France, Brazil, Croatia and England Favorites to Qualify for Semi-Finals

Uruguay take on France in the first of the quarter finals on Friday, followed by Brazil against Belgium.

Overturning long-held preconceptions about football's two main land masses, this year's quarterfinals pitch thrilling and adventurous European teams against pragmatic, stubborn, and defensively-minded South American opponents.

It's what Croatia has done - or hasn't - in the four World Cups since that debut which has created the shadow this team plays under. Goalkeeper Danijel Subasic has become a national hero for saving three penalties to advance Croatia past Denmark in the round of 16.

And after Danilo's injury third-choice Fagner, who plies his trade for Tite's old club Corinthians, has been propelled into a starting position. They're listed as the biggest favorite to win their quarterfinal match, against Sweden.

That could have been their fate had they lost their last group game to England, who have been handsomely rewarded for finishing runners-up with - on paper - what appears to be a far easier route to the final.

"What makes me very happy is that in every game, all the players who came from the bench did very well and that means we are very good". There are no obvious weaknesses and, although they're in the much tougher half of the draw, they're my pick for lifting the trophy for a sixth time in Moscow on July 15.

Wimbledon chief executive Richard Lewis said: "It has not been a discussion other than, "we are two o'clock and that's it". They will need to rectify those mistakes against a strong Brazilian team which has improved with each passing game.

We have seen Croatia throw in performances like that one before in the latter stages of tournaments.

Neymar is found his scoring touch for the Selecao but seems to have not got over his habit of play acting. "We know that it's not since 1990 we were in a World Cup semi-final".

"If you let France have space it will be very hard", Uruguay's coach Oscar Tabarez said. And perhaps they are getting Belgium at the ideal time after their exhausting desperation match with Japan.

England and Sweden, and Russian Federation and Croatia are due to play on Saturday. Since replacing Dzagoev in the Saudi game, Cheryshev has scored three goals and also hit the winning penalty in the last-16 win over Spain. Brazil came into the tournament as one of the favourites, with Belgium something of a dark horse contender.

France never got out of first gear in easing through the group stage, but turned on the style as Mbappe dazzled in a classic 4-3 victory over Argentina to set up the clash with Uruguay.

  • Julie Sanders