- The 2018 FIFA World Cup quarterfinals kick off on July 6th
- Brazil remain the favorites to go all the way
- England have been blessed with an easy path to the finals; is football coming home?
Let’s take a moment to remember the casualties of the Round of 16. Portugal was sent home after Cavani netted two goals to send the Uruguayans through. Argentina found themselves on the wrong side of a 4-3 thriller against France. And Spain — oh, Spain! — met an early elimination after losing to the hosts on penalties.
So much for Spain being the only side playing like a World Cup-winning squad. So much for Messi or Ronaldo raising the Jules Rimet before retiring. So much for Russia being the weakest nation to qualify. This is proving to be pretty weird World Cup.
Welcome to the quarterfinals!
Odds to win the World Cup
Brazil remains the favorite. No surprises there. While other top contenders like France, England, and Belgium struggled to advance to the quarterfinals, the Brazilians cruised past Mexico with a comfortable 2-0 win. They have world-class talent scattered throughout their lineup and, more importantly, they’re playing effective, cohesive football.
After a string of uninspiring Group Stage matches, we finally got a glimpse of what this exciting young French side has to offer. Their 4-3 win over Argentina was perhaps the best attacking display we’ve seen so far. Didier Deschamps took a risk by shaping the formation around the 19-year-old Kylian Mbappé, and the young striker came through. There are still some glaring issues with their defense, but finally the star-studded French side is coming alive.
After beating Colombia in shoot-outs, England have a relatively easy path to the finals. They’re on the significantly weaker portion of the bracket, with Croatia being the only serious threat. They’ve relied heavily on set pieces and penalties to earn them goals, which isn’t particularly pleasing to the eye. But it works and that’s all that matters.
Belgium came back from a two-goal deficit to defeat Japan 3-2. It was an impressive comeback and demonstrated grit and composure under pressure, but still, it was against Japan. It should never have been that difficult in the first place. They have a difficult path to the finals and will have to pull off something special in order to go all the way.
Croatia suddenly found themselves among the betting favorites after they thumped Argentina 3-0, but their sloppy win over Denmark on shoot-outs left a touch of doubt. They’ve been impressive this World Cup, though not quite impressive enough to stand side-by-side with heavy hitters like Brazil and France.
Uruguay have won all four of their games so far, conceding just one goal along the way. That’s a better record than any other World Cup side. Still, they remain a heavy underdog to win the World Cup. They’ve been truly impressive so far and picking them at +1600 seems like a great deal.
As for Russia and Sweden, they did well to get this far but I can’t picture either nation going the distance.
Uruguay (+335) vs France (+100), Draw (+215)
- Pick: Draw (+215)
Uruguay has a defense that could neutralize the French attack. The blistering speed of Mbappé and finishing prowess of Antoine Griezmann will come up against Diego Godín and José Giménez, two centre-halfs with a ton of experience playing together at Atletico Madrid.
It’s the star talent of France against the cohesiveness of Uruguay. I can picture a deadlock after 90 minutes of play. After that, the new Extra Time Sub rule will benefit France since they have a richer arsenal to draw from.
Brazil (+110) vs Belgium (+260), Draw (+240)
- Pick: Belgium (+260)
Brazil are clearly the favorites here but there’s something very enticing about Belgium at +260. The so-called Golden Generation hasn’t lived up to expectations and this could be the when they silence their critics. Brazil boasts the more impressive squad but Belgium isn’t too far behind. A good performance and a little bit of luck is all they need to advance to the semis.
Sweden (+385) vs England (-120), Draw (+235)
- Pick: England (-120)
English fans are allowing themselves to dream again. Gareth Southgate has done an amazing job with the national team and the ghosts that haunted England for generations seem to have disappeared. Sweden have had it pretty easy up until now and I don’t think they have what it takes to go further.
Russia (+285) vs Croatia (+125), Draw (+205)
- Pick: Croatia (+125)
Host nations have a reputation for hitting above their weight and Russia is yet another great example of how a home crowd can lift a national team. However, Croatia is a terrible stylistic match-up for the Russians. The creative genius of Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakitić could wreak havoc on Russia’s rigid structure.