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Suarez, Fekir, Firmino & Mignolet Eye Up World Cup Semi-Finals

The business end of the 2018 World Cup has now arrived.

Posted by Andy Thompson
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It is an incredibly open tournament and given the shocks that have already occurred this summer, predicting an eventual winner from the remaining eight nations is almost impossible. England to win the World Cup is 4/1.

Saturday’s action see Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold’s England side take on Sweden and hosts Russia face Dejan Lovren’s Croatia.

Before then, we have two mouthwatering clashes to look forward to on Friday.

Uruguay vs. France

Up first is a miserly Uruguay outfit against a reinvigorated France team, with former Reds superstar Luis Suarez up against possible future Anfield hero in Nabil Fekir, although the latter is unlikely to start.

Uruguay are a very dangerous, well-drilled side with a world-class pairing at both centre-back and up front, which makes them genuine contenders.

Atletico Madrid duo Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez have conceded just one goal between them this summer, and their understanding as both club and international teammates is immaculate.

Then at the other end you have Suarez and his good friend Edinson Cavani – a world-class pair born just three weeks apart, in the same town. Suarez and Cavani BOTH to score (90 Mins) is 11/1.

They can almost win a game on their own, as they showed in an influential display against Portugal, particularly the lethal Cavani.

France, meanwhile, have gone from being as uninspiring as Germany and Spain to a team brimming with confidence and momentum.

Les Bleus’ thrilling 4-3 win over Argentina in the second round saw them come alive, especially Kylian Mbappe, who is a phenomenal young footballer.

France can go all the way, but Didier Deschamps’ naturally negative style is the most likely thing to prevent them from clinching a second World Cup crown.

There is unlikely to be much in it at all, with both teams strong defensively – France’s centre-back pairing of Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti is superb in its own right – and a bit of genius from one of the numerous attacking stars on show could end up making all the difference.

Prediction: Uruguay 1-1 France (Uruguay to win on penalties) 

Match to go to penalties is 11/2.

Uruguay to reach the semis is 16/5.

Brazil vs. Belgium

Of all the quarter-finals, Brazil’s much-anticipated meeting with Belgium looks the most high-profile encounter.

Both countries were tipped to go far at the beginning of the tournament – Brazil were the bookies’ favourites – and despite not always impressing they look well-set to go all the way. Brazil are 13/5 to go all the way.

One will have to bow out on Friday, however.

This is a more solid Brazil outfit than we have seen over the years, with flair replaced by a solid defence and a combative midfield.

Thiago Silva and Miranda are yet another strong defensive duo at this World Cup and the likes of Casemiro and Paulinho also add steel in the middle of the park.

They don’t gift you goals, which is such a key weapon to have.

Philippe Coutinho has been comfortably Brazil’s most potent attacking weapon, with Neymar seemingly too interested in histrionics and Gabriel Jesus completely out of nick. Coutinho and Neymar BOTH to score (90 mins) is 8/1.

It remains baffling that Roberto Firmino is not getting a game – it is a decision that could still prove costly to the five-time World champions.

Tite’s men do look the team to beat in Russia, even though they aren’t setting the world alight, by any means.

Belgium were perilously close to crashing out in the last round, but recovered from 2-0 down to beat Japan 3-2 in a memorable contest.

Player for player, they are up there with the best in the tournament, from Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld at the back to Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku further forward.

Being a cohesive unit is occasionally Belgium’s biggest problem, much as it was with England when they had their own ‘Golden Generation’ around in the mid 2000s.

Roberto Martinez is not always the most convincing manager, too, and he will have to be tactically spot on against a savvy Brazil side.

In the end, you just feel the South American giants’ World Cup experience and know-how will give them the edge, especially if Neymar comes to the party.

Don’t expect a goal-filled classic.

Prediction: Brazil 1-0 Belgium

Brazil to win 1-0 is 7/1.

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