FIFA World Cup 2018: Firstpost readers pick England, France to proceed to semis; Belgium to shock Brazil

The 21st edition of the FIFA World Cup has already been described by a significant chunk of football fans as being one of the greatest yet.

Whether or not you agree with that assessment, the 2018 World Cup has been historic for a variety of reasons: The first edition to feature VAR, the first edition to feature a fourth substitute, the first edition to witness England win a penalty shootout, the first edition to feature Mo Salah and so on. We're down to the final eight of the tournament and in a couple of days, there will be only four teams standing.

With that in mind, we turned it over to you, the readers, to tell us which quartet you think will make it through the quarter-finals and progress to the penultimate round. And with that in mind, we ran a snazzy little poll over the past three days. (Note: Voting is now closed and there is no way to swing the ballot. Alas!)

Your predictions, it must be stated, weren't entirely what we expected. Let's take a closer look:

The first of the quarter-finals between Uruguay and France, that kicks off on Friday night at 7.30 pm IST, has been described as one of the most evenly-matched contests... on paper, at least. However, 66 percent of you plumped for Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba and Co over Luis Suarez, Diego Godin and their cohorts. Perhaps it was the clouds of doubt hovering over whether or not hitman Edinson Cavani would be fit enough to play that tipped the scales.

The 11.30 pm IST fixture pits Brazil against Belgium and conventional wisdom would favour the five-time champions over a team whose best finish has been fourth place in 1986. That said, wisdom isn't always conventional and convention isn't always wise, or something like that. According to 62 percent of you, Belgium's 'golden generation' will pull off a historical win over the Brazilians. That a number of players from both teams have played alongside or against one another in domestic football may lend some familiarity to proceedings, but a World Cup quarter-final is a whole different plate of pommes frites avec mayonnaise. And then, Neymar Jr can have himself a long-overdue and very well-deserved lie-down.

FIFA World Cup 2018: Firstpost readers pick England, France to proceed to semis; Belgium to shock Brazil

Saturday's first match (7.30 pm kickoff) sees a buoyant England take on perennial underdogs Sweden. Many questioned the lack of fight shown by Gareth Southgate's team in their last group stage fixture against Belgium and the negative mentality on display — lost a match to finish second and get the easier draw. Flash-forward a little over a week and the Harry Kane-led Three Lions are the toast of the World Cup. Overcoming a decades-old mental block about penalty kicks will do that and has convinced many that football is indeed 'coming home'. At least, that's what a whopping 80 percent of you think, having predicted that Zlatan Ibrahimovic-less Swedes will be knocked out on Saturday.

And finally, p/lucky (delete as you deem appropriate) hosts Russia lock horns with Croatia in the last quarter-final match at 11.30 pm IST on Saturday. The stoic Stanislav Cherchesov's team set a blistering pace in the first two matches of the group stage, scoring eight goals against Saudi Arabia and Egypt, before being swatted aside by Uruguay. A nigh-on-inconceivable win over Spain (in the Round of 16) later, momentum is firmly with Igor Akinfeev and comrades. Unfortunately, they run into Luka Modric's crew who, alongside Uruguay and Belgium, were the only team to take full points from the group stage. It was during this group stage that they were also responsible for dumping Argentina out of the tournament. This fact, coupled with the psychological boost that only winning a penalty shootout (Round of 16 against Denmark) can bring, is probably why 75 percent of you expect to see the Croats proceed to the semi-finals.

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In summation, what a majority of you expect is France versus Belgium and England versus Croatia in the semi-finals.

We'll soon find out.

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Updated Date: Jul 06, 2018 14:46:37 IST

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