We have had interesting stats and facts in this 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup. But none has been as amazing as the quarterfinal pairings.
FRANCE have six letters while URUGUAY have seven
BRAZIL have six letters with BELGIUM having seven
SWEDEN also have six letters but ENGLAND have seven
RUSSIA similarly have six letters, CROATIA, however, have seven
So, it’s 6 v 7 and our analysts comprising Sunday (6) Omeike (6), Kayode (6) Tijani (6), and Oluremi (7) Sulola (6) are here to compound the equation!
Sunday, did the round of 16 meet your expectations?
Sunday: Definitely. This World Cup has been all about goals and surprises, and the round of 16 did not disappoint. Spain fell to host, Russia, while impressive Japan almost delivered the shock of the tournament, pushing free-scoring Belgium all the way to the last minute. England also managed a knockout win since Germany 2006. It’s been entertainment all the way, and Nigerians also got the bonus of lucky Argentina getting blown away by Mbappe and France. That’s satisfaction!
How did you see the round, Remi?
Remi: The mighty have fallen and some of the boys couldn’t withstand the scorching heat on the battlefield – and that has been the story of FIFA World Cup 2018. The round of 16 continued the interesting story.
Kayode: So far so good and it has been a very unpredictable tournament. The second round showed how very difficult to predict the outcome of matches. There were some surprises and more is expected in the quarterfinals where the potential “winners” of the competition will be determined.
Remi, which was the standout game?
Remi: The game between Belgium and Japan was the star match in the second round. Japan took a shock two-goal lead and were dreaming of causing a major upset. But trust Eden Hazard and co! They weaved the magic and turned the tide, netting three goals in the final 20 minutes.
Sunday: From a tactical point, France’s come-from-behind 4-3 win over Argentina stood out. The turning point for France came when they went 2-1 down. Coach Didier Deschamps finally freed Pogba to go into the attack while the hitherto roaming duo of Kante and Matuidi stayed back to defend. Additionally, he pushed up both full backs as wingers, allowing both Griezmann and Mbappe tuck into the edge of Argentina’s penalty area. Sampaoli and Argentina did not react to these changes, and what followed were three goals in 11 minutes. Both full-backs were involved in the goal which made it 2-2, while Pogba made key passes for two of the three goals. Deschamps finally answered his critics who have always taunted France’s 1998 World Cup winning captain as tactically naive.
What’s your view, Kayode?
Kayode: I will also go with the classic France v Argentina game. It was superb to watch as it was as dramatic. Both were not too impressive but it was fireworks all the way. France had struggled but it was Kylian Mbappe who was the star of the night – no wonder he cost PSG the sum of 166 million pounds sterling. His pace and control and finishing were devastating and before Argentina knew how dangerous he was it was game over. For Lionel Messi it was bye-bye to the World Cup and most likely to international football.
What happened to Argentina, Portugal, and Spain?
Sunday: Argentina have not been superb in Russia. Incoherent tactics from coach, Jorge Sampaoli, coupled with their over-reliance on individual performances, especially from Messi to squeeze through. Despite getting the luck of three goals against France, Mbappe tore their poor defense to shreds while Pogba bossed their non-existent midfield. Portugal, much like Argentina, are also a one-man team. No service for or magic from Cristiano Ronaldo almost means no goals for Portugal. However, coach Fernando Santos made personnel errors, leaving Queresma on the bench and putting in an extra central midfielder in Adrien Silva against an Uruguay side that relies on a solid defense and direct approach in attack. Spain, on the other hand, fell victim to their own style, staying glued to the ball with sideways passes – trying to kill their opponent to death by a thousand passes – without making anything of it most of the time. Their very high line also exposed De Gea who conceded six goals from only seven shots he faced. Tiki-taka is dead!
Remi: Nothing happened to them – they all lost!
Remi: The 1986 winners fell narrowly to France in an entertaining seven-goal thriller. Spain’s passing game couldn’t save them from the fist of Russia who gave them a crushing technical knockout. What about Portugal? Despite the presence of reigning World Footballer of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo, they were dealt with an Edison Cavani inspired Uruguay.
Kayode, what do you think?
Kayode: Argentina overcame Nigeria but lost three-goals to Croatia that showed how very vulnerable they can be. The round of 16 clearly sent home the message that any team can be defeated on the day. France showed they can defeat any team after the 4-3 win against Argentina while Uruguay knocked out Portugal. Croatia showed they are still the same strong squad that was just a game away to play in the final in 1998. Hosts Russia showed their capabilities by winning on penalties against Spain while Croatia shocked Denmark also on the penalty shootout. Talking about upsets, Portugal went out early after the 2-1 loss to Uruguay. The European Champions failed to impose themselves on lesser teams and home rightly beckoned. Only a single victory was recorded to their name in four games. Spain, the 2010 winners went out after a very dramatic penalty shootout that saw Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev the hero.
Are you expecting more giant killing in the quarterfinals, Sunday?
Sunday: Apart from Russia, Sweden and maybe England, there are no more average teams left in the tournament. Except Sweden dump out the English, there is no more giant killing. Oh, one more, Belgium to defeat Brazil!
Remi, will Belgium “kill” Brazil?
Remi: Doubt it! This should be the game of the tournament. I don’t see how Belgium can navigate past the five-time champions. In an all European affair, England will fancy their chances against Sweden. This will be tough but the Three Lions will go through. Is this the end of the road for Croatia? Hosts Russia are next on their path. Probably penalty shootouts might be the route to decide it. My heart goes with Russia, though.
Kayode: The only giant remaining is Brazil and to an extent France. They will likely survive their opponents. Sweden upsetting England is more like it.
Who have been your most impressive players?
Sunday: Kasper Schmeichel for saving Modric’s penalty which dragged Denmark into penalties, Kylian Mbappe for tearing the Argentine defense to shreds with his pace and movement, and Edison Cavani for his superb brace against Portugal. On the other side, Luis Suarez for his many dives and referees still falling for his unsportsmanlike conduct. Neymar for his over-the-top rolling on the turf when tackled. Football is a contact sport and FIFA need to let the players know, just like they now know that diving won’t win them penalties. Disrupting the opponent’s rhythm with play-acting is simply cheating and bad gamesmanship.
Kayode: Kylian Mbappe is the soccer star in the waiting to dethrone Lionel Messi as well as Cristiano Ronaldo. His movement on and off the ball is class and he showed with his goal against Argentina. He is the one to watch out for. His two goals against Argentina leave no one in doubt about how talented he is. He is the “FUTURE”.
Remi: Before ex-raying the quarterfinal lineup, who has really impressed most in this World Cup? The pointers should go to Kylian Mbappe, Eden Hazard, Kyrian Trippier, Luka Modric, and Aleksandr Sergeyevich Golovin. The above-mentioned players have carried their countries hopes on their lean shoulders. They have displayed quality and class. For a young man who idolised Ronaldo at the age of 13, Mbappe is close to reaching the heights of his mentor. The way he destroyed Argentina, singlehanded, speaks volume of his talent. Hazard is the magician of the Belgian side. He can wreck the ship when he wants and packs deadly passes in his boot. The Chelsea man is a goal getter too. As for Modric, no midfielder has done it better than the Real Madrid maestro in Russia 2018. His tailor-made passes and artistry is simply world class. Golovin carries the hope of Russia. He is highly mobile and knows how to destroy the enemy’s camp. Trippier is the surprise choice in the list. He is a defender but central to the attacking system of England with his deadly crosses. Harry Kane might have taken the spotlight with his six goals but his Spurs teammate is a major cog of the English team.
England fans are saying the World Cup is coming home. And do you feel like a dose of comedy? Here’s what the English media are writing about the Three Lions:
Real Madrid win the European Cup
Burnley qualify for Europe
Man City win the league
Chelsea finish 5th
England win the World Cup
Real Madrid win the European Cup
Burnley qualify for Europe
Man City win the league
Chelsea finish 5th
England win the World Cup?
Do you share these sentiments?
Sunday: Not at all, they’ve been lucky to find themselves on the easier path to the final. However, I think any of France, Uruguay, Belgium, and Brazil would defeat them if they somehow make it to the final.
Remi: When England launched their youth development programme, the aim was to produce a team capable of reaching at least the semifinal of the 2022 World Cup. Their usual noisy fans had low expectation ahead of this tournament. They are in quarterfinals. Isn’t it coming fast? Their supporters have started dreaming of a repeat of the 1966 heroics. I wish them all the best if they are the best!
What’s your take, Kayode?
Kayode: But can you blame them? After exorcising their penalty shootouts hoodoo when defeating Colombia in the last round, England are now the talking points and definitely have the talents and confidence to go far. It is still early days though but take nothing away from them.
Which game are you looking forward to, Sunday?
Sunday: France v Uruguay
Remi: Me too and it will surely be a thriller. Both teams love to attack. Another goal spree is expected considering the history of their past meetings. France should have this in the bag, though.
Kayode: For me, the game to watch out for will be England v Sweden. The only time England won the FIFA World Cup was when they hosted at home in 1966 when a controversial goal saw the Three Lions becoming world champions. Since then, they are yet to get close enough to causing an upset. Now they have a very strong squad and “impossible is nothing”! But then it will not be easy against their perennial rivals Sweden.
So, who will qualify for the semis?
Sunday: France, Belgium, Croatia, England
Kayode: France, Brazil, Russia, England
Remi: I will go with Kayode’s pick!
That’s the show for today and we hope you enjoyed it. See you at the commencement of the semifinals.