- Eight teams remain alive in contention to win the World Cup. Here's a deeper look that explains how they made it this far in Russia–and what might be a determining factor in the quarterfinals.
Eight teams remain in the quest to lift the World Cup trophy on July 15 in Moscow. England and host Russia were the two group runners-up to reach the quarterfinals, and each needed a shootout to get there, while six group winners continued their success to reach the quarterfinal round.
Before the games resume on Friday, here’s a deep dive with more detailed information on each of the remaining countries, to help better prepare you for a quarterfinal round that few thought would shake out as it has:
Belgium: Lukaku efficient with his chances
Romelu Lukaku is tied for second in the tournament with four goals, and he’s taken only 11 shots, tied for 16th-most in Russia. With an expected-goals total of 3.22, his average shot has been worth 0.29 xG, almost triple the average shot’s value. Five of his shots have been worth at least 0.5 xG, and none of those five were penalties. The only other player with more than three such shots at this World Cup is Lukaku’s teammate, Michy Batshuayi, with four.
Brazil: Action revolves around Neymar
Neymar has been as active as any player at this World Cup. His 366 touches are eighth among all players, and four players ahead of him had the benefit of playing an extra-time game. He leads all players with 40 one-on-one take-ons, though his success rate of 48% is below the tournament average of 56%. The PSG forward also leads the tournament with 16 chances created, including a tournament-best six from corners and three from free kicks.
Croatia: Modric puts on a passing clinic
Luka Modric does not have any assists in Russia, though his importance to Croatia is undeniable. Modric’s 10 chances created are tied for ninth in the tournament, with nine of those passes coming in open play. In the attacking half, Modric has completed 117 passes, more than double any other Croatia player, and as his pass zone chart shows, his passing has been on a high level in both volume and accuracy. On top of that, he’s made 27 recoveries, 50% more than any of his teammates.
England: Rough in the run of play
If England is worried about anything after winning a World Cup shootout for the first time, it might be the team’s relative lack of scoring opportunities from open play so far. Of England’s nine goals, four were off set pieces, and three more were penalties.
Despite playing four games, England ranks 22nd in the tournament with 23 shots from open play and 17th with 2.22 expected goals from open play. Only three of those shots were worth at least 0.2 xG each, which is about double the average shot quality.
France: The Mbappe Show
France’s 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe lifted his already-high profile to new heights against Argentina in the round of 16, as he became the youngest player to score twice in a World Cup knockout game since Pele in 1958.
Mbappe has shown an ability and willingness to run at defenders all over the field. His 26 one-on-ones and 15 successful one-on-ones are both fifth-most at the tournament. He’s the only player with at least 10 one-on-ones on both the left and right halves of the field thus far.
Russia: Fortunate in defense?
With nine goals in four games, the host nation is certainly running hot, exceeding its expected goals total by a tournament-high 4.77, more than double any other team.
The defense has been strong in the air, winning a tournament-best 63 percent of aerial duels, and that has helped keep the ball out of the defensive penalty area. The heat map of Russia’s opponents’ touches shows where the defensive line has held, though the home team has been fortunate that opponents have scored on only six percent of shots, the sixth-lowest rate in the tournament.
Sweden: The Shot Blockers
Sweden has conceded two goals (both to Germany) in four games, and the stout Swedish defense leads this World Cup with 29 blocked shots. In the round-of-16 win over Switzerland, Sweden blocked 10 shots, tying the most by any team in a game this tournament (Iceland vs Argentina).
Uruguay: Expect Stinginess
Led by its pair of Atletico Madrid center backs, Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez, Uruguay has the stingiest defense of the 16 teams to reach the knockout stage, allowing just one goal (tied with Brazil for fewest) and the fewest expected goals (2.01). Uruguay has conceded 39 shots, 12th-fewest among teams to advance, and a tournament-low two of those shots had an expected-goals value of at least 0.10.
Paul Carr is Director of Content Development for TruMedia Networks, which collaborates with OptaPro on ProVision, a web-based soccer tool used by clubs and media for analytics, scouting and recruitment.