The oddsmakers see Brazil as the favorites to win the World Cup, with France and England just behind them.
Does that sound right?
For Brazil, it’s likely a case of powerful performances, while perhaps England’s status comes from having a presumed easier path to the final (Sweden, then Croatia or Russia).
[ RECAP: England 1-1 (4-3 PKs) Colombia ]
The bettors have Belgium and Croatia next, followed by Uruguay, Russia, and Sweden.
We don’t see it quite that way, so let’s lay out the arguments for and against the final eight teams in Russia.
8. Russia — The hosts are on the better side of the bracket, and have proven stubborn to break down outside of the Uruguay tilt. Still, it’s hard to see them advancing much further in the tournament.
7. Sweden — Dogged defending is one thing, and three clean sheets in one tournament is no joke. The England-Sweden quarter is going to be a scrap.
6. England — Sure, the path is easier on the right side of the bracket. But England hasn’t scored outside of the penalty spot in two matches and is yet to keep a clean sheet. Sorry if we’re not 100 percent on board because the Three Lions finally won in penalty kicks. Gareth Southgate deserves a lot of credit for the English mentality, though, and that provides some hope.
5. France — The good: Exploded for four goals against Argentina after scoring just three across the entire group stage. The bad: Allowed three after allowing just one in the group stage. Paul Pogba looks excellent, and Samuel Umtiti is a force at the back. But even a win over Uruguay means an immediate test from Belgium or Brazil.
4. Uruguay — Has allowed exactly one goal in four tournaments matches, and Edinson Cavani has been fantastic in tandem with Luis Suarez. Atletico Madrid defenders Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez have that club-and-country swagger. And for whatever it’s worth, Uruguay is unbeaten in five against France. The combined score line is 1-0.
3. Croatia — Dealing with the hosts in the quarterfinal may be trickier than England or Sweden in a presumed semifinal. Luka Modric looks 10 years younger than his 32 years, and Mario Mandzukic can change a game with the flick of his boot.
2. Belgium — It’d be difficult to bet against the Red Devils if they weren’t staring down Brazil in the quarters. Say what you will about going down 2-0 to Japan, but Belgium was undeterred and ruthless in tearing up Samurai Blue dreams in little more than 20 minutes.
- Brazil — Since Steven Zuber equalized in the 50th minute of Brazil’s opener versus Switzerland, Alisson Becker has conceded exactly zero goals over 310 minutes. All the wins were 2-0. Now if only Neymar could show a modicum of class instead of denigrating the game with stereotypical playacting.