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Expert predictions: Who goes through to the semi-finals?

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Three weeks into the absorbing entertainment in Russia, only eight teams are left competing for the 2018 World Cup.

Undoubtedly, expectations have been dashed with Germany bowing out to the curse of the defending champions and several other big guns knocked out in the second round of the tournament.

Argentina was eliminated by France; Spain couldn’t win a penalty shootout against the host team, Russia; Portugal’s 55th-minute equaliser against Uruguay was not enough to give them an edge, as Edison Cavani struck again seven minutes later to book a quarter-final spot for Uruguay.

The tournament has proven to be one of the most attacking World Cup ever with 146 goals in the 56 games played already.

With the tournament fully in its business end and teams hoping to progress.

We predict which teams will go ahead into the semi-final.

Uruguay versus France
Uruguay edged past Portugal in the second round, with Cavani’s brace. While France’s Kylian Mbappe independently destroyed Argentina, bagging a brace and carving out a penalty. A big blow for Uruguay in this tie is the doubt around their round of 16 saviour, Cavani. France might have little to do to keep just Suarez off the game, France have the ADVANTAGE for the game. Uruguay 1-2 France. Timileyin Omilana

While the World stood up for the brilliance of Kylian Mbappe steamrolling Argentina, it is instructive to note that the Uruguayan side are an entirely different proposition. The thread of resilience that runs through Oscar Tabarez’s side has seen them surmount tough challenges. Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez should curtail the speeding menace of Mbappe while their underwhelming club team-mate Antoine Griezmann shouldn’t be a worry. Cavani’s injury uncertainty will, however, be a worry as the twin threat of Uruguay’s front line will be blighted with Suarez having to lead the line alone. Solomon Fowowe

Uruguay 1-1 France (Uruguay wins on penalties)

Brazil vs Belgium
The two teams have several attacking players who can earn them the semi-final slot. But in such showdown, mistakes are bound to make a difference. Belgium have been guilty of this before (Belgium conceded two goals against Japan). Brazil to win. TO

The true test for both sides. Brazil have conceded just one goal in the World Cup. However, are not as fluid as expected in the attacking phase. After the scare against Japan, Belgium will be more grounded in assessing their chances against Brazil. Both teams are ridiculously talented but Roberto Martinez could have a fair bit of struggle shaping his side properly for the onslaught of Neymar, Phillipe Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus.

While an entertaining 5-4 wouldn’t be unthinkable, Brazil 2-1 Belgium seems more likely. SF

Sweden vs England
I expect a one-sided encounter, with England having a cruise control of the game. Sweden have not met fans expectations so far but nevertheless, they have kept a good run, be it ugly or boring. England is blessed with a lot of attacking players which undoubtedly make them the favourites. England to win 3 -1. TO

Is football coming home? Sweden currently hold the answer as they keep grinding out understated victories. To cut to the chase, England are the better side and Gareth Southgate’s side have their heads in the right place. It could the most straightforward due in the quarter-finals even if history suggests otherwise. Sweden 0-2 England. SF

Russia vs Croatia
Croatia have been exceptional since their opening game against Nigeria. Russia sailed through a tough encounter against toothless Spain; completed over 1,000 passes but could only get nine shots on target. I expect Croatia to dominate the game and get themselves the slot at the expense of the host team. Russia 0-2 Croatia. TO

Croatia fit the dark horse mould in the World Cup with the team steadily ascending under the radar. They have shown to be pragmatic fitting their tactics to the opponents. Certainly, Russia will not be underestimated after the hosts caught the attention of the World by ousting Spain. While Russia buoyed by home support could stand up to a more talented Croatia side, Zlatko Dalic’s side have shown to have different routes to goal. Russia 1-2 Croatia. SF


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