After the heart-stopping moments and 7-goal thrillers in the last 16, the incredible 2018 World Cup resumes today with mouth-watering matchups featuring some of the biggest names, and irresistible underdogs in the Mundial.
There will be an interesting clash between France forward Antoine Griezmann and Uruguay defenders Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez, his Atletico Madrid team-mates, while Brazil superstar Neymar goes up against Belgium’s Eden Hazard in a battle of two heirs to Lionel Messi.
While there’s Atletico Madrid love-in in the France v Uruguay game, it promises to be a fascinating encounter as both countries have some of the world’s top attacking talent and knocked out two of football’s all-time greats in the previous round.
Giezmann may be the biggest name on the France’s squad, but it’s teenager Kylian Mbappe who’s grabbed the headlinesby becoming the first teenager since Brazil great Pele to score twice in a World Cup game when France beat Lionel Messi’s Argentina 4-3 in a last-16 epic.
Uruguay, meanwhile, have the duo of Suarez and Paris St-Germain’s all-time top scorer Edinson Cavani with a combined 98 international goals as their answer to the French power.
After their memorable last-ditch win over Japan, Belgium the first team to come from 2-0 down to win a knockout game since 1970 – get the great reward of a matchup against tournament favourites and five-time champions Brazil.
Belgium – now unbeaten in 23 games – are one of only two teams in Russia to win all four games and have perhaps found the killer edge that had been questioned after coming back from the brink of going home to reach the quarter-finals.
Many of the superstars left in the tournament should feature in this game – Barcelona, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Paris St-Germain all supply at least one player to both squads.
The Belgians must try to contain the obvious threat of Neymar, while Brazil – who’ve only conceded one goal in their past nine games – will look to keep out the attacking power of Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and others.
After knocking out Colombia on penalties in the last 16 for their first shootout victory in the World Cup, England are full of confidence and expectation as a Colombia-Sweden-Russia/Croatia path to the final has opened up in front of them.
While they may never have a chance like this again to match their 1966 triumph, the Three Lions must first get past a Swedish team that manager Garth Southgate has described as “bloody difficult”.
Sweden, who famously eliminated Italy in the playoffs, continued their giant killing act by helping eliminate Germany and finishing above them in Group F, before dumping Switzerland in the last 16.
They have a strong team dynamic with no star names, and will prove a real threat to England on the breaks.
And hosts Russia hope to continue their fairytale run when they take on the talented Croatia side.
The Russians can’t lose at this stage having eliminated 2010 champions Spain on penalties in the last round, while Croatia – who edged Denmark in a hair-raising shootout – will look to avoid banana peels in what they’ll fancy as a kind route to the World Cup final.