In the first round of quarter finals of FIFA World Cup 2018 on Friday, at least one more past champion will be sent packing after Germany, Argentina and Spain. Italy, four-time champions, could not even qualify for the 2018 edition so could not three-time finalists Netherlands.
With two-time champions Uruguay locking horns with 1998 winners France in the first match on Friday, whoever loses will add their name to the list of champions getting eliminated in Russia. In the second match on Friday, five-time World Champions Brazil will clash against a ruthless Belgium who are yet to open their account of titles.
Both the sides host of some massive names under their radar. The clash between, what is hailed as, the most formidable forward duo of Edinson Cavani and Luis Surez and France’s Griezmann and Olivier Giroud promises to deliver an exciting thriller. But the 19-year-old French sensation Kylian Mbappe may yet again steal the show. It was Mbappe who had outpaced Lionel Messi’s Argentina with a sublime brace and was the key to France winning a penalty of which Griezmann scored in the 4-3 win for France. But in a major setback to Uruguay, Cavani’s injury woes makes him a doubtful starter for Uruguay.
Unlike the Argentine defence, however, which looked lacklustre throughout their stay in Russia, Uruguay has the experience of Diego Godin, who will be responsible for not letting Mbappe run past the line of defence like he did against Argentina.
Fernando Muslera, the Uruguayan goalkeeper who did not let Ronaldo score in the round of 16, will be vital to his team. Muslera, so far, has conceded only one goal, that against Portugal, in this edition of the World Cup.
A clash between world number two Brazil and number three Belgium promises to be another clash between the subline attack lines. The clash between the craft of Neymar, Coutinho, Paulinho and Marcelo against the force of Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyn sure promises to be an entertaining affair, at least for a neutral fan.
Belgium’s defence was put to test against Japan in their round of 16 match, when the Asian giants had scored twice in the first 15 minutes of the second half. Belgium put up some brilliant attacking display to cancel out the deficit and then score the winner in the closing seconds of the injury time.
But a lapse against Brazil may prove too costly as the Brazilian side is yet to concede a goal in the last 310 minutes of football they have played. Brazilian goalie Allison has made a name for himself in this World Cup, conceding just one goal in Brazil’s opening group encounter against Switzerland. In all other matches, Allison maintained a clean sheet as Brazil won all its matches 2-0.