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World Cup Final 2018 Pick- France vs Croatia (July 15th)

I can't believe a month at the World Cup is about o come to a close on Sunday and I have to say the tournament has been about as good as...

Friday, 6 July 2018

World Cup 2018 Quarter Final Picks (July 6-7)

2018 World Cup Quarter Final Picks

Friday 6th July
Uruguay v France Pick: If you were going to point out the best of the World Cup Second Round matches the one between France and Argentina might be the pick from the 2018 edition. Coming from behind to beat Argentina 4-3 will have given the French players a lot of belief to take forward, but they will know the challenge that awaits them from Uruguay who have looked the best team in the tournament so far.

However the 2-1 win over Portugal came at a cost for Uruguay with the suggestion that Edinson Cavani is going to be limited at best in this Quarter Final. It was Cavani's two goals that helped Uruguay reach another World Cup Quarter Final having done the same in South Africa in 2010 and this is a confident team.

And you would be confident with the defensive power Uruguay possess coupled with the two star strikers who have had a big impact in Europe.

The challenge is going to be a difficult one against this French team who are better than what they have shown so far in the tournament. The performance against Argentina was good enough, but Didier Deschamps won't be happy with some of the defending and I expect he is going to take a more cautious approach to this one.

Unlike the game against Argentina, France will know there won't be a lot of space to exploit through their attacking players and so Deschamps will naturally want to make sure the back door is kept shut as tight as possible.

Where I do give France the edge is through the midfield as I expect them to get the better of their younger Uruguayan opponents. That should allow the French to dominate the tempo of this one and they will feel they can cut the supply lines to Cavani and Luis Suarez which is a key to France having the success to get past a tough, grizzled opponent.

Breaking down Uruguay won't be easy, but I think France have enough about them in the final third to find a way to do that. My lean is towards the European team making their way through to the Semi Final of the World Cup for the first time since 2006, but I know it won't be easy.

Games between France and Uruguay have tended to be very tight and they had played out 4 consecutive goalless draws before Uruguay beat France 1-0 in the most recent game between the teams in 2013. Those goalless draws covered meetings in the 2002 World Cup and 2010 World Cup too and my overriding feeling is that this is going to be a tight and tense game that may be decided by a single goal.

This World Cup has been one featuring plenty of goals so backing less than two being scored is not an easy decision, but Uruguay and France won't want to give much away in this one. An early goal will change the whole feeling of this match, but I think both teams will be cautious early and one goal could be all it takes to determine who will be playing in the Semi Final next week.


Brazil v Belgium Pick: There are two massive Quarter Final matches set to be played this Friday at the World Cup, but I do think the second of those featuring Brazil and Belgium will be the best we see in this Round.

Both teams come into this one full of confidence having put a winning run together and the attacking players will believe they can make the difference for each team.

My fear for Belgium is they have not looked all that secure at the back and they have given up some very big opportunities to all of the teams they have faced in this World Cup. Against a strong front four like Brazil, Belgium have to find the right balance between attack and defence and also ask for more from their defenders who have not played up to the level that we would expect.

On the other hand I think Brazil's run of 3 consecutive clean sheets is perhaps papering over the fact the defence have not been as good as they would have liked. You can't deny the chances that Costa Rica and Serbia created against Brazil, while Mexico were in some stunning situations but could not manufacture those into goalscoring chances.

I don't think that will be the case if Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne pick up those same pockets of space and the absence of Casemiro is a blow to Brazil and the protection they afford the ageing centre halves. Romelu Lukaku was not at his best against Japan, but he is an effective focal point for Belgium and some of the attacking football played by Roberto Martinez' men is a joy to watch.

They have speed to hurt Brazil and I think there is every chance we are going to se a cracking game of football. The situation of being in a Quarter Final could lead to some more cautious play from both teams, but I don't think that is really in the nature of Brazil or this current Belgium team and there looks to be too much quality in the final third to see the defences come out on top.

Picking a winner isn't as easy as the odds suggest- I think both teams are facing their biggest challenge in this tournament and I can't have Brazil at just over odds on to win this one in normal time. Belgium, like Croatia, have escaped a desperate moment and I think that will make them stronger although the last two Quarter Final exits is a concern from a mental point of view.

I do think there will be goals in this one though and you can pick over 2.5 goals at odds against at the moment. Both teams should have some serious chances to score in this one and I can't imagine the top players on show lacking the composure to punish two defences that have not been of the highest standard even with Brazil's clean sheets in mind.

A first half goal could really open this tie up and backing at least three goals looks to be the play.


At the start of the tournament I recommended Belgium to be beaten in the Quarter Final at 4.00 which is effectively the price we have on Brazil to Qualify from the tie. That is obviously much shorter here and you can lay the short odds and lock in a profit regardless of how this match ends.


Saturday 7th July
Sweden v England Pick: It would be wise for England fans to not get too carried away with the way the Quarter Final line up has panned out for them. While I would tend to agree that Sweden are arguably the weakest of the eight teams left (mainly because Russia are hosting this tournament), this has been a nation that have regularly given England a very tough test.

The style of play is one that meshes well with the English and Sweden won't be feeling any less confident than England in making another World Cup Semi Final. The Swedes have actually made the World Cup Semi Final in more recent memory than England having done that in 1994 compared with England's 1990 run and they will be feeling exactly the same as England in believing this is a huge opportunity for them to make themselves heroes.

The game should be a decent one as both teams have arguably already overachieved by merely reaching the World Cup Quarter Final. That may make them feel they are playing with 'house money' although you can't ignore the obvious tensions that will come with playing in a World Cup Quarter Final.

England have to be slightly concerned with the lack of goals from open play- almost all of the 9 goals they have scored in this tournament have come from set pieces or penalties and that is a concern considering how well drilled Sweden are likely to be in those situations.

Instead the key is for England to get more out of their team in the forward areas with the pace they have. They have to try and shift Sweden and not allow a defence that has kept clean sheets in 5 of their last 6 games to settle in and make life as difficult as possible for their opponents in trying to break them down.

Sweden will also feel they pose a big threat from set pieces themselves especially with Sebastian Larsson back from suspension. It won't have been lost on Sweden that England have conceded in every game and 3 of the 4 goals conceded have come from a penalty, free kick situation or a corner.

The Scandinavian nation are a big team with a quality crosser in Larsson so it will be imperative for England to be fully concentrated on Saturday. They also will have to respect the fact that Sweden have created some big chances in every game but are perhaps lacking a little bit of quality in the forward areas which has made it difficult for them to really put teams to the sword despite the impressive displays they have produced.

England also have a poor record against Sweden with the latter being able to frustrate them and create chances of their own. Prior to Euro 2012 England had not beaten Sweden in a competitive game in 7 previous tries, while they have won just 2 of the last 15 games played between these nations.

All in all it does make England look a very short price- they are a number of ticks shorter than Mexico and Switzerland and I do think Sweden are being underestimated by the layers if not the actual management staff of England. The layers look to be pricing up England knowing the patriotic punters are back in the queues to get behind the nation, but I can't be backing England at such a short price although I expect they win.

Perhaps tension makes this a tight game, but I think both teams have shown enough in attacking areas to think they can produce some quality opportunities to score goals in this one. The edge has to be given to England with the superior attacking players they can call upon, but I don't think Sweden will go quietly and this could be a decent game of football between two nations who will match up well with one another.

Set pieces are going to be massive for both teams with the ability they have shown from those positions and the quality of ball they are able to provide their attacking players. That could be a real avenue of success for Sweden, but England will also feel they can have success and I am narrowly leaning towards the latter to find a way to win this one.

Having the stress of going through extra time and penalties is another concern for England, but they do have enough time to recover and I am not overly concerned for them. I think there may be a few more goals than the layers think and I am going to back England to win a game featuring at least two goals on Saturday.


Russia v Croatia Pick: It is always a good thing to see the hosts of a World Cup do well as it energises the country the event is being played with and also the tournament seems to be that much more enjoyable.

Of course you can't shy away from the recent history of Russian sports when you see the kind of energy this team is playing with, even if the quality is not quite there.

The running distances are eye catching from the hosts and I will admit I am not completely comfortable seeing it because I simply don't trust it is the adrenaline of representing your country at home in this case. They are going to need that energy again if they are going to make the Semi Final of the World Cup against another team who will look to keep possession through a powerful midfield.

Croatia didn't play at their best in the penalty shoot out win over Denmark, but that performance can only be surpassed in this Quarter Final. They could have blown the Danes away in the first half, but struggled in the second half and the majority of extra time, but there is a clear quality in this Croatia team that suggests they can relax a little bit with a first Knock Out win since the 1998 World Cup Quarter Final behind them.

They also have a different style compared with Spain who were very boring in their play and one paced for much of the Second Round clash with Russia. This time the old defenders Russia have been relying on will be faced with players who have pace and who will look to run at them and that can be a real difference maker in this Quarter Final.

I am anticipating the Croatian team will have the majority of the chances to win this match, but they will have to take them. For all my concerns about Russia's running ability without showing too much fatigue, I also think this is a team who will need the full six days to try and reenergise the batteries.

Russia have also been very efficient in front of goal with any big chance taken and that is a concern for a Croatia defence that has looked a little vulnerable at times. They have to expect to be dealing with a lot more crosses into the box and Croatia have to show better command of those situations.

Like any Quarter Final, the first goal is going to be absolutely key here. If Croatia get it I think they can dictate the tempo and they have a better counter attacking threat than Spain which can expose the older legs Russia have at the back.

A Russian lead will mean they will sit back and look to defend in great numbers as they did with success against Spain, but I do think the hosts will need to ride their luck in this one.

It wouldn't be a big surprise to me to see goals in this Quarter Final, but I am giving the edge to Croatia who I expect to be multiple times better than they were against Denmark last Sunday. The quality is really all with Croatia and I think they silence the hosts on Saturday with a win and a place in the World Cup Semi Final for the first time in twenty years.

MY PICKS: Uruguay-France Under 1.5 Goals @ 2.50 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Brazil-Belgium Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
England to Win & Over 1.5 Goals @ 2.75 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Croatia - 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Bet365 (2 Units)

Quarter Final Update: 2-2, + 2.70 Units (8 Units, + 33.75% Yield)

Last 16 Final2-6, - 7.20 Units (16 Units Staked, - 45% Yield)
Group Stage Round Robin Three Final8-8, + 3.53 Units (27.50 Units Staked, + 12.84% Yield)
Group Stage Round Robin Two Final8-7-1, + 1.09 Units (31 Units Staked, + 3.52% Yield)

Group Stage Round Robin One Final8-8, + 5.24 Units (28 Units Staked, + 18.71% Yield)

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