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FRANCE VS ARGENTINA PREVIEW AND PREDICTIONS

 

The Round of 16 at the World Cup often produces one or two matches which are deemed good enough for the final.  We have one such game on Saturday 30th June as France and Argentina meet in Kazan for a place in the 2018 World Cup quarter-final.

The French came into the tournament on the back of a disappointing Euro 2016 final and will be hoping to put that behind them with a good performance in Russia.  Argentina struggled to qualify but now they are here they have one eye on the trophy.

France were favourites to top Group C but were never going to have things their own way in a group which contained Denmark, Australia and Peru.

Their first match was against Australia and despite taking the lead, France needed a late deflected goal to defeat Australia, who were deemed the weakest team in the group.  The following match was against Peru, who played well but could not force the breakthrough.  A single goal from Kylian Mbappe was enough to secure another 3 points for the French.

France knew they had done enough before their final match against Denmark.  With Peru beating Australia in the other game, neither team needed to win and the game was played out as a 0-0 draw.

Argentina started their World Cup campaign with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Iceland.  Having taken the lead, Argentina missed a penalty and were forced to settle for a draw with the European minnows.

Things got a lot worse for Argentina in their second match against Croatia.  There was no organisation or discipline to Argentina’s game and they fell apart in the match, conceding 3 goals without reply.

Argentina knew they needed to win their final match against Nigeria to qualify for the Round of 16. A moment of magic from Lionel Messi, his first real contribution to the tournament, saw Argentina take the lead but they were pegged back from the penalty spot.  However, a late goal from Marcos Rojo was enough to send Argentina through.

Looking ahead to the team news and France are expected to make several changes to the team which started the Denmark match.  Paul Pogba, Hugo Lloris and Kylian Mbappe are all expected to return to the team.  There are doubts over central defender Samuel Umtiti but he should recover in time to play.

Argentina have every player fit and available.  That could mean the same starting XI from the match against Nigeria and no place in the team for Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero.  Javier Mascherano, Lionel Messi and Nicolas Otamendi must be careful as they are one yellow card away from suspension.

This has the makings of a thrilling World Cup game.  France know they need to keep Messi quiet and if they do that, should have enough to win.  Expect to see goals scored at both ends of the pitch but for the quality of the French to shine through and win the game.

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Uruguay ws Portugal preview and prediction

 

The 2018 World Cup knockout stages begin on Saturday 30th June with a match between Uruguay and Portugal.

Uruguay reached the semi-final of the 2010 World Cup and will be aiming to repeat their success of South Africa. Portugal are the current European champions and this team knows what it takes to win a major tournament.

Uruguay come into this match having topped their group and will be feeling very good about their chances in this game.  They started their campaign with a 1-0 win over Egypt and while the performance was not great, Uruguay got the job done and moved on to the game with Saudi Arabia.

Again, Uruguay were not at their best but with a solid foundation at the back, the South American nation scored the only goal of the game to pick up maximum points.  This secured their place in the Round of 16 with a game to spare.

The final match of Group A saw Uruguay play the hosts, Russia.  This was Uruguay’s best performance to date as they defeated Russia 3-0 to finish top of the group without conceding a goal.

Portugal were drawn in a tough looking group with Spain, Morocco and Iran. The opening match saw them meet Spain and the Portuguese played well at times and took the lead in the game.  However, they found themselves 3-2 down with only two minutes remaining on the clock and it took a moment of magic from Cristiano Ronaldo to rescue a point.

The Real Madrid man was at it again in Portugal’s next match against Morocco.  Ronaldo got himself free at a corner and headed the ball home inside the first 10 minutes.  Portugal could not extend their lead and it was not a brilliant performance but they took all 3 points to remain in contention for the Round of 16.

The final match against Iran was full of drama and despite having taken lead Portugal were pegged back thanks to a controversial penalty.  Iran came close to scoring a winner near the near the end of the game but missed a golden opportunity to score.

Portugal have not played to their maximum potential at the 2018 World Cup and the European champions will be hoping there is more to come.

Team news and Uruguay are set to be a full strength for this match.  Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez will play at the heart of the defence with Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez up-front.  The main selection decisions will come in midfield.

Portugal could make a few changes from the team which played against Iran.  Bernardo Silva and Gancalo Guedes will be hoping to start the match but the goal scorer in that game, Ricardo Quaresma could keep his place in the starting XI.

This could be a very physical match and do not be surprised to see yellow cards and foul play.  Although, Uruguay have looked the better team throughout the group stages both teams are very equal, so Sportseconds predicts possible draw with both teams to score .

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Sweden ws Switzerland preview and prediction

 

The final day of 2018 World Cup Round of 16 matches takes place on Tuesday.  In the afternoon we have an intriguing game between two of the outsiders for the tournament, Sweden and Switzerland.

While both teams thought they had a decent chance of reaching this stage of the tournament, being drawn against each other gives them an amazing opportunity to progress to the quarter-final of a World Cup .

You must go back to 1994 to find the last time Sweden reached the quarter-final of the World Cup and 1954 to find Switzerland’s last and only quarter-final match.

Sweden came through their group with an excellent 3-0 win over Mexico in their final game. Having started the tournament with a 1-0 victory over South Korea, Sweden began the match with Germany 3 points clear of the defending champions.

Sweden then met Germany in their second group game and took a shock lead.  However, Germany fought back and sealed a last gasp win with ten men thanks to a great free-kick from Toni Kroos.  It would have been easy for Swedish heads to drop but they responded brilliantly in their third and final game to defeat Mexico 3-0 and win the group.

Switzerland started their 2018 World Cup campaign with a difficult match against one of the favourites, Brazil. Despite falling a goal behind, Switzerland battled back into the match and scored from a corner to equalise.  The Swiss held on for a good point.

The second game was always going to be key against Serbia and Switzerland fell behind in the opening exchanges.  However, the Swiss showed their fighting spirit to come back into the match and secured the win with a fantastic late run and finish from Xherdan Shaqiri.

With Brazil beating Serbia in the final round of matches, Switzerland knew towards the end of their game against Costa Rica they had qualified.  Having taken the lead twice, Switzerland allowed Costa Rica back into the match but may have taken their eye off the ball knowing they had already secured their place in the Round of 16.

Looking ahead to the team news and Sweden will be without experienced midfielder Sebastian Larsson, who is suspended.  That could mean a place in the starting XI for Gustav Svensson or Oscar Hiljemark.  The remainder of the team is likely to be that which started against Mexico.

Switzerland also have suspensions to deal with and they will be without Stephan Lichtsteiner and Fabian Schar.  This is a big blow for the Swiss in defence and Johan Djourou and Nico Elvedi could come into the team.  Breel Embolo may keep his place in the team having started on the left against Costa Rica.

This is a game both teams will feel they have a good chance of winning. However, coming off the back of their big win against Mexico plus the players missing in the Swiss defence, Sweden have the slight advantage and could win the game to progress to the quarter-final.

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Switzerland vs Costa Rica Preview and Predictions

 

On Wednesday night, Switzerland and Costa Rica go head-to-head in Group E of the World Cup, as the Swiss look to seal their place in the knockout stages of the competition.

Switzerland drew 1-1 with Brazil in their opening game and recorded a late 2-1 win over Serbia in their last outing. Vladimir Petkovic’s side could go through to the knockout stages with a draw or a win.

A draw will be enough to secure a last 16 spot, as rivals Brazil and Serbia clash in the other game. For Switzerland to top the group, they will have to better Brazil’s result against Serbia, as the two teams are level on points but the South American have superior goal difference.

The Swiss have suffered just one defeat in open play in 24 outings. Their recent games have been low scoring, with under 2.5 goals scored in seven of their last nine matches. However, they have a recent mixed record at World Cups, having won three, drawn one and lost two of their six finals games.

Costa Rica have already suffered elimination from World Cup 2018 after losing their first two games in Group E. The Central American team have produced some decent displays, but have lacked the quality to gain anything from clashes with Serbia and Brazil.

Oscar Ramirez’s team have been in terrible form of late, having won just two of their last 12 international games. They have also suffered defeat in eight of their ten games. The Ticos’ recent games have been low scoring, with under 2.5 goals scored in six of their previous eight outings.

The fact that Ramirez’s has team struggled for goals of late has contributed to those low scoring games, as they have failed to score in six of their last nine outings.

Sportseconds predicts that Costa Rica will hold Switzerland to a draw in this clash, which will be enough for a knockout spot.

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Mexico vs Sweden Preview and Predictions

 

Mexico and Sweden will meet on Wednesday in their final match in Group F. The Mexicans have nearly sealed their passage to the next round but need at least a point to ensure they go through.

A loss and a lopsided scoreline would see Juan Carlos Osorio’s team eliminated and Sweden into the round of 16.

Sweden were left heartbroken after their 2-1 loss to Germany in match two. The Swedes had outplayed the world champions for much of the fixture and took an early lead through Ola Toivonen’s cheeky chip goal. Germany battled back to level the match in the second half before Toni Kroos’ free-kick goal at the death. Sweden could have qualified for the knockout round with a draw, but the team now face a playoff against Mexico. Win and they could move on, lose and they will go home.

Group F could see three teams finish Wednesday on six points apiece. If Germany defeat South Korea and Sweden beat Mexico there will be a three-way tie. The tiebreaker will then be determined by goal difference. If that is the same, the team that advances will be determined by which national side has the most goals scored.

Mexico have played well in both attack and defence. The team’s key player is 22-year-old winger Hirving Lozano. The attacker scored Mexico’s goal in their 1-0 win against Germany and added an assist in match two. He set up longtime Mexico international Javier Hernandez for the goal.

Osorio’s side has impressed many, but Mexico have been building and developing these players for some time. Eight members of the current World Cup roster were a part of the Mexican team that won gold at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Mexico also won the under-17 World Cup in 2011 and finished second and fourth at the tournament in 2013 and 2015, respectively. Many of the players who featured in those teams have carried on to the side that is at the World Cup.

Mexico will go into the match without changing the side. Osorio has no need to adjust his XI, especially with Mexico needing a point to ensure progression. The team will continue with a 4-2-3-1 that has seen Lozano and Carlos Vela create while the defence has allowed just one goal in two matches.

 

Sweden will again play 4-4-2 with Marcus Berg and Toivonen at the top of the formation. Berg doesn’t score many goals but he does do plenty of running. Sweden’s problem is in the goal scoring department. The team has tallied just two goals. One was from a penalty while the other came from Toivonen’s wonderful chip.

 

Due to Sweden’s lack of goals and goal scorers, Mexico will go through to the round of 16 and end Sweden’s World Cup 2018.

Mexico vws Sweden  Predictions:

Draw

Over 1.5 goals

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England vs Belgium Preview and Predictions

 

Nearly every football expert expected Belgium to go into their matchday three fixture with England with six points from six. England, on the other, may not have instilled the same belief in many of those same pundits.

Yet, matchday three kicks off on Thursday with both sides level on six points.

Belgium started match one against Panama sluggishly before exploding with three second-half goals. Roberto Martinez’s side followed up its first win by hammering Tunisia 5-2. The team has looked strong, but capable of making mistakes at times.

Gareth Southgate’s England also struggled to get into second gear in their opener. The team was a few minutes away from drawing against Tunisia, but Harry Kane’s winner in the first minute of stoppage-time sealed all three points. The Three Lions were far stronger in game two against Panama. Kane’s hat-trick led the way as England won 6-1.

Now, Belgium and England clash with the winner topping the group. A draw would see the teams need fair play points to determine which side tops Group H. As it stands ahead of the fixture, England lead the way with –2 fair play points.

Belgium may rest striker Romelu Lukaku as Martinez has hinted at the possibility. The striker has scored four goals at the World Cup so far, but Martinez is worried about wearing the big man out. Lukaku is also carrying a slight ankle knock and sitting him out would enable him to be fit for the round of 16.  Belgium would replace Lukaku with Michy Batshuayi, who tallied a goal in their win over Tunisia. Martinez does have injury worries ahead of the game and with progression already assured, he could sit more than Lukaku. Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens have also picked up slight injuries.

Martinez has hinted in interviews that squad players will get a chance against England. Southgate may do the same although injuries are not his concern. The amount of high-level football could influence the England manager to swap around his players. Southgate’s only starting XI change from match one to two was Dele Alli. The midfielder suffered a leg injury against Tunisia and was replaced by Ruben Loftus-Cheek in game two. Alli has returned to training and is expected to play on Thursday.

Despite England’s great international record against Belgium (15 wins from 21 games), the Three Lions don’t have the overall calibre the Belgians do. Belgium should have little difficulty defeating England in Kaliningrad as the Red Devils will top Group H.

England vs Belgium Predictions: 

Draw, 

Under 2.5 goals 

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South Korea vs Germany Preview and Predictions

 

On Wednesday afternoon, Germany and South Korea clash in Group F of the World Cup, with the world champions in need of a crucial victory.

South Korea are still in with a slim chance of qualifying for the knockout stages of the competition, despite suffering defeat in both their group games so far at Russia 2018.

For the Asian side to make the last 16, they would need to record a big win in this clash and hope Mexico to see off Sweden in the other game in the group.

A South Korea win seems unlikely, as the Asian team have been in poor form of late, losing four of their last five international games. Scoring goals have been a problem for Shin Tae-Yong’s side recently, as they have scored just once in their previous four games. They also have a poor recent record at the World Cup, having failed to win in their last eight finals games.

Germany are currently second place in the group courtesy of a late 2-1 win over Sweden last time out after a 1-0 defeat against Mexico in their opening group game.

A win may not even be enough for the world champions to advance, as Die Mannschaft still need to better Sweden’s result to make sure of qualification.

Joachim Low’s side has an uncharacteristically poor recent international record, winning just twice in their last eight matches. However, those two wins have been in their previous three games, which means their form may be starting to improve.

Germany have suffered just one defeat in their last ten games at the World Cup, mainly due to lifting the trophy in Brazil four years ago.

The world champions should have too much quality for their Asian opponents. Sportseconds predicts that Joachim Low’s side will record a victory in a low scoring game.

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Serbia vs Brazil Preview and Predictions

Despite claims of Brazil’s fantastic attacking flair being alive and well, it hasn’t looked that way at the World Cup. Brazil may have scored three goals in two matches at the tournament, but the team has struggled in both games to create chances.

Now, Brazil take on Serbia who are fighting for their World Cup lives. The Serbians allowed two second half goals against Switzerland after taking an early lead. Now, the team’s back is up against the wall. Win and go through, lose and go home.

Brazil’s 2-0 win over Costa Rica in match two flattered the South Americans. It took 91 minutes for Brazil to finally get a goal as Philippe Coutinho struck for the second straight game. Neymar added another seven minutes into stoppage-time. Brazil have struggled to get through defences and the team could just as easily be without points if it hadn’t been for Coutinho. The Barcelona player has outplayed teammate Neymar, who gets all the team’s headlines. Neymar has spent more time complaining to referees about defenders being physical than creating chances. The attacker has had far less time on the ball to create and score than at the club level.

Serbia, on the other hand, came out of the gates firing on all cylinders in games one and two. However, the Serbians failed to keep the pressure up against Switzerland. The good news is a solid performance against Brazil could see them snatch a point. It could be enough to go through to the round of 16. But Serbia needs Costa Rica to beat Switzerland by a favourable scoreline.

Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia all have the chance to go through to the knockout stage. Serbia’s only certainty of making the next round is to win on Wednesday. Serbia shouldn’t be in this position, however. If it wasn’t for poor game management by coach Mladen Krstajic, the team would have got a draw against Switzerland. Instead of holding tight late in the second half, Krstajic made attacking changes and went for the win. It backfired as Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri scored the winner on 90 minutes after making a 60-yard run.

Both teams’ lineups should look similar going into the final match. Serbia have played a 4-2-3-1 with holding midfielders to protect the centre-backs. Nemanja Matic and Luka Milivojevic will be key in slowing down Brazil’s pacy attackers.

Brazil will deploy a 4-3-3 formation with Neymar and Willian on either side. Tite could change his No. 9 as Gabriel Jesus has been mostly ineffective. He may choose Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino to lead the line.

Serbia vs Brazil Preview and Predictions

Win: Brasil

Over 1.5 goals

BTTS: Yes

 

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Nigeria vs Argentina Preview and Predictions

The final round of matches in 2018 World Cup Group D takes place on Tuesday night as Nigeria and Argentina meet in the Saint-Petersburg Stadium for a place in the knockout stages of the tournament.

As things stand, Croatia sit top of the group on 6 points, with Nigeria second on 3 points, Iceland third on 1 point and Argentina, surprisingly propping up the table, sitting bottom with 1 point.

Both teams know that must win the game to guarantee a place in the Round of 16 but for Nigeria, a draw could be enough if Iceland lose or draw with Croatia.  Argentina cannot afford any mistakes and must win the match.

Nigeria started their 2018 World Cup campaign with a very disjointed performance against Croatia. Much criticism surrounded the positioning of Jon Obi Mikel in that match and Nigeria fell to a 2-0 defeat.

The Super Eagles did well to come back strongly against Iceland in their second match.  In a much improved performance, Nigeria scored two excellent goals through Ahmed Musa and claimed all 3 points with a 2-0 win.

Nigeria looked much better going forward in the game against Iceland and will believe they have the pace and power in attack to trouble the Argentina defence.

 

The 2018 World Cup has been a disaster for Argentina but they have a chance of saving their skin by winning this game. However, their level of performance must improve greatly if they are going to take maximum points.

 

In their first match against Iceland, Argentina took the lead but were pegged back by Iceland and forced to settle for a 1-1 draw.  Lionel Messi missed a penalty and it set the tone for their following match against Croatia.

In what was supposed to be a battle between two good teams, Argentina failed to turn up and a poor performance allowed Croatia to win the match 3-0.  Argentina made some costly individual errors in the game but also played badly as a team and it remains to be seen what they have done in training to change their approach for this match.

Looking ahead to the team news and Nigeria could be without influential midfielder Jon Obi Mikel, who has a hand injury.  Every other player is fit and available and Tyronne Ebuehi will be hoping to start on the left side of midfield.

Argentina have no injury or suspension concerns but team selection and tactics is going to massive for this game.  With Willy Caballero, Marcos Acuna, Maximiliano Meza and Sergio Aguero all under pressure for their place in the team, Franco Armani, Ever Banega, Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain could all start the match.

This is set to be one of the most entertaining matches at the 2018 World Cup.  Argentina must go for the win and this could leave themselves open to the speed of Nigeria on the counter-attack.  Nigeria have looked the better team but Argentina have the superior individual talent.  This game could end in a draw with both teams scoring.

Nigeria vs Argentina Prediction: 

Argentina to win

 

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Australia vs Peru Preview and Predictions

On Tuesday, Peru and Australia go head-to-head in Group C of the World Cup, as the Socceroos look to make the knockout stages of the competition.

Australia needs to record a victory in this clash and hope that France defeat Denmark to make it to the knockout stages of the competition. Bert van Marwijk’s side’s goal difference is inferior to the Scandinavians.

Their recent results have been mixed in the international game. However, the Socceroos have won just two of their last six games. Australia’s recent matches have been high scoring, with over 2.5 goals scored in five of their previous seven outings.

They have a poor record at the World Cup, winning just two of their 15 games at finals while winning only one of their last 11 matches. However, their games at the World Cuphave offered decent value for money, with over 2.5 goals scored in five of their previous six games.

Peru have already suffered elimination from the World Cup having lost both their group games at Russia 2018. The South American team have produced decent performances, but a failure to score in their games against France and Denmark at World Cup 2018 has cost them dearly. The lack of goals has contributed to four of their last five games producing under 2.5 goals.

Ricardo Gareca’s side headed into the World Cup on an unbeaten run of 15 games. This game represents a chance to get back to winning ways.

The South American outfit have a poor recent record at the finals, as they have failed to win in their last eight games while suffering six defeats in the process.

Australia will be desperate to record a victory to secure qualification. However, Peru will also be looking to win their final group game. Sportseconds predicts that the South American team will record a victory in a low scoring game.