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

Advertisements

FMM18 World Cup Day 16

Read from the introduction.

Recap on yesterday’s action.

Re-read the final round of matches in Groups A and B.

Last 16 – Iceland V Russia

Russia’s reward for topping Group A is to take on World Cup debutants Iceland in the Last 16. If Russia had any preconceptions about this being an easy route to the Quarter Finals, Iceland correct them through Jon Dadi Bodvarsson putting the Icelandic team in the lead in the 13th minute. It appears to act as a wake up call to Russia, who hit back almost immediately – Dmitry Poloz equalises in the 17th minute. The equalising goal doesn’t appear to discourage Iceland from their task and Hordur Magnusson puts Iceland back in the lead in the 26th minute. The score remains at 2-1 going into half time. As the second half progresses, Russia need to attack more to at least take the game into extra time. With sixteen minutes to go, Viktor Karl Heimisson is forced to go off injured. As with conceding an equalising goal earlier, Iceland remain focused on their task. Alexandr Kokorin goes off injured in the 86th minute as the hosts run out of ideas and exit the tournament and Iceland progress to the Quarter Finals like they did at Euro 2016.

Last 16 – South Korea V Brazil

After topping Group B as expected, Brazil find themselves against South Korea. Sung-Yeung Ki scores in the 9th minute to put the South Koreans into the lead, a situation that perhaps not many outside the South Korean camp would have thought likely. Their task is now very simple – prevent the Brazilians scoring for the next 81 minutes. The first step is to reach half time in the lead, which they manage to do. Three minutes into the second half, Brazil lose Bernard to injury. Brazil continue to look for the equaliser, but the South Korean defence is resolute and the five-time champions are surprisingly eliminated by the South Koreans in the biggest shock of the tournament so far.

Find out what happens on Day 17.

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 12

Start from the introduction.

Re-read yesterday’s action.

Recap on the previous games in Group A and Group B.

Group B – Iceland V Brazil & Tunisia V Costa Rica

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

Brazil are, as everyone expected, safely through to the knockout stages. They will finish as runners-up if they lose to Iceland, who only require a draw to ensure qualification to the knockout matches. They could still qualify even if they lose, but Tunisia would either need to record a big win or hope that Brazil record a big win over Iceland.

Tunisia start well and take the lead in the 10th minute through Saber Hraiech. Costa Rica lost Christian Duarte to injury in the 32nd minute. At half time, Tunisia are leading 1-0, whilst Brazil V Iceland are drawing 0-0. Tunisia have 45 minutes to rescue their campaign and set out accordingly. Saber Hraiech grabs his (and Tunisia’s) second in the 48th minute as bodies start to flood forwards in search of goals. Yohan Benalouane adds a third in the 62nd minute, before a quickfire double from Housem Maamria (77th and 81st minute) puts Tunisia into a commanding lead. Aymen Abdennour also scores in the 81st minute and Tunisia’s approach changes; they need to ensure they don’t concede, whilst hoping Brazil can find a way past the Icelandic defence. Even a 1-0 victory for Brazil will see Tunisia qualify at the expense of Iceland. All eyes turn to the other game, but it finishes goalless in a result that suited both Brazil and Iceland.

As expected, Brazil have qualified unbeaten and as group winners and are joined by debutants Iceland.

Group A – Spain V Russia & South Korea V Zambia

Going into the final matches, the table looks like:

Spain are topping the group, but depending on results could miss out on qualification on goal difference. However, the most likely outcome seems to be one of South Korea or Russia missing out. The hosts are currently in the stronger position, but they have to play the group leaders, whilst South Korea take on a Zambian side that has leaked eight goals in two games…

Dennis Glushakov puts the Russians ahead after 9 minutes of their game against Spain. The South Korean, who know they need goals, score in the eleventh minute. Dennis Glushakov doubles his tally and Russia’s lead in the fifteenth minute, strengthening their position and putting the second qualification spot in doubt. Fedor Smolov goes off injured after 18 minutes, but it has little impact on their performance with the crowd cheering them on. Goals remain important for South Korea and Heung-Min Son doubles their lead in the 21st minute. At half time, Russia lead Spain 2-0 and South Korea are beating Zambia by the same scoreline. Sixteen minutes into the second half, Jae-Hoon Na adds a third for South Korea. It’s becoming very clear that if Spain are to qualify, they need to find two goals. South Korea add a fourth through Heung-Min Son in the 80th minute; it boosts their goal difference, but has little impact on the group. Spain V Russia is the match to watch if things are going to change in the group, but Spain are unable to find a goal.

It’s a tight finish to the group with three teams finishing on six points. The hosts have qualified as group winners, whilst South Korea have snatched second. Spain have surprisingly failed to qualify from a group that they would have expected to at least qualify from and probably win. Even more surprising is that they were topping the group going into the final game.

Find out what happens on Day 13.

FMM18 World Cup Day 6

Begin reading from the introduction

Recap on yesterday’s matches.

Re-read the last Group A matches.

Group H – Japan V Wales

Wales open their first World Cup finals game since 1958 against the team they will be expected to battling for third place in the group. Japan lose Daisuke Nagatomo to injury in the 8th minute, but it doesn’t have an impact on their defence, which holds firm. Whether it has an impact on their attack is open to debate, but Wales’ run at Euro 2016 was based on a miserly defence. It’s a point apiece, but both have the two favourites to qualify from the group to play.

Group A – South Korea V Russia

Another game with five goals. However, this one is the first that can accurately be described as a five-goal thriller. Jae-Sung Choe silences the crowd in the 14th minute by putting South Korea in the lead. Shock replaces silence in the 28th minute when Heung-Min Son doubles South Korea’s lead. Suk Hyun-Jun is replaced six minutes later after getting injured, but it doesn’t have an impact on South Korea; in fact, they extend their lead in the 58th minute through In-Jae Myung. With Russia sinking without trace, Alexandr Kokorin scores a consolation goal in the 69th minute. One minute later, it appears as though it could be more than a consolation goal as Vasily Berezutskiy pulls Russia to within one goal. However, they are unable to build on this in the last 20 minutes and although suffering a scare, South Korea hold on to record the victory.

Group H – Belgium V Argentina

The opening round of matches are completed with Belgium and Argentina playing their opening fixture in Group H. They have watched the other 30 teams play their opening game (Russia and South Korea have played two), but finally their campaigns are underway. Belgium make the better start, with Yannick Carrasco opening the scoring in the 8th minute. He adds his second in the 22nd minute and completes his hat-trick in the 30th minute. A Belgium win would not necessarily be a surprise, but few would have predicted them leading by three goals inside half an hour. Things get worse for Argentina in the 38th minute with the dismissal of Nicolas Otamendi. Belgium add a fourth in the 52nd minute, with Carrasco getting the final touch again. Argentina are reduced to nine men on the hour, with Facundo Roncaglia seeing red. Sergio Aguero pulls one back in the 66th minute, but Carrasco adds his (and Belgium’s) fifth in the 75th minute to complete the rout. If Carrasco can keep up that level of goal scoring, he’ll beat Just Fontaine’s record number of goals in a World Cup (13 goals in the 1958 World Cup) in the group stages and finish the tournament with 35 goals (assuming Belgium reach the final or third-placed playoff, which would surely be a formality when scoring at least five a game).

After the opening games in Group H, the table looks like:

Find out what happens on Day 7.

FMM18 World Cup Day 1

Recap on the groups

Group A – Russia V Zambia

The hosts kick off the tournament against Zambia. Hopefully, it’s a good omen for the tournament as the goals flow. Unfortunately for Zambia, they all go to Russia who run out convincing winners. Dzagoev gets the hosts off to a perfect start and Glushkov doubles the lead just before half time. Zobnin extends the lead nine minutes into the second half and two goals in two minutes (Dzagoev and Berezutskiy) ensure a Russian win. Zambia lose Basit to injury with 18 minutes left, but it’s only going to have an impact on future matches by that stage. The goal difference for Russia could certainly be useful if the group becomes tight, whilst the opposite will be true for Zambia. Whilst a tournament full of goals would be welcome, closer matches would be better.

Group A: Spain V South Korea

A game that’s much tighter than the opening game. Diego Costa scores the only goal of the game for Spain in the 21st minute. With 14 minutes to go, Seung-Min Kim receives the first red card of the tournament, dashing South Korea’s hopes of finding an equaliser.

Group A’s opening round of fixtures are complete on the opening day of the tournament.

Find out what happens on Day 2

Russia 2018 – Group A

Group A of the World Cup consists of Russia, Uruguay, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It should be a group that all teams believe they can qualify from. Russia are the weakest of the top seeds, so the other countries in the group are likely to be happy with the draw. I think Uruguay will qualify as group winners, with second place being fought over. I think that the key game in deciding who joins Uruguay will be Russia V Egypt – Russia will join Uruguay in the Last 16.

Leave a comment with your prediction for Group A.

Read my predictions for Groups B, C, D, E, F, G, H and the knockout matches.