouth-watering fixtures. In our bitcoin betting guide to the world cup, we take a look at how favourable the draw has been to each side and take a look at likely tactics.
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A heavily lopsided draw means arguably the best four nations left in Russia face each other in the last eight and then the last four. Only one of Uruguay, France, Brazil, or Belgium will make it to the 2018 World Cup final.
They should both be superb, engrossing games of soccer, albeit in entirely different ways. Uruguay v France is likely to be a cautious and physical game won by a moment of quality by one of the forwards. Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe have been sensational so far in Russia. And Brazil v Belgium promises to be an open game with plenty of goals.
Uruguay v France July 6th 14:00
Their respective second round matches could hardly have been more different, but in their own way both Uruguay and France were convincing; it wouldn’t be a surprise to see either nation lift the World Cup on July 15, and yet one of them will be going home at the quarter-final stage.
The South Americans have won all four of their matches so far, conceding just once from open play and knocking out Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in the previous round. Meanwhile the European nation stuttered through Group C before coming to life in a thrilling 4-3 victory over Argentina, playing the sort of high-tempo, attack-minded soccer that could make for an explosive game at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on Friday.
Tactics & line-up
Uruguay have certainly found their rhythm since switching to a diamond 4-4-2 for the final group game against Russia. A 3-0 victory that day, followed by the 2-1 win against Portugal, was defined by composed passing and commanding performances by the quadrant of central midfield players Lucas Torreira, Matias Vecino, Rodrigo Bentancur, and Nahitan Nandez.
Oscar Tabarez’s side are not as aggressive as they once were.
The ‘dirty’ tag for the Uruguayan team is becoming a lazy stereotype, they look to play out from the back. They are as defensively resilient as ever: Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez is a ruthless centre-back partnership.
It will be tough, then, for France to find the sort of counter-attacking space they exploited so brilliantly against Argentina. Kylian Mbappe will be shut down quickly, while Uruguay’s compact formation should ensure Didier Deschamps’ side look more like the laboured, ponderous France of the group stage.
Things to look out for
But there is far too much talent in attack for this game to be low on chances. Edinson Cavani has been Uruguay’s stand-out player so far and is certainly worth playing close attention to, while Luis Suarez already has two goals and an assist in Russia. These two will require good service from Bentancur at the tip of the diamond, which makes his individual battle with N’Golo Kante crucial.
France’s Mbappe has been thrust into the limelight following his double against Argentina, which probably means Uruguay will target the young Paris Saint-Germain forward. If they pay too much attention to the 19-year-old then Antoine Griezmann might just ghost into pockets of space; it’s about time France’s most talented player gives a statement performance at the 2018 World Cup.
Prediction: Back BTTS at 2.36*
Brazil v Belgium July 6th 18:00
There are two ways to interpret Belgium’s frantic 3-2 comeback victory over Japan in the previous round: either they showed tremendous character – and thus proved they have the resilience to go all the way – or troubling brittleness in going 2-0 down. The former gives them hope of an upset at the Kazan Arena this weekend, the latter suggests Roberto Martinez’s tactical naivety will hand Brazil a fairly straightforward win. Four matches in, and Belgium remain a strangely unknown entity at the World Cup.
Spain’s elimination leaves Brazil as the clear favourites to win the tournament. They haven’t conceded a goal since Steven Zuber scored in the 50th minute of their opening match against Switzerland, and the 2-0 defeat of Mexico on Monday made it eight clean sheets in the last nine matches for Tite’s side. This is a considerably more conservative, solid Brazil team than we’re used to, with the odd moment of individual quality usually providing a match-winning moment. Philippe Coutinho has been particularly effective so far.
Tactics & line-up
Martinez has a big decision to make. Belgium looked extremely vulnerable, yet again, in their 3-4-2-1 formation against Japan, leaving far too much space on the flanks (because they use such high wing-backs) and too few bodies in central midfield (Kevin de Bruyne gets forward, leaving Alex Witsel all alone).
Belgium were much better when Marouane Fellaini came on and Belgium switched to a 4-2-3-1.
Fellaini might be needed to counteract the danger posed by Brazil’s nippy midfield, but it would be a brave call to sacrifice an attacking star for the Manchester United man.
Brazil also have some big calls. Will Tite finally bring Fernandinho into the starting line-up to stamp out the threat of a deep-lying Kevin de Bruyne? Will Roberto Firmino finally get a start after scoring once and assisting another in just 37 minutes of soccer in Russia? Brazil will be the more composed side either way, although Belgium’s chaotic and top-heavy system means goals at both ends seems likely.
Things to look out for
Brazil are not invulnerable. Filipe Luis was left isolated against Mexico’s Hirving Lozano in the first half and was turned several times in dangerous areas, before Lozano switched flanks for the second period and caused just as many problems for right-back Fagner. Tite’s side can be got at, meaning it is worth keeping an eye on Yannick Corrasco (or Nacer Chadli, who turned the game around against Japan) and Eden Hazard. Linking on the left, Brazil’s Fagner could be in trouble.
Romelu Lukaku is, of course, the one to watch for Belgium. He might not have scored against Japan but his intelligent movement and dummy set up the winning goal in the 94th minute on Monday. The 25-year-old will make runs on the shoulder of Miranda, a 33-year-old centre-back who has lost his pace. It’s a clear mismatch that should mean goals galore in Kazhan.
Prediction: Back over 2.5 goals at 2.08*
*Odds subject to change, all match times UTC