It’s prediction time for the Last 16 – will Croatia rattle the Russians in their own home and can Belgium defy the odds against Brazil?

URUGUAY-FRANCE

The almost certain absence of Edinson Cavani – who demolished Portugal – is a huge blow to Uruguay. Luis Suarez remains amongst the best strikers in the world, but Cavani is the perfect partner, and not having him will inevitably be an advantage for France.

Les Bleus, on the other hand, will have everyone on top form and with the best possible spirit after the triumphant comeback win over Argentina. Kylian Mbappe seems unstoppable, and Antoine Griezmann has yet to fully display his talent in this competition: could it be the right time to do so? The Uruguay midfield is solid, but lacks the pace and technique of the French. The spirit of Uruguay will have to be at its best to overcome the French.

Prediction: FRANCE

BRAZIL-BELGIUM

One of the most exciting games of the round, with tons of talent on either side, and a huge imbalance in tradition, with the Brazilians having five World Cup titles in their history, and Belgium none. This Red Devils golden generation could turn things around though, but they’ll have to avoid the mistakes everyone saw against Japan.

Brazil, on the other hand, seem to only have expressed a part of their full firepower, and are ready to unleash it all against Belgium. But if they don’t, anything could happen. Expect a lot of attacking football and goals with maybe an unexpected player to make a difference; a defender or goalkeeper.

Prediction: BRAZIL

SWEDEN-ENGLAND

The big surprise of the tournament against a team that has finally been able to beat the curse of the penalties. It is already a huge achievement to be here for Sweden, and to an extent for England, who will of course want to to continue believing in the chance to lift the trophy again.

The mental strength shown against Colombia could be key to demonstrating the maturity this squad has reached. They can truly beat anyone now. But Sweden won’t be an easy opponent: everyone struggles to play good football against them. Harry Kane’s goalscoring ability will be, needless to say, key, as well as the physical side of the Three Lions. Sweden are a physical team, and England will have to avoid falling into the trap. If they keep their cool, the Three Lions can dream big.

Prediction: ENGLAND

RUSSIA-CROATIA

On paper, it’s too easy for Croatia. The midfield of the Croatians is second-to-none in the world. But so was that of Spain, yet the Russians are still here. Suffering, fighting, yet capable of holding on to a draw and then overcoming the Spaniards on penalties. The game plan won’t change against Croatia, who on the other hand will try and use the pace of the winners and the strength of centre-forward Mario Mandzukic to break the defensive wall of the Russians. If Russia hold on, they can do anything. If not, expect Croatia to dominate.

Prediction: CROATIA

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