FIFA World Cup Preview – 7/6

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Every time I start to write about the World Cup I feel the need to remind everyone just how incredible the tournament has been up until now. I don’t want to start sounding like a broken record or some delusional hype-man but it there is just so much to get excited over!

It’s a unique position to be in, watching the tournament as a spectator whose country isn’t represented and therefor has no real bias or preference (although I do currently live in Sweden so I suppose I should be supporting them). But for the neutral, this tournament has been incredible. Watching England play Colombia was phenomenal. The stoppage-time equalizer and the shootout that followed with the pure anger to win from both sides is what it’s all about! England deserved to go to the last eight and will play Sweden who also deserved to advance after another defensive master class against Switzerland.

So it’s set. The quarterfinals will feature Russia against Croatia, Uruguay against France, England versus Sweden and Brazil against Belgium. On Friday Uruguay will play France and Brazil will play Belgium. Uruguay has still only allowed one goal in their four games and the play of midfielder Lucas Torreira in their game against Portugal has garnered widespread praise. Edinson Cavani, the striker who scored both goals in the win against Portugal, has a calf problem but will most likely take the field on Friday.

France have been scoring goals for fun with the always threatening Antoine Griezmann playing alongside Olivier Giroud and, of course, the mercurial Kylian Mbappé. I can’t speak highly enough of the young forward who set the field on fire against Argentina. He truly is a special talent who is shining on the world’s biggest stage. Uruguay plays a traditional 4-4-2 while France have lined up in a 4-3-3 as well as a 4-2-3-1. So far head coach Didier Deschamps has gotten everything right but against a well-organized and defensively stout Uruguay he may have to roll the dice and stick with the 4-3-3. It’s not a huge gamble when you have N’Golo Kanté and Blaise Matuidi in midfield. Water covers 70 percent of the earth, this pair covers the remaining 30 percent.

At this stage it’s hard to say that one game should be more exciting than the other but I almost want to say just that when we talk about Brazil versus Belgium. Both teams have been superb with equally creative attacking play. Belgium was however a bit sloppy defensively in their game against Japan. They won’t be able to get away with it against the Brazilians. Before the tournament Neymar was quoted saying “Me, Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus can decide the whole tournament by ourselves.”

It’s a bold statement but not entirely untrue. When these guys find a rhythm (along with Willian and Firmino when he comes off the bench) there isn’t a defense in the world that can live with them.

Neymar has been on the receiving end of much criticism for his extreme reactions to being fouled and I have to agree with it. It’s been a bit over the top at times and one can’t help but roll their eyes when he rolls eight times after being brought down by a late tackle. Regardless, the matchup of Belgium’s Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku against the front three of Brazil is giving me goose bumps even now. Friday is definitely the day to call in sick from work and watch these two thrilling matchups!

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Eddy Prugh is currently a professional soccer player from Montana. He plays for Skellefteå FF of Sweden’s Division 1 Norra and has spent time at The Colorado Springs Switchbacks of the United Soccer League and Bodens BK, another Swedish team. He spent one year playing at Oregon State University and has a love for the rain and laid-back lifestyle of the Northwest.

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