2018 Quarterfinals – Who Will Win the World Cup?
It kinda feels as though the 2018 World Cup just got started, but we have already flown through the group stages and the round of 16. Three-fourths of the 32 teams in the field have already been eliminated, and we’re left with just 8 teams fighting it out for soccer’s biggest prize.
The group stage gave us some stunning results. For the third time in the last 4 tournaments, the defending . Despite entering the World Cup as the odds-on favorites to repeat as champs, Germany were unceremoniously ousted from their group on the final day. Sweden and Mexico advanced instead, with the Germans’ death knell unexpectedly coming at the hands of South Korea on the final day of group play. The Germans can now watch the rest of the tournament from home along with the Americans, Italians, Chileans and Dutch.
While most of the other big-name sides did just enough to squeak through, we also saw Nigeria, Iceland, Serbia, Senegal and Poland eliminated early on. Poland, who entered the World Cup as the No. 8 team in the world, were killed off after just 2 games.
The knockout stage brought more drama. Spain were unceremoniously dumped from the tournament after failing to break through a sturdy and indefatigable Russian defense. Belgium looked to be on the brink of leaving early after allowing Japan to jump out to a 2-0 lead before scoring 3 unanswered, including one in the waning seconds of stoppage time, to get through to the quarterfinals. Argentina, Mexico, Switzerland, Portugal and Colombia are also headed home.
Still, there is an awful lot to be excited about as the World Cup progresses. One side of the bracket is still considerably more stacked than the other. Just one of Brazil, Belgium, Uruguay and France will have the chance to qualify for the final from one side. On the other side, you have England, Croatia, Russia and Sweden. England are the only team on that half of the bracket to have won a World Cup in the past.
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Let’s take a look at the updated odds and try to pick a winner, shall we?
Odds to Win 2018 FIFA World Cup
- Brazil +275
- Belgium +500
- France +500
- Croatia +650
- England +1000
- Uruguay +1600
- Russia +2000
- Sweden +2500
Can We Write Anyone Off Yet?
Brazil clearly benefit the most from Germany’s ouster. The Brazilians’ odds have jumped to +275 to win the tournament now that the team many had pegged as their chief competitor is out.
At the other end of the spectrum, though, we have some long shots. Sweden have been impressive in this tournament, having topped a group that also included Germany and Mexico before ousting Switzerland in the knockout round. Sweden does have the benefit of being on the “easier” half of the bracket, but they will still have to get past a talented England side if they have real aspirations of advancement. Sweden have been routinely beating the odds, but it’s tough to imagine this team really having enough in the tank. The Swedes make for an excellent value at +2500, but they’re a long shot for a reason.
Russia have the edge of playing the tournament on their home turf, and it has helped get them much further than just about anyone could have imagined. Getting through the group wasn’t a total surprise, but nobody outside of Russia gave the Russians much of a chance to beat a talented and experienced Spanish side in the round of 16. They were excellent and disciplined defensively, however, and Spain were ultimately unable to generate many quality chances. They were then able to advance via shootout.
Russia will go up against Croatia in the quarterfinals. The Croats were also on the brink of an ouster before getting past Denmark in penalties. Croatia’s squad isn’t littered with the familiar names we saw with Spain, but it is still a resolute and talented team. Croatia’s bevy of playmakers in midfield will test the mettle of that Russian defense, to be sure.
Anything can happen, especially this deep into the World Cup, but at this point I’m willing to write off both Sweden (+2500) and Russia (+2000).
Close, But No Cigar
The next tier of teams includes England, Croatia and Uruguay. Uruguay have been arguably the most impressive defensive team at the tournament thus far, having conceded just a single goal across 4 games. Beating Portugal in the last round is no small feat, but Luis Suarez and co. will be up against it in their next match against France.
Le Celeste may also be down arguably their for the match. Star striker Edinson Cavani, who scored both of Uruguay’s goals against Portugal, is in question for the France showdown after sustaining a calf injury in the round of 16. Cavani reportedly trained with the team ahead of the next game, but he is most likely to at least start the game on the bench.
I am a huge fan of what Uruguay have been able to accomplish to this point, but it’s tough to see how Uruguay is going to outscore a high-octane team like France if they’re missing their most prolific goal scorer. I like the profit potential on Uruguay at +1200, but I would like it a lot more with a healthy Cavani in the mix.
While this team has some spunk to it, getting past France and then either Belgium or Brazil just to make it to the final is about as tall a task as you can imagine.
Are England a team of destiny? Losing to Belgium in the final match of the group stage allowed England to make its way to the right side of the bracket. While it took all they had just to get past an undermanned Colombian side, the Three Lions do have a clear path to the final. Sweden certainly can’t be taken lightly, but Gareth Southgate’s side will have either Croatia or Russia waiting in the semifinal if they advance.
Southgate took a risk when opting for youth rather than experience with his team selection. There are still some steady veterans like Jordan Henderson and Kyle Walker, but most of the side is inexperienced at this kind of level. Top choice goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has made just 7 appearances for his national team, including his 4 starts at this World Cup. Marcus Rashford, John Stones and Jesse Lingard are other familiar names without a ton of experience in international football.
I don’t doubt England’s chances of advancing to the final. It’s the winning the final part that gives me pause here. There is enough talent here to win any game on any given day against any opponent, but England don’t have a very strong track record in the later stages of the World Cup. That’s certainly not something predictive, but I’m wary of going all-in here. England are an excellent value at +1000, so I think it’s worth a try if you have some risk tolerance. That’s as far as I’d go, however.
Croatia have been the most impressive team to me thus far. There are some big names in the side, but the overall collection of talent doesn’t exactly jump off the page. Rather than using star power like a team like Brazil or France, Croatia are a workmanlike side that just seems to get the job done on both ends of the pitch. With Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric pulling the strings in midfield, this is a tough side to break down while also having enough goal scoring ability at the other end of the pitch.
Croatia are my favorite value bet of the 8 teams remaining at +650. People are still underrating them, but the Croats should be taken seriously. It also helps that they are on the easier half of the bracket.
In terms of likelihood of winning the World Cup, I’d rank these three teams as follows:
- Croatia +650
- England +1000
- Uruguay +1200
The favorites at this stage of the competition are clear. Would anyone be surprised to see Brazil, France or Belgium lifting the World Cup at the end of this? No.
This top group of teams is essentially a toss-up as far as I’m concerned. Brazil are favored based largely on expectations. After crashing out in the semis 4 years ago, Brazil have looked a bit better. Belgium are finally making the most of their world class talent all over the pitch, and they won all 3 games in their group. France haven’t looked as strong as we expected, but they might well have the most talented roster at the entire tournament.
We haven’t seen the Brazilians at their best thus far, but the results have still been there. 4 wins in 4 matches essentially tells you all you need to know. One tactical adjustment I would like to see from this side is the substitution of . Jesus is an incredible young talent, but the Brazilians have looked far better with Firmino leading the line alongside Neymar. I would prefer to see Jesus come on later in the game as a sub with Firmino drawing the start. Even if that change isn’t made, you have to like their chances.
The second half of the Japan game finally gave us a glimpse into what the Belgian side is capable of. Many say this is a “golden era” for Belgium, and it’s true. It’s hard to imagine the Belgians being able to put forward a more quality group of players than the one they have in Russia. They appeared to be on their way out after falling into a 2-0 hole before storming back with 3 goals in the games waning moments to capture an unlikely victory.
It will be interesting to see what Roberto Martinez elects to do with his starting XI. 2 of the goals came from substitutes Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli. Will Martinez choose to start one or both of them, or will he leave them on the bench if more late-game magic is necessary against Brazil?
France bagged 4 goals in a 4-3 thriller against Argentina in the last round, with teenager Kylian Mbappe stealing the show. The young Frenchman proved far too quick for Argentina’s aging defenders, though he and the rest of the French side will face a far more stiff test against a potent defense in Uruguay. Jose Maria Gimenez and Diego Godin are arguably the world’s best defensive pairing in the middle of the back line.
I really feel like one of these 3 sides are going to wind up winning this thing. All 3 still have solid betting value, so I wouldn’t necessarily talk you out of wagering on any of them. Here’s how I’d rank them: