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It’s been a tournament of surprises so far, with seeds crashing out. We’ve reached the quarter final stage, although not with the expected final eight. Below are my predictions for the quarter finals: Who do I predict will make the semi finals?
Read from the introduction.
Recap on yesterday’s action.
Quarter Final – France V Belgium
Two of Europe’s most star-studded attacking sides meet in the Quarter Final. France beat Northern Ireland 1-0, whilst Belgium required penalties to get past Uruguay. France take an early lead through Ousmane Dembele in the 13th lead. It takes Belgium 21 minutes to draw level, with Romelu Lukaku the man who scores. The teams enter the dressing rooms at half time with the score still at 1-1. Despite a wealth of attacking talent, the second half produces no goals. It takes one minute into extra time for there to be another goal; Radja Nainggolan puts Belgium into the lead in the 91st minute. France have 29 minutes to find an equaliser and extra time produces another goal in the 113th minute. The goal is scored by Lukaku and Belgium progress at the expense of France.
Quarter Final – Italy V Argentina
A Quarter Final clash between two countries with six World Cups between them. Argentina knocked out Germany in the Last 16, winning 2-0. 1-0 was good enough for Italy to progress at England’s expense. Argentina are spoilt with attacking talent, whilst Italy’s defence is as strong as ever. The score is level at half time, with neither team having been able to force a breakthrough. With extra time looking the most likely outcome, Andrea Belotti puts Italy into the lead in the 83rd minute. It’s enough for Italy’s campaign to continue as Argentina bow out.
Find out what happens on Day 24.
Read from the introduction.
Recap on the previous day of games.
Quarter Final – South Korea V Ukraine
It would have been a brave person who bet on the opening Quarter Final match being between South Korea and Ukraine. Victory over Denmark secured Ukraine’s place, whilst South Korea pulled off one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history by beating Brazil. Hyun-Jun Kang goes off injured for the South Koreans in the 33rd minute. If it has an impact on them, it’s not a negative one – Sung-Yeung Ki puts them into the lead five minutes later, a lead they take into the break. They keep the lead throughout the second half, but are unable to add to it, so Ukraine are always in the game but unable to find a goal.
Quarter Final – Iceland V Portugal
Iceland were surprise Quarter Finalists at Euro 2016, whilst Portugal were surprise winners. The two meet in the Quarter Finals of the World Cup after Portugal beat Colombia and Iceland beat Russia in the Last 16. Birkir Bjarnason puts Iceland into the lead in the 18th minute. The score remains 1-0 at half time and Iceland are half way to claiming another prized scalp. Things don’t get any better for Portugal at the start of the second half as Fabio Coentrao leaves through injury in the 46th minute. Three minutes later, the scores are level; William Carvalho pulls Portugal level. Andre Silva leaves in the 52nd minute, joining Coentrao on the injury list. The third goal of the game comes in the 66th minute and it goes the way of… Portugal. Raphael Guerreiro is the man who puts Portugal into the lead. Atli Hrafn Andrason becomes the third player of the game to be forced off via injury in the 73rd minute as Iceland suffer this time. With time running out and Iceland throwing bodies forward in search of an equaliser, Adrien Silva puts the tie beyond doubt with Portugal’s third in the 86th minute.
Find out what happens on Day 23.
Australia secured their place in the semi-finals with the narrowest of victories over Scotland. Australia started well and it looked that the game would progress as expected with a routine Australian victory, but Scotland soon got themselves into the game. Australia found success with driving mauls from the lineout, but gave away some soft tries, with Foley in particular having a poor game; he missed many kicks, struggled under the high ball and had a kick charged down that led to a Scottish try. However, he slotted the winning penalty with just under a minute to go.
Australia will play Argentina in the semi-final. After good performances against England and Wales, Australia were expected to secure quite a comfortable victory, but Scotland seemed to cause them problems and did much better at the breakdown than either England or Wales managed; Australia must be hoping that they can name Pocock next week. Argentina have showed that they are a dangerous side and a similar performance from Australia next week would give Argentina a great chance of making the final. For Scotland, this was a performance that they will be hoping to build upon in the Six Nations.
New Zealand brushed France aside and qualified for the quarter finals with ease, scoring nine tries in the process. New Zealand were able to secure quick ball throughout the game and pose a constant threat to the French defence, with powerful runs drawing defenders in and creating space. In contrast, France were unable to secure quick ball and didn’t appear to have a gameplan, trying several different things (although this could have been caused by the unrelenting pressure from New Zealand). Whatever France tried, New Zealand had an answer for and they laid down a big marker for the teams still in the competition and must be seen as the favourites, despite a tough looking semi-final against South Africa next weekend.