Friday, July 6, 2018

FIFA World Cup 2018 : QF Predictions - Brazil vs Belgium

In the second match of the evening, world wide favourites Brazil take on Red Devils Belgium at Kazan Arena, which has witnessed heavyweights, Argentina & Germany exit in this edition's major upsets.
This will be the fifth meeting between the two teams in which Belgium won the first one, a friendly match in 1963 & since then Brazil has always crossed the line successfully.
the Win Predictability Meter predicts a 45% chance to win, while Belgium are shown getting 27% chance. Brazil coach Tite would certainly keep in mind that Belgian defence leaked four goals against the likes of Tunisia & Japan earlier in their games.
Belgian fans would be hoping that their team carry the good form, which saw them win all their group matches before surviving a scare against Japan, when they came back from 0-2 down to win the match dramatically in the stoppage time. The team will bank on their 'Golden Generation' players of Hazard, Lukaku, De Bruyne, Kompany & others, as coach Roberto Martinez plots the game.
Their likely line could be a 3-4-2-1 formation, with Courtois in goal, Alderweireld, Kompany, Vertonghen, Meunier in defence, while, De Bruyne, Witsel, Chadli in midfiled & Fellaini, Lukaku & Hazard upfront.
Brazil on the other hand, seem to be peaking in time, having conceded just one goal & the defence looking very solid, while the midfield is controlling the game well for the forwards to strike for the goals. Coach Tite would most probably go with a 4-3-3 formation, with Alisson in goal, Fargner, Thiago Silva, Miranda & Marcelo(coming back from an injury) in defence, while, Paulinho, Fernandinho(in place of suspended Casemeiro), Coutinho man the all important midfield & Willian, Jesus & Neymar run for the goals.
This should a very entertaining game, & though Belgiums are touted as the 'dark horse' of this tournament, one would expect Brazil to win this contest, given the depth of the line up & the bench strength, along with such illustrious history behind them.



FIFA World Cup 2018 : QF Predictions - Uruguay vs France

The QF of this FIFA World Cup, starts with a serious humdinger, an absolute classic battle between Latin American giant, Uruguay against the flavour of European football, France at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium. Both teams have been exceptionally good till now in the tournament & are both definite favourites for the title clash. It will be a clash of Uruguay's rock solid defence led by Captain Diego Godin & Giminez, that has conceded just one goal till now, against a free flowing attacking line up of France, comprising of Kylian Mbappe & Greizmann.
Uruguay's worst fears seem to be coming true, with in form striker Cavani, most likely to miss the tie, due to a knee injury. They would be hoping for replacement Stuani to combine with Suarez for the goal scoring prowess. On the other side, France would be riding the form of teenage sensation Mbappe to strike hard into the Uruguayan defence.
The Win Probability Meter predicts France a whopping 47% chance, while Uruguay gets a 23% chance. Interestingly though, France has won just one of their previous eight meetings against Uruguay, & this should give the Latin Americans something to take hope from.
The expected line up for Uruguay may be - Muslera in goal; with Giminez, Godin, Caceres & Bentancur providing solidity in defence; while Nandez, Torreira, Vecino & Laxalt keep the midfield well functional, as Suarez & Stuani work on the forward line.
France may well field, Lloris in goal with Pavard, Varane, Umtiti & Hernandez in defence; while Pogba, Tolisso, Kante manage the midfiled; & Greizmann, Giroud & Mbappe work on the forward line.

At this stage & on paper, France does look ahead in terms of team formation & speed, however, I believe, Uruguay does have the fire power to upset the Europeans, if Suarez can conjure up an early goal - in any case, we all look forward to a mouth watering contest.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

FIFA World Cup 2018 : Round of 16 - England vs Columbia

In my pre match analysis, I had quoted boldly that there might be an upset in store, & Columbia almost scripted that upset against favourites England, before bowing out in a penalty shoot out.
The match was quite even between the two teams, & in the first half the ball stayed mostly in the middle, with England, though having more possession, failed to dominate. Columbia, in absence of the injured Rodriguez, missed his game making & spreading capabilities, but gritted it out against the more fancied opponents.
In the second half, England Captain Harry Kane, managed to draw the referee's attention to 'a not so serious foul' & earn a penalty, which he converted easily to take his tally to six & lead the goalscorer's chart for now, as England seemed well set to retain the 1-0 lead till the end. However, well into injury time, off a Cuadrado corner, Yerry Mina towered above others to head the ball in, for an equaliser, & push the game into extra time. The Columbians, looked the nippier side to me, though they missed a finisher throughout the game. With penalty shoot out coming into play, it was England's time to sweat & worry, as their record has been dismal up till now. Their agony went a notch up, when Columbian keeper Ospina blocked Jordon Henderson's kick to get his country the vital lead. However, the joy was shortlived, as Mateus Uribe's rasping shot for Columbia next, hit the cross bar & came out, wasting the opportunity & then, England keeper Pickford blocked the next Columbian shot from Bacca. In the final kick for England, Eric Dier, cooly placed the ball into the left corner, & England had scraped through for a win, by the skin of their teeth.
Columbia lost out on a great opportunity to upset the rather shaky England, especially after dragging the game into penalties.
England, now face Sweden in the QF. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

FIFA World Cup 2018 : Round of 16 - Sweden vs Switzerland

As expected, the match between Sweden & Switzerland lacked bite & skills, as physical prowess & long ball lobs were the predominant action on display.
A more disciplined & resilient Sweden went past with a 1-0 win, thanks to a 66th minute own goal by defender, Akanji of Switzerland. In a counter attack of sorts, midfielder Emil Forsberg cranked an innocuous shot at the goal from the edge of the box, which took a huge deflection off defender Manuel Akanji & wrong footed goalkeeper Yann Sommer, to enter the net.
Outside of this movement against the run of play, the game was very dour, & physical & lacked excitement of a knockout game. Both sides were poor in their finishing often blasting the ball past target, from within the box - it was frustrating to watch both sides employing physical strength rather than skills to control the game. Sweden had the better of the exchanges, while Switzerland, which played so well against Brazil, looked a spent force.
Sweden moved into the QF for the first time since 1994, with this win. For Switzerland, it was another loss at the knockout stages, as they go back with a lot of disappointment.
Sweden now face the winner of England & Columbia in the next match, & they will have to improve a whole lot, especially in the attacking zone to move any further. 

FIFA World Cup - Round fo 16 - Predictions for day 4

7) Sweden lock horns with Switzerland at Saint Petersburg Stadium today evening for a place in the last 8 of this tournament. Both teams are meeting for the first time in a major tournament like this & the win predictability meter shows Sweden with 32% chance & their Swiss rivals at 36% chance, which makes it pretty even for results at this stage. The game may well turn out to be a dour & physical challenge of nerves & converting miserly openings, failing which, going into extra time & even penalty shoot out for a result.
With the exit of Spain in the bottom half, both the teams have a realistic opportunity of making it to the finals, if they win this tie. Both the teams have suspension issues & will miss some crucial players for today. However, as per many suggestions, the likely playing eleven for Sweden could be, Olsen in the goal, with Lustig, Lindelof, Granqvist, Augustinsson, Claesson, Svensson, Ekdal, Forsberg, Berg & Tiovonen.
The Swiss battle eleven could be Sommer in the goal, with Lang, Djourou, Akanji, Rodriguez, Xhaka, Behrami, Dzemaili, Shaqiri, Drmic & Zuber.
While Sweden come into this game with momentum after thrashing Mexico 3-0, the Swiss machinery would also be in confidence after drawing with Brazil in the group stages. However Switzerland will sorely miss their captain & central defender, Stephan Lichtsteiner & Schar, both out with suspensions.

8) In the last of the round of 16 matches, much fancied England take on a resurgent Columbia at the Spartak Stadium. England have a better record against their Latin American rivals having faced five times earlier, with an unbeaten record till now & the win predictability meter also shows the Three Lions at 46% chance, while Columbia clocks a 24% chance. Coach Gareth Southgate's English eleven were fluent in the group stages, before losing the tie to Belgium, in what is largely rumoured to be a tactics to open a potential freeway to the finals. Columbians, on the other hand have a huge injury concern revolving around their star James Rodriguez, the Golden Boot award winner in the previous World Cup. Coach Jose Pekerman would be hoping for his star to recover in time & boost his team's chances for an unlikely victory.
The expected line ups could be, England - Pickford in the goal with Walker, Stones, Maguire, Trippier, Alli, Henderson, Lingard, Young, Sterling & captain Kane.
Columbia - Ospina in the goal, with Arias, Davinson, Sanchez, Mina, Mojica, Uribe, Carlos, Sanchez, Cuadrado, Quintero, Rodriguez & captain Falcao.
While most of the experts would tip England to win easily, with a superior bench strength, I would not rule out another upset, as Columbians may just find their touch to go past an overconfident English eleven.