The World Cup quarterfinals kick off on Friday with a pair of intriguing matchups, as Uruguay takes on France, while Brazil meets Belgium. The two games happen on what is widely considered to be the more powerful side of the bracket, one that featured a number of world powers and made for a knockout gauntlet. Will Edinson Cavani's injury hamper Uruguay? Can Belgium's golden generation go one step further than it did in 2014 by knocking off the mighty Seleção?
We discuss that and are joined by Fox World Cup studio host Kate Abdo in our latest World Cup Daily podcast. Listen to the full episode below, and be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes to hear each episode throughout the 2018 World Cup.
Here's a selection from the latest episode:
GRANT WAHL: Let's talk about tomorrow's quarterfinals, because this is, as you said, the varsity side of the bracket. Uruguay-France. Brazil-Belgium. I'm pretty excited for these games. I'm a little concerned for Edinson Cavani, because I think he's pretty important to Uruguay winning, but he's also pretty important to having an entertaining game. What's your sense of this game?
BRIAN STRAUS: Is this true? I feel like I saw someone tweeting about it or blogging about it somewhere, but I haven't independently verified it. Is it true that Uruguay has one yellow card in this tournament? I think it may be, and if so, that's remarkable. Because this is Uruguay! This is the country of la guerra. This is the country of the biting! They scrap and claw and fight, and 'we've got 3.5 million people or so and we're going to make up for our small size and our powerful neighbors with a will to win that'll just drain yours.' And now they're doing it with precision rather than petulance. One yellow.
Cavani has been a revelation this tournament, not only in terms of his finishing but in his ability to connect. This game was always going to come down to the back four. Godin & Co. and their ability to slow down France, who suddenly now is playing with verve. The verve we've been waiting for in this tournament. So it was always going to come down to whether Uruguay could slow them down, and we'll see.
GW: I think about how Mbappe played against Argentina, and my sense is that Uruguay will defend him better. Will defense team-wide better than Argentina did. Argentina was a tire fire. But I'm still curious to see how it plays out. If we might actually see Uruguay get a yellow card or more trying to defend Mbappe, trying to defend a France team that when it really does get going in the attack is really fearsome when it wants to be.
BS: And I'll plead a bit of ignorance. Godin, Gimenez, Caceres and those guys, I'm familiar with them. Not as familiar with Uruguay's midfield. And so much of France's attacks comes from those deeper runs, so maybe Tabarez doesn't want to play a 4-4-2 anyway against France. Maybe he wants an extra body in midfield, in which case the loss of Cavani, or potential loss of Cavani isn't crippling. But the guys on Uruguay, those defenders, are world-class and obviously used to playing against the best in the world. So they're not going to be cowed or intimidated. They're not going to see anything they haven't seen before. Godin is at Atletico Madrid, so he's facing the best in La Liga on a weekly basis. Gimenez obviously Atletico Madrid as well. Caceres at Lazio.
Can France play with the same style, with the same commitment? Will they get frustrated? Will they be able to vary their football if they have to, if they're running up against a brick wall? And then, can Suarez steal one? It'll be a classic game of rope-a-dope, and I'm looking forward to it.
Continue listening in the podcast above or download and subscribe to the podcast here.