2018 World Cup Update: Quarterfinals
The 2018 World Cup has been a blast so far. With all the penalty kick shootouts and tight games, it’s been a magnificent, dramatic tournament. As you may know, the “Dutch Lion” wrote a Preview and predicted Brazil as his 2018 World Cup Champion. So he’s still alive with his pick as we head to the Quarterfinals. So now we’re down to the Elite 8. In the Round of 16, the “Dutch Lion” was correct on 7 of his 8 selections. The only one he missed was Russia defeating Spain. 99% of the world missed on that pick as well, the 1% being Putin and his cronies.
Moving forward, the four Quarterfinal games resume on Friday and Saturday. Here are the Dutch Lion’s picks, with some help from Gary “The Gut” Goombah.
Friday, July 6
Uruguay vs France
France is supremely talented. Uruguay is known for their stonewall defense. France can score with the best in the world. Uruguay has only given up one goal in four World Cup games so far. What’s gonna give?
France is led by Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann. However, 19-year-old phenom Kylian Mbappe is taking the world by storm. At the beginning of the tournament I predicted Brazil would win. Admittedly, I’m having second thoughts. I now feel that France is the best team in the world. Here’s why:
Mbappe’s 2nd goal vs Argentina was excellent, but it wasn’t all him. As you can see in the video above, Mbappe’s 2nd goal started at the 1:30 mark. You’ll only see about 2 or 3 of the passes that set up the goal. If you can find it on Youtube, check out the long version. In fact, if you watched the entire sequence, it was set up by five fantastic passes from France. They went from goal to goal with five “tape to tape” passes (NHL reference) to get Mbappe in position for the score. In essence, this one goal proved how great France can be. Their talent, and more importantly, their teamwork, resonated with me on this goal.
Uruguay is excellent on defense, but this is where the dam breaks. Luis Suarez is a terrific player, but overall France is a better team with more talent.
Brazil vs Belgium
Belgium surprisingly struggled vs Japan in the Round of 16. It was as if the Japanese ‘Pearl Harbored’ Belgium! The Belgians were down 2-0 in the 2nd half before kamikaze-ing Japan with 2 quick goals and then finishing them off with a late game-winning goal in the 94th minute. Heartbreak City for the Japanese. Belgium is really good, as their #3 FIFA world ranking infers. However, we’ve got to question their performance in this game against FIFA’s 61st ranked team in the world.
Meanwhile, Brazil handled Mexico, despite the Mexicans’ dirty play. Mexico tried to get in Neymar’s head, going so far as stepping on Neymar’s ankle when he was already down on the field at one point. Nonetheless, Neymar was brilliant, scoring one goal and assisting on another.
I’m sticking with Brazil to get to the Semifinals. PICK: Brazil
Saturday, July 7
Sweden vs England
Gary “The Gut” is really excited about this matchup. I am too. Sweden is underrated. So is England. Harry Kane is amazing. A future star, a current star! Kane will need some help from Jamie Vardy, Marcus Rashford, Eric Dier, and Kieran Trippier in this quarterfinal match. Trippier played excellently in the Round of 16 game vs Columbia. Can he do it again? Expect Kane to be ready to play.
The Swedes have surprised the world over with their play despite their lack of their former star Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Not me, “Dutch”, or Gary. We believe in the Swedes! As huge fans of The Netherlands “Total Football”, we’ve been studying Sweden for several years. They’re good. You know how the Tennessee Volunteers won the National Championship the year AFTER Peyton Manning went pro? Same thing here. Sometimes a team rallies around each other after losing their star player. It’s almost as if everybody steps up because they lost their supreme talent. The players pick up their games and come together as a team. That’s what I see from Sweden.
This game could go either way. My heart says Sweden, but my brain says England is just a little bit better. So I’ll go with my heart and Emil Forsberg. PICK: Sweden
Russia vs Croatia
Oh no! How did Russia advance this far? It must have been James Comey, Robert Mueller, and the entire Russian technological factory. Maybe even Putin is behind this. Where’s that American traitor computer hacker hiding out? What’s his name?…… Edward Snowden! Yeah, I gotta believe Snowden is behind this Russian team’s advance in the World Cup. Spain screwed up, but still……
Did you see that one sequence late in the game where Russia’s defenders simply tackled all of the Spanish forwards in the box? No penalty was called. What a joke! As much as I dislike Spain, I must admit they got hosed. However, they had their chances. Spain simply passed and passed forever until they lost possession of the ball. They never put great scoring chances out there. They never put enough shots on goal. Credit the Russian goalie Igor Akinfeev with a magnificent performance. He saved 8 shots on goal in regulation plus two penalty kick saves to help Russia win 4-3 on PK’s after a 1-1 draw in 120 minutes of action.
Having said that, Croatia is a much better team. Enough with the Russian dream. It will end on Saturday afternoon. Croatia will win this match behind Luka Modric. Look for him to score at least one goal as Croatia wins in a shutout. PICK: Croatia
Final Four Semifinals
France vs Brazil – July 10 – This is the game we’ve all been waiting for. This is the premier game of the 2018 World Cup. I’m marking my calendar. The winner of this game is going to be the World Champion. I’m torn. Before the tournament I picked Brazil so I’m sticking with them. However, from what I’ve witnessed so far, I think France is the best team. PICK: Brazil
Croatia vs Sweden – July 11 – The bracket is very uneven. As much as I love England and Sweden, the matchups are lacking in power on this side. PICK: Sweden
World Cup Final
Brazil vs Sweden – July 15 – Brazil will wipe out Sweden despite a valiant effort from the Swedes. Brazil will get their 6th World Cup Championship, but for many it will be four years too late. Losing in their home country in 2014 to Germany will be a sad memory that can never be forgotten for Brazilian diehard fans. Hopefully this Cup helps ease the pain. Neymar will become the biggest star soccer player in the world as both Ronaldo and Messi retire without World Cup titles. Brazil = Champions!