Add to favourites
News Local and Global in your language
21st of July 2018

Sport



Fresh feel to old continental rivalries

On the other side of the draw, five-times winners Brazil take on Belgium's so called 'Golden Generation', and 1998 champions France face Uruguay, who were crowned twice in the tournament's early history.

It is here that the habitual battle between soccer's two dominant continents, who have produced all previous World Cup winners, will take place.

Hand ball: Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne, left, and teammate Marouane Fellaini during training at the Guchkovo Stadium outside Mosow on Wednesday.

Hand ball: Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne, left, and teammate Marouane Fellaini during training at the Guchkovo Stadium outside Mosow on Wednesday.

Photo: AP

While it is the fourth time in the last seven tournaments that no team outside of Europe or South America is in the last eight, even this quadrennial conflict will spurn its usual template.

Overturning long-held preconceptions about football's two main land masses, this year's quarter-finals pitch thrilling and adventurous European teams against pragmatic, stubborn and defensively-minded South American opponents.

Brazil, usually the game's great entertainers, and Uruguay boast the meanest defences at the World Cup having both conceded once in their four games.

Their opponents, Belgium and France, are more focussed on creating havoc at the other end.

Speedster: French star Kylian Mbappe celebrates scoring against Argentina in the round of 16.

Speedster: French star Kylian Mbappe celebrates scoring against Argentina in the round of 16.

Photo: AP

Uruguay kept Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo at bay in their 2-1 last-16 win, just as France banged in four against Argentina at the same stage. They play in Nizhny Novgorod on Friday.

MISERLY BRAZIL

Strike force: Legends Pele, of Brazil and Just Fontaine, left, of France in 1998. Both were celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1958 World Cup, won by Brazil. Fontaine scored a record 13 goals during the 1958 World Cup held in Sweden, and still holds the record for most goals scored in a single tournament.

Strike force: Legends Pele, of Brazil and Just Fontaine, left, of France in 1998. Both were celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1958 World Cup, won by Brazil. Fontaine scored a record 13 goals during the 1958 World Cup held in Sweden, and still holds the record for most goals scored in a single tournament.

Photo: AP

The spotlight on Brazil is still stubbornly trained on talisman Neymar, who has been defined by his histrionics as much as his performances in Russia, yet the true heroes of their current side are seemingly stationed at the other end of the pitch.

Brazil's defensive record under coach Tite has been remarkable, with only six goals conceded in 25 matches, and they have been just as miserly in Russia.

Belgium, however, are the tournament's highest scorers with 12 in four straight victories including their superb comeback from two goals down to beat Japan in the last 16.

In Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne, Belgium, who last reached the semis in 1986, have two of the game's most devastating creators.

Yet as they walk out to face world soccer's mightiest superpower in Kazan on Friday, they might wish they were playing relative minnows Sweden instead.

That could have been their fate had they lost their last group game to England, who have been handsomely rewarded for finishing runners-up with - on paper - what appears to be a far-easier route to the final.

Having overcome Colombia on penalties in the last 16, England manager Gareth Southgate will probably feel his decision to field a second-string side against Belgium has been vindicated.

If England get past workhorses Sweden, whose brand of football is not the easiest on the eye, they will face either Russia or Croatia, who play each other in Sochi on Saturday.

None of the teams in this side of the draw, including England, would have begun the tournament with realistic expectations of reaching the final.

Yet what were once distant dreams are now edging closer to reality.

AAP

Most Viewed in Sport

Loading

Morning & Afternoon Newsletter

Delivered Mon–Fri.

Read More




Leave A Comment

More News

Sport | News.com.au

Sydney Morning Herald RSS

Sport

Sports - The Huffington Post

Sport | The Mercury

Latest News

Disclaimer and Notice:WorldProNews.com is not the owner of these news or any information published on this site.