World Cup 2018: Quarter Final Recap - It's coming home

France 2 - 0 Uruguay

Les Bleus had not been to the semifinals of the World Cup since their infamous runners-up finish in 2006. They comfortably breezed passed Uruguay to put themselves a pair of wins away from once again being world champions, 20 years after their sole World Cup title. 

Raphael Varane was first on the scoreboard as he headed a Griezmann free kick past Uruguayan  goalkeeper Muslera (just remember that name for later) five minutes before the close of the first half. The South American side has a chance to level the game but for an incredible save by Hugo Lloris as he kept his side in the driver's seat to end the first half. France would later go one to score a second after a horrible blunder by Muslera who let it in a Griezmann shot from outside the box. The ball did not curl which lead Muslera to fluff his lines. He was confused between whether to punch, push or catch the ball. Regardless, his subpar effort all but confirmed the elimination of his side from the World Cup. 

Uruguay desperately missed Cavani who was easily their player of the tournament till his injury. His linkup play with Suarez allowed for the of them to shoulder the Uruguayan attack together and proved to be a successful combination. Alone, Suarez was helpless and was stranded among a sea of French defenders. Unbefitting of their nature, Uruguay conceded a goal from a set-piece. France where the dominant team on all fronts and deservedly make it to the last four despite only playing on their second gear. Les Bleus will now face Belgium as they look to secure a place in a third World Cup Final and look triumph as victors once again;  20 years after winning the 1998 World Cup on home soil.

 

Belgium 2 - 1 Brazil

Roberto Martinez has previously faced criticism of his managerial and tactical decisions in his tenure at the helm of the Belgian National Team. Against a gifted Brazil side, he got everything right and is now leading his side into the last four.  

It just was not Brazil's day. In the opening minutes they had plenty of chances to take the lead though it took bad luck and more to keep the ball out of the net. The five time World Cup winners conceded in the 13th minute, where goalkeeper Alisson helplessly watched as a corner kick was deflected off compatriot Fernandino and into the back of the net. Less than 20 minutes later, Belgium doubled their lead on the counter as Lukaku capped a beautiful run to find a probing Kevin De Bruyne, who buried the ball into the bottom left corner past a diving Alisson. 

La Selecao were able to pull one back in the 76th as Renato Augusto headed made it 2-1 with a header. The substitute could have gotten a brace and given Brazil a historic comeback but his curler flew well above the box.  Brazil once again could have equalized late in the game but a mishit by Coutinho right in front of goal and an astonishing save by Courtious preserved their lead and sent Les Diables Rouges into their first semifinal appearance in 32 years. 

Against Brazil, Neymar Jr. completed a hattrick by scoring, assisting, and diving. Against Belgium, he was nowhere to be seen; not even rolling on the floor for long periods of time. This was easily the most talented side in the tournament, and Brazil's most gifted since their triumph in 2002. Nevertheless, they have looked underwhelming since qualifying for Russia nearly 18 months ago. With the eliminations of Portugal and Argentina in the Round of 16, Neymar Jr. could have used the world's biggest stage to propel him into the conversation for best in the world and for the upcoming Ballon D'or. Now, he finds himself where he started before coming to Russia, as the distant third wheel. Belgium will now face France as they look to find a place in their maiden World Cup Final 

 

England 2 - 0 Sweden

This game lacked the drama of a penalty shootout against Colombia nor was this England's best performance since landing in Russia. But make no mistake, the Samara Arena on the banks of the River Volga was the site of English football team making history.  Few is any fans gave the Three Lions a serious chance to make it this far when they touched down in Russia months ago. It will be only the third time in their history to make it to the semi finals. This young team appears to be without egos or superstars though now - regardless of where they finish - the members of this side will be immortalized.  

After surviving a penalty scare against Colombia, Southgate took his side to face Sweden in Samara. The Swedes came into this tie having sent Germany ome in the group stages and defeating Switzerland in the round-of-16. The winning came from Harry Maguire 30 minutes into the game as England drew up another textbook set piece - a lethal staple of their World Cup campaign.  A jubilant Maguire rose above everyone in the box to connect with the ball and bury it into the bottom corner. As Sweden where beginning to gain the upperhand, England has just about enough to finish them off. Their possession and patience around the box resulted with the ball at Jesse Lingard's feet. The United winger sent in a sublime ball to the back post where Dele Alli had to simply make contact headed the ball with ease; giving England a 2-0 lead and berth in the semi-finals.  While Maguire and Dele Alli scored the goals to give England the win, their lead was preserved by the heroics of Jordan Pickford  in goal who made three massive saves to preserve the English lead. 

The victory send England to the last four. Youth and killer efficiency have carried this side within one victory of a place in the World Cup final. 

The Three Lions continue to roar on. 

 

Croatia 2 - 2 Russia (4-3 pens) 

With other three semifinal spots confirmed, the last spot was reserved for the winner of this tie. Croatia joined them after beating the hosts Russia 4 - 3 on penalties. After a wild 90 minutes, the scored was drawn at one goal each sending the teams to extra-time; with penalties ensuing deciding the second straight game for both teams. 

Croatia's goalkeeper, Danijel Subasic once again rose among the crows, making save after save in regulation. He battled injury to keep his nation afloat and saved Russia's first penalty kick - this ultimately being the decider between the two counties. Ivan Rakitic serenely scored the winning penalty to take his country to their first World Cup semi final since 1998.  

 The first 30 minutes of the game lacked tempo and was pretty boring. From there on out, it was an intense battle and amongst the most gut-wrenching games we've seen in this World Cup. The first half was came to an end after both sides scored in quick succession. The host's took the lead when Denis Cheryshev scored the opener - his second nomination for the Goal of the Tournament. The lead was short lived as Croatia gained control off the ball and Mario Mandzukic found Kramaric to put Croatia back into the game. In the extra session of play, Croatia looked like they were going to seal their victory by avoiding a penalty shootout. Domagoj Vida headed home off a corner kick in the 101st minute to give Croatia the lead with 19 minutes of play left. His early celebrations proved to be costly when Mario Fernandes headed home a set piece to level the game with five minutes left. 

Russia started and finished the 120 minutes of play with momentum on their side, though they were able to carry it forward. Fyodor Smolov attempted a cute lofted shot and Subasic read it well enough to make a save. Fernandes went from hero to villain in a matter of minutes as he completely missed the goal. Calm as ever, Rakitic gave Croatia the win and a place in the semi finals. 

 

Team of the Quarterfinals: Subasic (gk), Alderweireld, Varane, Maguire, Trippier, Modric (c), Kante, Chadli, De Bruyne, Lukaku, Hazard

World Cup 2018: Semifinals preview

World Cup 2018: Preview of the quarterfinals