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 19

Read from the introduction.

Recap on yesterday’s action.

Re-read the final games in Groups G and H.

Last 16 – Germany V Argentina

The final day of games in the Last 16 kicks off with a repeat of the 2014 final. And the 1990 final. And the 1986 final. As well as quarter finals in 2006 and 2010. So they’re familiar foes, albeit not this early in the tournament (excluding the group stage meetings in 1958 and 1966). The motivation for Argentina is avenging their loss four years ago (but can anything make up for losing the World Cup Final?), whilst for Germany it’s becoming the first team to retain the title since Brazil in 1962. Things go Argentina’s way in the first half and they take a 1-0 lead into the dressing rooms courtesy of a Sergio Aguero strike in the 26th minute. The second goal is always the crucial one and Lucas Biglia adds it with 20 minutes to go. Germany lose Tom Zeise to injury in the 73rd minute as they bow out surprisingly early.

Last 16 – Belgium V Uruguay

The final Last 16 match also sees a clash between a European and South American team, with Group G winners Uruguay taking on Group H runners-up Belgium. The Last 16 matches have been close, low-scoring affairs and this one proves no exception. Abel Hernandez is forced off with injury in the 33rd minute for Uruguay, but neither side is able to force a breakthrough before half time. Or full time. It takes 103 minutes for the scoring to be opened – Thomas Meunier being the man to find the back of the net and put Belgium into the lead. The lead lasts for 11 minutes before Diego Godin levels for Uruguay, taking the game all the way to penalty kicks. Belgium are immaculate from the spot and progress, winning the shootout 5-2.

Find out what happens on Day 20.

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 15

Read from the introduction.

Recap on yesterday’s action.

Re-read the previous matches in Group G and Group H.

Group H – Japan V Belgium & Wales V Argentina

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

Despite being second in the group, Belgium are arguably in the strongest position as they are taking on Japan, who are bottom of the group. However, Japan could still qualify with a win and if Argentina lose to Wales. Argentina could qualify with a point from their game against Wales, but need a win to be certain of progressing. A draw would be good enough for Wales to at least qualify from the group, but a loss could see them eliminated. So to sum the group up, it’s all to play for!

Belgium don’t want to leave anything to chance and Romelu Lukaku opens the scoring against Japan in the 10th minute. Three minutes later, Sergio Aguero puts Argentina into the lead against Wales. Back in the Japan V Belgium game, Vincent Kompany leaves the field in the 14th minute due to injury. Argentina, who know a win is the only way they can guarantee they progress, double their lead through Paulo Dybala in the 16th minute. Dybala adds his second (and Argentina’s third), one minute before half time, putting them firmly in control of the game and their destiny in the tournament. Meanwhile, Belgium take a 1-0 lead into the break over Japan. Welsh hopes depend on the Japanese scraping a narrow victory over Belgium, especially when their hopes of getting anything out of their match disappear in the 68th minute when Neil Taylor is sent off. Belgium are reduced to 10 men in the 88th minute when Divock Origi receives a red card, but the Japanese are unable to take advantage.

As would have been expected at the start of the World Cup, Argentina and Belgium progress from the group. However, it was not the easy passage expected and both required wins in their final game. Credit must go to Argentina for recovering well from their opening loss. Wales had given themselves a good chance heading into the final round of matches, but Argentina ultimately proved too strong. Japan’s failure to score made things impossible for them in a tough group.

Group G – Germany V Mexico & Uruguay V Romania

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

With all four teams on three points, knockout football has arrived early for Mexico, Uruguay, Germany and Romania. Mexico and Uruguay are in the strongest positions as if they both draw their games, they will progress. Germany and Romania know they must win if they are to remain in the tournament. If Mexico can hold Germany, the holders will be going out in the group stages for the first time since 2002…

A draw is good enough for Uruguay and Luis Suarez does their chances of achieving at least a draw no harm by putting them into the lead against Romania in only the 2nd minute. Germany, who know they must win, take the lead against Mexico in the 7th minute through an Edmund Risse goal. Jose Giminez doubles Uruguay’s lead in the 22nd minute. Three minutes later, Nahitan Nandez’s red card offers Romania a potential way back against Uruguay. A draw is all that’s required by Mexico and Javier Hernandez is arguably the man most likely to draw them level, which makes his loss due to injury in the 36th minute a significant loss. Romania pull a goal back through Vasile Mogos in the 38th minute to keep their chances of progress alive. As the half time whistles are blown, Germany lead Mexico 1-0 and Uruguay are beating Romania 2-1, but Romania have a man advantage. Romania equalise in the 62nd minute through Florin Andone. It’s not enough to put them through as things stand, but they have 28 minutes to find another goal and also have an extra man. As time is running out, Romania throw more men forwards and they fall victim to the counter attack in the 87th minute when Edinson Cavani puts Uruguay back into the lead.

It was a tough group, but one that Germany would have expected to win; in the end, they narrowly qualified from it. They are joined by Uruguay, who recovered well from an opening loss to Germany. Despite having the best goal difference in the group (thanks to a big win over Romania), Mexico miss out on the Last 16 and a chance to qualify for their first Quarter-Final since 1986. Romania finished bottom of the group, but have provided the shock of the World Cup with their win over Germany.

Find out what happens on Day 16.

FMM18 World Cup Day 11

Read from the introduction.

Recap on yesterday’s games.

Re-read the opening matches for Group G and Group H.

Group H – Argentina V Japan

After a heavy defeat in their opening game, Argentina come out with a point to prove in a game that’s vital for them to have a chance of getting out of what appeared to be a relatively straight forward group. They’re determined to give themselves every chance and Japan suffer the backlash as Lucas Biglia (7th minute) and Sergio Aguero (9th minute) put Argentina into a two-goal lead inside 10 minutes. Argentina lose Nicolas Gaitan to injury in the 63rd minute before completing the victory through a Paulo Dybala goal in the 81st minute.

Group G – Mexico V Uruguay

Germany’s shock defeat to Romania yesterday has resulted in the group becoming wide open. Mexico look to take advantage and open the scoring through Hector Herrera in the 37th minute. Uruguay lose Lucas Torreira to injury in the 44th minute, but it only seems to serve as inspiration for them as Jose Gimenez draws them level two minutes after the break. With eleven minutes to go, Mexico are reduced to ten men as Jonathan dos Santos receives his marching orders. It’s only a short period to hold out with 10 men to gain a point, but Mexico are unable to manage it as Edinson Cavani scores with five minutes remaining to give Uruguay their first win of the tournament and ensure the Group G couldn’t be closer.

After the second round of matches, the Group G table looks like:

Group H – Wales V Belgium

After Belgium’s convincing opening win against Argentina, they’re in an excellent position to qualify from the group. Something they can confirm with victory against Wales. The first goal of the game arrives in the 8th minute, when Gareth Bale puts Wales into the lead. When Aaron Ramsey doubles the Welsh lead in the 37th minute, Belgian qualification after two matches starts to look less likely. Ten minutes into the second half, Belgium concede again as Ben Woodburn finds the net. Bale completes the scoring and unexpected rout in the 64th minute.

After two rounds of games, Group H looks like:

Find out what happens on Day 12.

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.

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.

Australia 65-3 Uruguay

Australia cruised to victory over Uruguay in Pool A, running in eleven tries. Australia were in complete control from the first whistle, scoring at will at times whilst defending well when Uruguay got close to the line.

Australia showed the dominance that would have been expected of them in this game and were able to pretty much rest their preferred starting XV ahead of next Saturday’s match against England. They showed that they are dangerous runners and generally make offloads at the right time. Uruguay looked underpowered and it is difficult to see how they will claim a point in the group, let alone a victory.

Rugby World Cup: Pool A preview

Countries competing (current IRB ranking in brackets):

Australia (2)
England (4)
Fiji (9)
Uruguay (19)
Wales (5)

Every tournament throws up the well known cliche of ‘The Group of Death’ and at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, it is definitely Group A, featuring 3 of the current top 5 teams of the world and 4 of the top 10; only 2 can qualify. The games between Australia, England and Wales will be seen as the key, but Fiji will be ready to spring a shock result on any of those three who take them lightly. I think that England have a very tricky opening fixture in playing Fiji on opening night and the danger for England is a shock result like that sprung on France by Argentina in 2007. It is difficult to see how Uruguay will get a victory or even be in the position to get a result against four strong nations. I think that the key game will be Australia V Wales and will decide who will qualify alongside England. I think that Australia will win that game – they have a good recent record against Wales (the victories have often been narrow, but they always seem to find a way to beat Wales), who have lost a couple of key players through injury in Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb. I predict the group will look like this:

1. England
2. Australia
3. Wales
4. Fiji
5. Uruguay.