The FIFA World Cup quarterfinal stage kicks off on Friday. The tournament has been whittled down to eight teams and several big names have been sent packing.
Reigning World Cup winners Germany were knocked out of the tournament in the group stage. The team won just once in three matches before crashing out. Euro 2016 winners Portugal were sent packing as well after a round of 16 loss to Uruguay. Lionel Messi’s Argentina was also knocked out of the World Cup in the round of 16. Former tournament winners Spain also felt the cold hand of defeat when the knockout phase started.
Now, with the elite eight left, which teams have the best odds to win the World Cup according to leading sportsbooks?
World Cup quarterfinal July 6 and July 7
Brazil went into the World Cup as the sportsbooks’ favorites. So far, the Brazilians have kept the favorites’ tag and the nation is just three wins away from a sixth World Cup trophy. Brazil started slowly but the team has improved along the way. Star player Neymar has found form and the team’s defense has been impenetrable. Brazil has given up just one goal at the tournament while scoring seven.
France has all the talent in the world and the French arguably have the most depth of any team left in the World Cup. Like Brazil, France was sluggish in the beginning, but the team has turned it on. France escaped a late scare against Argentina with a 4-3 win in the knockout round. Teen sensation Kylian Mbappe looks like the real deal, but the team needs star Antoine Griezmann to score from open play. His two goals have come from penalties.
England is riding high. The country had low expectations at the start of the tournament, but the young, pacy team is performing well. England suffered a defeat to Belgium in the group stage, causing the team to finish second in Group G. It has actually worked in the team’s favor as England fell into the easier side of the bracket. After a dramatic penalty shootout win over Colombia — a game the English controlled throughout — the team now play Sweden in a World Cup quarterfinal match.
Croatia isn’t getting much love from the sportsbooks, but the team has played stellar soccer this summer. Croatia hasn’t suffered a defeat at the tournament and came through a penalty shootout with a stubborn Denmark to make the quarters. On paper, Croatia should blast the Russians. Croatia has far more talent on the pitch. However, Russia has fervent support behind it.
Belgium must play Brazil in what could be the match of the tournament. The Belgians were nearly beaten in the round of 16. Down two goals with 21 minutes to play, Belgium embarked on an incredible 3-2 comeback win against Japan. Brazil’s defense won’t be quite so easy to get through.
Uruguay is a stubborn team of veteran players. Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez offer a one-two punch at the striker positions. Diego Godin is the team’s leader in defense and wins almost everything in the air. Uruguay has scored seven goals and conceded just one so far. The South Americans may very well upset their French World Cup quarterfinal opponents.
Russia has had a Cinderella story. The team was the lowest ranked when the tournament started, yet Russia has suffered just one defeat. The team beat the heavily favored Spanish on penalties in the round of 16. Croatia is a better team, but Russia has its home crowd behind it.
Sweden has played solid, non-flashy soccer to get to the quarterfinals. The team benefited from a deflected shot that found the back of the net in the round of 16. However, the Swedes’ luck could be about out. The team has scored six goals in the tournament with three of those coming in one match. The team doesn’t have great goal scorers but is defensively solid. Sweden won’t score a lot of goals in the quarterfinal against England but could win with stout defending.
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