Halfway through the quarter final, and we have just two World Cup winners and a combined two World Cup wins remaining in the tournament. Last night saw another top favourite bow, and I’ll cover both games played last night in this article.
Quarter Final 1: Uruguay vs France
It was clear from the start what Uruguay’s tactics were going to be in this match, try to put France off their attacking game by some hard tackling and constant needling. France did not look fluent in the opening exchanges themselves, with their vaunted forward line not linking up particularly well yet. Uruguay did have the first shot on goal, but it was meek effort straight at Lloris. It took France 40 minutes to have their first shot on target, but first time itself was the charm. Varane met Griezman’s free-kick with a glancing header that beat Muslera at his far post. France were ahead after a half where they didn’t particularly look convincing. Uruguay nearly equalized instantaneously. Caceres’s powergul header was palmed away by Lloris at full stretch, and Godin could not direct follow-up on target. The second half started off in the same way as the first, with Uruguay doing their best to break up the French attacks and trying to launch counters of their own, which were not successful. Just past the hour mark, Griezman picked up a ball on the left where he was operating and launched a long range drive which was staright at the opposition goalkeeper. Muslera seemed to lose the flight of the ball at the last minute and his parry looped over his head and into this own net. It was a horrible moment for the experienced goalkeeper, who will have to live with this mistake all his life. Uruguay’s heds dropped following this moment, as it became clear that they had a Herculean task ahead of them now. They barely troubled the French defence beyond this, the game fizzling out towards the end. There were tears from the Uruguayans even before the final whistle. The golden generation of Uruguay had probably just played their last World Cup, while the French golden generation were in the peak of their powers.
Final Score: Uruguay 0 – 2 France
Quarter Final 2: Brazil vs Belgium
Belgium changed their line-up and their tactics in this game. Fellaini was starting in midfield alongside Witsel, with the responsibility of breaking up the Brazilian attacks. De Bruyne was pushed further forward, just playing behind Lukaku. Brazil were without the suspended Casemiro with Fernandinho coming into the team. The changes made by Belgium were clearly making a difference as they pushed Brazil onto the back-foot in the opening minutes. Brazil came close to opening the scoring though, with Thiago Silva’s kneed effort off a corner bouncing off the post and was gleefully grabbed by Courtois. For a few minutes after this, the Belgium defence looked visibly shaky, as Brazil made repeated entries into the opposition penalty box. A few minutes later however, Belgium took the lead via a Fernandinho own goal. Kompany’s header from a corner deflected off the unlucky Brazilian midfielder leaving Alisson with no chance. The match settled down a bit following this but Belgium continued to look menacing every time they attacked. This was the first real test the Brazilian defence had faced, and they were not filling everyone with confidence. And that same defence was made to pay on the half hour mark. Lukaku made a bulldozing run into the final third before passing to his right to De Bruyne. The latter ran at the defence, who kept pushing back, allowing him enough time to take a shot which found the far corner, leaving the Brazilian with no chance. Belgium were two goals ahead, and most people in the stadium and watching around the world could not quite believe the score-line. The next ten minutes was the Courtois show as Brazil attacked in waves but the Belgium ‘keeper saved everything they threw at them. The teams went into half-time with the same score. Brazil made a change at half-time bringing on Firmino in place of Willian. The forward livened up the Brazilian attacked immediately, even missing a chance from about 10 yards, but the breakthrough just would not arrive. Finally, in the 75th minute, a chipped forward pass by Coutinho found Augusto, recently on a substitute himself, unmarked, and he headed the ball past Courtois to halve the deficit. Brazil had two massive chances in injury time, with Neymar missing a header from an acute angle, which did see the Belgium defender impede him, and Coutinho’s curling effort from the edge of the box tipped over the bar by the excellent Courtois. And those were the last chances for Brazil to rescue their campaign, as the final whistle was blown a couple of minutes later. Belgium looks to have finally transformed from a squad of wonderfully talented individuals to an actual team. For Brazil, it was a case of not exorcizing their demons from their home World Cup four years ago, with the presence of Neymar and Thiago Silva still not enough to guarantee success. Questions must be asked of their coach Tite, who stuck with the same starting line-up throughout, despite there clearly being more effective players on the bench. On the other hand, the changes made to the Belgian team played out to perfection, and credit must be given to their manager Roberto Martinez for the same. Up next for Belgium, neighbours France, in what should be an exciting Semi Final.
Prediction: Brazil 1 – 2 BelgiumFIFA Football World Cup 2018 – Quarter Final 1-2 Review