Russia 2018 – Semi-Finals

Read my predictions for the Quarter-Finals.

France V Belgium

Two of Europe’s best teams compete for a place in the final. It would be the first final for the French since 2006 and the loss on penalties to Italy, whilst it would be Belgium’s first final. France knocked out Uruguay with a 2-0 victory in the Quarter-Finals and Belgium beat tournament favourites Brazil 2-1. Both teams are full of potential match winners, making it a difficult game to call. I can see extra time being required to separate the sides and the French bench making the difference. France to make the final is my prediction.

Croatia V England

An unlikely Semi-Final, so both teams will be looking to take advantage of being in this situation. It would be a first final for Croatia if they win and England’s first final since… well, you know when! Croatia made the Semi-Final via penalties against Russia, whilst England comfortably saw off Sweden 2-0. Croatia are the better side technically, but they are an ageing team who have required penalties in both of their knockout games. Whoever controls the tempo is likely to end up winning, with England wanting a quicker tempo than Croatia. I think England will make the final.

Leave a comment with your prediction on who makes the World Cup Final.

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Russia 2018 – Quarter-Finals

Uruguay V France

The French put in their best performance of the tournament in beating Argentina in the Last 16, whilst Uruguay eliminated Portugal. Two very good teams in a game that could go either way, but I think the French have a bit of extra quality and it will be enough to get them past Uruguay and into the Semi-Final.

Brazil V Belgium

Brazil have been improving through the World Cup and knocked out Mexico in the Last 16; it seems as though everyone is still waiting for the promise of the Belgian team to deliver a performance that they should surely be capable of with the players at their disposal. The Last 16 tie against Japan saw them have to claw back a two-goal deficit and score the winner with the last kick of the game. Giving up two goals against Brazil would surely end their tournament. I expect Belgium to play better than they did against Japan, but it will not be enough and Brazil will progress.

Sweden V England

The Swedes saw off Switzerland in the Last 16 with a 1-0 victory and England finally won a penalty shootout in eliminating Colombia. England are expected to progress with ease, but Sweden beat Italy over two legs to qualify and topped a difficult Group F, with their only loss being to Germany with a goal deep in stoppage time. It won’t be an easy game for England, but I think they will progress to the Semi-Final.

Russia V Croatia

Russia produced the shock of the Last 16 in knocking out Spain, whilst Croatia struggled against Denmark; both sides required penalties to progress. It’s difficult to imagine Croatia struggling again, especially as Russia are unlikely to get players forward to push the Croatian wide players back; it will be a big ask for Russia to keep their shape and soak up pressure again, especially as the Croatian possession is likely to have more attacking intent than some of the Spanish possession had. I expect Croatia to knock out the hosts.

My predicted Semi-Finals:

France V Brazil
England V Croatia

FMM18 World Cup Day 18

Read from the introduction.

Recap on yesterday’s action.

Re-read the final matches in Groups E and F.

Last 16 – Northern Ireland V France

France’s topping of Group F sees them take on Northern Ireland in the Last 16. France go into the game as strong favourites, but the game is goalless at half time. Northern Ireland are able to repel French attacks until the 69th minute, when Ousmane Dembele fires the French into the lead. France are unable to add more goals, but it doesn’t matter as Northern Ireland are unable to get themselves back into the game. Whilst France were expected to win by more, they’ve scored enough to ensure they progress.

Last 16 – Italy V England

Italy topped Group E and take on England. Gary Lineker welcomes viewers by asking if England can get ‘pasta’ Italy and progress to the Quarter Finals. Italy suffer a blow in the 5th minute when Marco Veratti goes off injured. England suffer a blow of their own in the 14th minute when Raheem Sterling also heads to the dressing room early due to injury. With two minutes to go until half time, Andrea Petagna puts the Italians into the lead. Italy take the lead into half time, but they will have to defend their lead with only 10 men in the second half due to Giorgio Chiellini getting sent off one minute before half time. A man advantage gives England a great chance of progressing to the Quarter Finals, but if there’s one team that can defend a one-goal lead successfully, it’s typically Italy. And so it proves, as England are unable to score against the Italians.

Find out what happens on Day 19.

Russia 2018 – Last 16

Check out how accurate my predictions for the Last 16 were.

France V Argentina

Neither team have been at their best so far, but I think France are the better team and will beat Argentina.

Uruguay V Portugal

Uruguay are showing signs of growing into the tournament and are favourites, but Portugal are very different to beat and in Ronaldo, have a player who can turn a game in a moment. I think Uruguay will progress in extra time.

Spain V Russia

Home support has undoubtedly helped Russia, but they struggled in their first big test of the tournament and I think Spain will be too strong for them.

Croatia V Denmark

Croatia impressively topped a tough looking Group D and I expect them to advance against a Denmark side that progressed as expected.

Brazil V Mexico

A tough Last 16 draw for Mexico, but also for Brazil; Mexico beat the 2014 champions in the group and if they play like that again, Brazil could exit the tournament much earlier than expected. However, I expect Brazil to have too much for Mexico.

Belgium V Japan

Group H was an open group and Japan were able to qualify from it. I predict they won’t advance any further and Belgium will record a comfortable win.

Sweden V Switzerland

Sweden qualified from the tough Group F as winners and should not be underestimated, while Switzerland gained a credible draw against Brazil in Group E. A match that I predict will go to penalties, with Switzerland progressing.

Colombia V England

Any joy for England about being in the ‘easier’ side of the draw seems premature, with Colombia posing a stern test. Colombia’s loss in the group stages was a 2-1 loss in a game in which they played with 10 men for 87 minutes. It may require extra time, but I think England will progress.

My predicted Quarter-Finals

France V Uruguay
Spain V Croatia
Brazil V Belgium
Switzerland V England

FMM18 World Cup Day 14

Read from the introduction.

Recap on yesterday’s action.

Re-read the previous games in Group E and Group F.

Group E – Chile V Australia & Northern Ireland V Italy

Going into the final matches, the Group E table looks like:

Another group in which qualification all but looks certain. Only a good win for Chile and a big loss for Northern Ireland will see Chile pip Northern Ireland for qualification. Italy have qualified and a draw against Northern Ireland will see them top the table, with Northern Ireland joining them as qualifiers.

Chile know they need goals as well as Northern Ireland losing to Italy. The slim chance of qualification becomes slimmer in the 20th minute when Chris Ikonomidis puts Australia into the lead. Italy lose Claudio Marchisio to injury in the 37th minute as their game reaches half time at 0-0, whilst Australia take a 1-0 lead into the dressing room. Italy take the lead in the 51st minute through Marco Verratti, but with the score in the other game, it has no impact on the group and Northern Ireland’s chances of qualifying. Northern Ireland ensure that it will be impossible to miss out in the 61st minute when Craig Cathcart pulls them level. Two minutes after Northern Ireland have equalised, Brad Inman limps off for Australia as they try to hold on to their lead. They’re not successful; Marcelo Diaz levels for Chile in the 76th minute. Any hopes they have of going on a goal spree and qualifying if Italy take the lead is immediately extinguished as Pablo Hernandez sees red.

Italy have, as would have been expected, qualified from the group as winners. Second place was up for grabs and Northern Ireland were able to secure it, three points ahead of Chile who were arguably the favourites to secure the second qualifying spot. It was a World Cup to forget for Australia, who finished bottom of the group.

Group F – England V France & Ivory Coast V Iran

Going into the final round of matches, the table looks like:

A group in which qualification is in no doubt, with England and France having both won their opening games to progress to the Last 16 – all that remains to be settled is who qualifies as group winners. England are currently favourites as they are currently topping the table, so a draw will be enough for them to set up a Home Nations clash with Northern Ireland, whilst a loss to France will mean it will be Italy for England in the Last 16. The other game in the group gives Ivory Coast and Iran a chance to record a victory.

France and England are both aware that topping the group will mean avoiding Italy and France take the lead through Antoine Griezmann in the 28th minute; ten minutes later, Samuel Umtiti doubles the French lead. Assane Gnoukouri puts Ivory Coast into the lead in the 41st minute as they take a 1-0 lead into half time over Iran, whilst France keep their 2-0 lead over England. Eight minutes into the second half, Masoud Nasehi limps off injured for Iran. Seydou Doumbia adds a second goal for Ivory Coast in the 64th minute, before Wilfried Zaha ensures that Ivory Coast will record a victory with a goal in the 78th minute. One minute later, Raphael Varane puts France into a commanding 3-0 lead to ensure they will qualify as group winners.

The group has finished as was expected, with France impressively qualifying without conceding. England join them in progressing to the Last 16, although pre-match triumphalism has been toned down after a heavy final game defeat and satisfaction of qualifying and looking forward to the knockout stages replaces it. Ivory Coast finish third, but didn’t trouble the two qualifiers as much as they would have hoped. Iran finished bottom of a tough group.

Find out what happens on Day 15.

FMM18 World Cup Day 10

Read from the introduction.

Recap on yesterday’s games.

Re-read the opening games in Group F and Group G.

Group F – England V Iran

Following on from a healthy win in their opening game, England take on an Iran side who lost heavily in their opening match. Unsurprisingly, England are heavy favourites and are expected to record a comfortable victory. Marcus Rashford gets England off to a good start when he finds the back of the net in the 14th minute. Harry Kane doubles the lead after 37 minutes and Raheem Sterling completes the scoring in the 69th minute. The more sensible media outlets start to contemplate who England might face in the final, whilst others publish the route the team will be taking when parading the trophy.

Group F – France V Ivory Coast

A good win for France in their opening match and a heavy defeat for Ivory Coast means most pundits have written this one off as only one result. The same pundits are looking rather sheepish at half time when the score is still 0-0, although Ivory Coast lost Max Gradel to injury in the eleventh minute. The second half is one minute old when Serge Aurier receives his marching orders. Surely France will record a win now? They do, courtesy of a quickfire double from Antoine Griezmann and Corentin Tolisso in the 60th and 63rd minute respectively.

After the second round of matches, Group F looks like:

Group G – Germany V Romania

Germany are expected to record a victory over Romania as the Germans look to retain the trophy. Romania hold out until half time, but a German victory is still being predicted. Six minutes into the second half, Nicolae Stanciu stuns everyone by putting Romania into the lead. Germany push for an equaliser, but with time running out, Florin Andone secures a shock win for the Romanians by adding a second in the 90th minute.

Find out what happens on Day 11.

FMM18 World Cup Day 5

Recap on the groups.

Recap on yesterday’s matches.

Group G – Uruguay V Germany

The World Cup holders would surely have been hoping for an easier group than the one they find themselves in. They could certainly have an easier opening match than Uruguay. Rodrigo Aguirre’s match comes to an end nine minutes in due to injury. Christian Jung strikes for the defending champions with two minutes to go until half time. The second half sees the physios called in to action again as Germany lose Uwe Stuckmann to injury on the hour, whilst Emiliano Valazquez’s game for Uruguay is curtailed in the 63rd minute. It’s victory at a price for Germany, but Uruguay have lost twice as many players but with no points to show for it.

Group F – Ivory Coast V England

It’s day five of the tournament and England grinds to halt over the course of a Tuesday afternoon as England’s campaign begins in the early evening against Ivory Coast. There are surely easier opening fixtures, but there are also tougher ones as well. It’s certainly a good test for Gareth Southgate and his team. England’s opening goal arrives in the 27th minute. Is it Harry Kane? Marcus Rashford? Raheem Sterling? No; Jordan Henderson. Sterling doesn’t get on the scoresheet, but Rashford (61) and Kane (67 & 72) do as an excellent eleven minutes in the second half ensure England will open their campaign with an emphatic win. A Max Gradel goal four minutes from time for Ivory Coast does little to dampen enthusiasm. Cue the press getting carried away about how well England will do…

The Group F table looks like:

Group G – Romania V Mexico

A game that probably goes unnoticed in England due to celebrations following their opening win. Hector Herrera puts Mexico in the lead in the 31st minute. The lead is soon under threat as Carlos Salcedo gets send off three minutes later. Mexico lose Giovani dos Santos to injury ten minutes after half time. Surely there will be more goals? There are. Herrera doubles Mexico’s lead in the 64th minute and Javier Hernandez finds himself in the right place at the right time in the 67th minute. With eight minutes to go, Herrera completes his hat-trick to record a win for a Mexican side that has strengthened as things got tougher. In what is likely to be a tough group to qualify from, it’s the type of result you can’t help but feel will come back to haunt Romania.

The Group G table looks like:

Find out what happens on Day 6.