32 teams started, now only 8 remain in the battle to become World Cup winners in 2018! A great tournament that has brought us great games, great goals, drama (mainly through the VAR element being an exciting addition to the games) and shock results now enters the Quarter-Final stage with all the teams left in the competition believing they can become World Champions!
But who do we think will lift the greatest prize in football?
Move over McCoist, Lineker, Keane and Giggs, here’s who the Direct Soccer pundits reckon will be the winners of the 2018 World Cup?
The votes are in and favourite among the team at Direct Soccer to lift the prize on July 14th is BRAZIL!!!
The samba boys have been backed to win a 6th World Cup by team members John, Murray, Elaine, Christina, Kevin, Margaret and Adam. They all think the Brazilians are the best team in it while Adam reckons their experienced side will rise to the challenge, though his decision had nothing to do with the fact they are also his sweepstake pick!
Second favourites to win the World Cup among our colleagues are Croatia. Backing the Croatians to become world champions for a first time are April, Megan and David. David believes they will win as they are the best side on their side of the draw and also are his sweepstake team, while Megan believes it is time a new winner was crowned! April backs the Croatians to win as thinks that the team that stops the Russian juggernaut will go on to win the tournament, plus she can’t back her sweepstake team now (Switzerland).
With one vote each, our outside bets to win the World Cup are France who are being backed by Naomi (sweepstake team), Belgium who receive the backing of Pam thanks to them not only having great individuals but that they are now starting to play as a team which previous Belgian sides have failed to do.
Also receiving support in the Direct Soccer office are Russia who Luke fancies to win based on the “home nation factor”, Uruguay by Moira due to being her sweepstake side and England by Andrew simply because it looks like the pieces are falling into place for the 3 Lions to win the World Cup again!
The last 8 starts this Friday afternoon (3pm UK time) with Uruguay taking on France in a tasty quarter-final clash. Both sides have got to this stage without losing a game and topped their respective groups before the Uruguayans sent Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo home in the last-16 and France won an epic encounter with Argentina 4-3.
This should be a tight match as Uruguay are known for having a disciplined defence led by Diego Godin but with Edinson Cavani a doubt up-front after going off in the Portugal win with a hamstring injury, you would have to fancy the French to get through due to the quality running through their side from the likes of Pogba, Mbappe and Griezmann. France will still need to be wary of Luis Suarez popping up in the attacking areas if they are to reach the last 4.
The second semi-final is potentially the clash of the tournament. It features the teams ranked 2nd and 3rd in the world rankings, Brazil and Belgium. Brazil stuttered through the group stage with a draw and two wins before comfortably beating Mexico 2-0 in the 2nd Round while Belgium survived going down 2-0 to Japan to win 3-2 thanks to a last-gasp winner from Nacer Chadli. The sides have only met once before in the World Cup, when Brazil won 2-0 in the 2nd Round in 2002.
Friday’s match in Kazan will be like a current Who’s Who of world football, with many of the top players in football today expecting to play, such as goalkeepers Alisson and Thibault Courtois, Thiago Silva, Neymar, Philippe Coutinho, Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku. This has the potential to be a classic and high-scoring match and either side will be worthy of going through to the semi-finals.
If someone had told you before the tournament started that one of Russia, Croatia, Sweden or England would be in the World Cup Final, you’d think they were mad! Yet this is the scenario that has developed due to favourites like Germany, Argentina, Portugal and Spain going out of the competition early!
Group F winners Sweden beat South Korea and Mexico and narrowly lost to Germany got past a stubborn Switzerland side in the Round of 16 to set up a Quarter-Final with England on Saturday afternoon in Samara. The sides have met at the World Cup twice before, both games ending in draws so it will be odds-on that this will be a tight encounter. Gareth Southgate’s men got a huge monkey off their backs with the shoot-out victory over Colombia in the second round to advance to the last 8 and will feel confident that if they are on their game they can get through to the semi-finals. Leading the way for the Golden Boot this time round is Harry Kane with 6 goals so far, the same as Gary Lineker notched when he won the Golden Boot at the Mexico ’86 World Cup.
The winners of this match will take on either Russia or Croatia. The Croatians, led by playmaker Luka Modric, played some of the best football of the group stage to win Group D including a 3-0 hammering of Argentina. They avoided elimination in the 2nd Round by beating Denmark on penalties but will be the favourites to advance to the semi-finals for the first time since 1998.
Their opponents on Saturday are hosts Russia who got out of Group A as runners-up to Uruguay after wins over Saudi Arabia and Egypt before a memorable win on penalties against Spain to set up the quarter-final with Croatia. Considered one of the weakest sides pre-tournament, the Russians have surprised many with their attacking play and with a home crowd willing them on, will be confident they can continue on with their World Cup adventure!
Who gets your backing for winning the World Cup from the remaining 8 teams?