World Cup 2018 Quarter Finals: Now there’s only EIGHT

After a series of dramatic and nail-biting clashes in the World Cup Round of 16, we are now down to eight teams who are still in contention.

Let’s look at the remaining squads and how they shape up in the quarter finals based on their World Cup reputations through the years.

Uruguay (La Celeste – 1930 and 1950 winners): Titans yearning for long lost glory

Two-time champions in an era long gone, Uruguay can be likened to the Titans in Greek mythology.

The former world beaters are currently still talented and powerful, but not at the same lofty heights as modern powers such as Germany and Brazil. Uruguay will aim to get that breakthrough this 2018 in a bid to reach the semifinal and hopefully regain the long lost cup as they regain their former glorious selves at the top of the footballing echelons.

But it will be an even more arduous journey ahead as they face an in-form and lethal France which has arguably the speediest front-line.

And with La Celeste boasting arguably the most solid backline that only conceded once in the entire tournament heading into the last eight, the match against France could be one of the most compelling battles at this stage of the World Cup.

France (Les Bleus – 1998 winners): Liberté, égalité, fraternité,… VITESSE!

Vitesse – speed. Speed is what the French team have the most advantage in their array of arsenal in this World Cup.

Argentina were not able to cope with the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba  and Antoine Griezmann marauding their final third as France dismantled the South Americans en route to reaching the quarterfinals.

And now, going up against another South American side which has arguably the best defence at the moment in this tournament, Les Bleus need to capitalise on their speedy players in a bid to break the Uruguayan backline if they want to get closer to winning their second World Cup trophy and match the achievements of 1998 heroes led by Zidane.

Brazil (Seleção – 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002 winners): Pentacampeao’s path to redemption

Brazil’s 2014 World Cup campaign as hosts ended in infamy and fiasco by bowing against eventual champions Germany in an embarrassing 7-1 scoreline.

With talisman Neymar missing that match due to injury, The Selecao, went down disastrously and it fuelled this 2018 batch, along with a back to form Neymar, to produce a much better performance to finally exorcise that fateful night in Estadio Mineirão.

Now that Brazil have reached the quarter finals showing a more solid spine and defence, they will try to pull off all the stops against an opposition christened as a “Golden Generation” in their bid to go all the way and win an unprecedented sixth World Cup.

Belgium (Red Devils – 1986 fourth place): Expectations mount for The Golden ‘Red Devils’ Generation

With a lineup loaded with stars in almost all positions, bannered by players that are household names in the world of football, this squad carries an unenviable pressure from the media, the fans and even neutrals to go a long way in the tournament.

A scare against Japan in the Round of 16 almost sank this collection of superstars but they eventually showed character and fight in the end to overturn the deficit for a spectacular escape to the quarter finals.

Now facing their toughest rivals yet in the tournament against none other than the most decorated national side in the history of the sport, Brazil, their label as the best ever squad the country has produced will be put to its most difficult test.

Russia (Sbornaya – 1994, 2002 and 2014 group stage): Hosts cling to hope

Knowing they are one of the ‘weakest teams on paper’, World Cup hosts Russia are feeding on their fans and the tournament’s vibe for energy.

The good thing is, the team was able to defy all odds by overachieving in their campaign as they reached the quarter finals stage.

With a daunting task ahead against a strong Croatian contingent, a loss will definitely be a sad result for the team and the fans, but looking at the bigger picture the national team already achieved success just by reaching this point.

An upset against the Balkans will definitely be a welcome bonus as the Russians right now have already reached the highest level in the history of the competition in the post-Soviet Union era.

Croatia (Vatreni – 1998 semi-final): Perennial ‘Dark Horses’ take another shot at glory

Compact. Ruthless. Lethal.

Croatia always head into the tournament as dark horses with their track record of reaching far in the World Cup for most of the editions that they’ve participated in.

The 1998 semifinals had been the farthest point that they were able to reach, but they could better that run this 2018 with the current crop of talented players that they have.

Always feared, but unheralded to claim the top prize, this 2018 could be their year to shed their perennial dark horses tag to becoming true footballing superpowers by seizing their first world title.

But they have to beat the hosts, Russia, first.

Sweden (Blågult – 1950 and 1994 3rd): The last Scandinavians standing

Un-fancied but ever-grafting, Sweden were able to weather the odds against more talented oppositions with their solid teamwork.

Being the last representatives from the Nordic Region with Denmark and Iceland already eliminated, they now face England as the underdogs.

But it won’t be a fully improbable task against the traditional powerhouse as Sweden proved to be the Three Lions’ bogey team with a better head to head record which would serve as further motivation for them to reach one step closer to winning the trophy.

England (Three Lions – 1966 winners): Unburdened optimism for the inventors of the game

Representing the home of football, this particular England team headed into the tournament with a stark difference compared to the highly-rated English squads of recent past. That difference is having less expectations from their home fans and the media.

Such situation gave this team an air of optimism, confidence and positivity emanating from themselves and it showed in their most recent result which is considered as a monumental one after finally winning a penalty shoot-out for the first time in the World Cup, after failing in their previous three tries, when they beat Colombia.

Such result could only further their self-belief that this 2018 could be the year that the cup is finally coming home.

Who from the last eight will proceed to the semifinals?

Definitely can’t wait!

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