The FIFA World Cup 2018 Quarter-Finals are now in the bag, and they were dominated by European soccer. The Latin countries considered to be the best right alongside the Europeans have not fared well in the World Cup this go around. And in the Quarters, only Brazil and Uruguay were left to represent. Well on Friday, both teams were eliminated. Europe will crown a champion. The only question now, is it going to be a Western European country or Croatia over in Eastern Europe that will hoist the 2018 FIFA World Cup Trophy.
Let’s take a look at the Friday / Saturday results:
France blanks a “Cavani-less” Uruguay 2-0…..The game was relatively slow paced with not much action until the 40′ mark when off of a set kick (in which they faked a side pass), France put in a beautiful glancing header. It wasn’t luck, but it wasn’t a dart into the goal either. Only three minutes later, did Uruguay put a scare into France with a very similar set kick situation from almost the same distance. But the goalie for France made a great dive and blocked the Uruguay header with a one-handed save. It was a great stop! Then at the 60′ mark, Antoine Griezmann of France booted a shot in wide open space from at least 30 feet outside the box. The goalie got hands on it, even though he overslid a bit. But it wasn’t enough of a block, as the ball still had enough power to roll off over his shoulder and make it into the net. This really seemed to seal the game as Uruguay just seemed to have trouble keeping the ball. The game did start to get a bit “chippy” as France superstar Kylian Mbappé went down in a series of takedowns and scrums after. Next up for France is Belgium.
Belgium slide past Brazil 2-1…..On paper, this was the matchup of the round. These two clubs move the ball, take risks and score. They were two of the heavy favorites, as Brazil was ranked 2 and Belgium 3 in the world by FIFA. There was plenty of shots and action but it was at the 14′ mark that Belgium had a corner kick go into Brazil’s goal, not off of a header, but rather off of missed headers that instead caromed off of Brazil’s Fernandinho’s elbow. This episode in itself has become an online firestorm as Ferny is getting a ton of racist hate thrown his way on social media. What a sad state of affairs. At the 31′ mark Belgium jumped up 2-0 with a blast from the top of the box and things for Brazil were not looking good. Both teams traded shots and at the 76′ mark Brazil finally scored off a nice header. And that was all she wrote as Brazil added more exciting shots, but to no avail. Belgium advances! Belgium now takes on France.
England blanks Sweden 2-0…..Not the most exciting game in the World Cup as England dominated. At the 30′ mark England put a laser of a header in from a corner kick. At the 44′ mark, England had another great shot at scoring again on a long pass that seemed like offsides (wasn’t called), but the Swedish goalie came way out and disrupted the play. It was a smart call and had some luck involved, as the striker had to retreat and dribble, and eventually did not get a good shot off. At the 58′ mark England put the game away with another nice header. Sweden came right back at the 61′ mark with two quick shots on goal, but the England goalie blocked one and an England defender laying out blocked the other. Then at the 71′ Sweden had another great shot that the England goalie just got some fingers on to help sail over the net. And that was the game as England clinched a birth moving forward. England now plays Croatia.
Croatia beats Russia in a 2-2 (4-3 Croatia PK)
On paper, this was the least exciting of the final games. Certainly the two teams that fair-weather soccer fans do not follow. And while Croatia is a decent club in the FIFA World Rankings, ranking 20th in the world, Russia was the lowest ranked country in the whole 2018 World Cup, ranking 70th, and only getting a birth because they were the hosting nation. That is why they play the games, though. This was the most exciting game of the four. Russia jumped out to the lead at the 31′ mark with a simple tap pass that lead to a serious boot from the top of the box. Croatia, tied the game at the 39′ mark 1-1, after a cross in the box that lead to a header. There was no scoring for the rest of the game until the two teams went to an extra period. At the 100′ mark Croatia had a corner kick weakly bounce in. It really was a lucky goal in the mix of all the action. Then to tie the game in miraculous form, Russia took a free kick from the top corner of the box and put in a laser header. It was unbelievable timing, and kept Russia alive. It sent the game to the penalty kick phase.
In the penalty kick phase Russia got the first kick. It was a very weak “placement” attempt, as it was blocked. And to make matters worse, it was blocked by the goalie who even dove the wrong direction and still got a hand on it. Croatia made their kick, Russia then made their kick. It was 1-1 as Croatia missed its second kick. On their third kick, Russia missed the goal completely to the right of the net. Croatia made its final three shots on goal in the penalty phase and the game was over. The Russian “Cinderella” story was over. Croatia advances to play England.