Friday, July 06, 2018

World Cup 2018 - Quarter Final Predictions

So I had a 50% success rate in the Round-of-16 predictions. Which means analysis aside, I could have just flipped a coin - this is s a great example of the science of probability. Now let's get to the last 8 teams standing.

France vs. Uruguay
Winner: France

This is like the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. Offense vs Defence. This is very hard to call as the teams are almost equally matched. France has a great selection of fast, young strikers while Uruguay has a pair of experienced and exceptional strikers. Where Uruguay has the edge is their miserly defenders. Now will France have the key to pick the lock? I think so. They responded well to the pressure of going behind against Argentina with magical strikes. Their confidence must be sky high.

Brazil vs. Belgium
Winner: Brazil

Now I support Brazil. Yet I am afraid of this one team - Belgium. A team that knew that winning their last meaningless group game would land them in the tougher bracket and yet they had the guts to go for it. A team that went behind 2 goals in a knock out game, with 20 minutes to go, and still emerge victorious. A team that is full of talent.

So why Brazil? People forget that their defenders only allowed one goal so far. This is not the Brazil of 2014. They look good and are good (even Neymar's acting skills deserve an Oscar). You need something special to defeat a team like Belgium and I think Brazil has it.

Russia vs. Croatia
Winner: Croatia

Whenever I think of Russia in 2018 I am reminded of South Korea in 2002.  A host nation making an unexpectedly deep run in the tournament, "supported" by the referees and pure luck. Yet I think with the advent of VAR, most of the refereeing in the tournament has been pretty good. So I think Russia's luck will run out against Croatia. Spain really defeated themselves. Passing the ball around (1000 passes!) with no meaningful shots to show for it. Croatia knows how to go for the kill.

England vs. Sweden
Winner: England.

One word (ok two words. New England. This is a different England team. I don't know if the cup's coming home, but I know they look good. Yes they only scored 1 non fluke goal in open play. Yes they are dependent on set pieces and Harry Kane. But luck seems to be smiling on them at the moment.

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