France 2-0 Uruguay
Uruguay―without star man Edinson Cavani―never found their groove in Friday’s loss against France, giving away few chances but earning even fewer for themselves.
Raphael Varane and Antoine Griezmann took care of the scoring for Les Bleus, although the latter was aided by goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, who picked an awful time to commit a blunder.
By that point, Varane had already opened the scoring with a smart header, and the two-goal buffer was enough for Les Bleus. With Cavani not there to open up spaces with his movement, Uruguay were almost toothless in attack, despite the best efforts of Luis Suarez.
France are arguably the most complete team still in the tournament and will fancy their chances of going all the way. On paper, their toughest challenge comes next, with the four teams on the other side of the bracket all seen as inferior to Belgium.
Belgium 2-1 Brazil
Belgium equalled their best-ever finish in a World Cup on Friday by reaching the semi-finals with a 2-1 win over Brazil, sending another shockwave through the tournament.
Fernandinho opened the scoring for the Red Devils, beating his own goalkeeper with an unfortunate header.
The Selecao had their chances but struggled for efficiency, and they were caught on the counter later in the half, with Romelu Lukaku setting up Kevin De Bruyne for a second goal.
After the break, possession was almost entirely for Brazil, but the Belgians―led by a phenomenal Marouane Fellaini and liberating runs from Eden Hazard―stood firm. It wasn’t until Renato Augusto got his head on a superb cross that Thibaut Courtois was finally beaten. The Chelsea man would only be beaten once and came up huge in the dying minutes with a contender for the best save of the tournament.
Belgium and France haven’t faced each other since 2015, when the former beat the latter 4-3 in Paris. Neutral fans will undoubtedly hope for a similar scoreline this time around.
Sweden 0-2 England
England needed 30 minutes to break down typically stubborn resistance from Sweden’s sound defence. Ironically, the goal didn’t come from any elaborate or stylish passage of play to stretch Sweden out of shape between the lines.
Instead, the Three Lions took the direct route, with Leicester City centre-back Maguire powering in a header from an Ashley Young corner.
Conceding from set pieces may be rare for Sweden, but scoring from them is becoming natural for England.
Russia 2-2 Croatia (Croatia won 4-3 on penalties)
Russia went in front when Denis Cheryshev scored a beauty from outside the box to add to a growing collection of classy long-range strikes from the midfielder during the tournament. One of the rare free-flowing moves Croatia put together yielded an equaliser when Andrej Kramaric headed in from a Mario Mandzukic cross. The goal maintained Croatia’s prolific run, with the goals shared among a host of players.
Domagoj Vida became the eighth Croatia player to score at these finals when he put the Blazers 2-1 up in extra time, before Mario Fernandes equalised to make penalties necessary. It was left to Rakitic to settle things in the shootout, not long after Fernandes had shot wide.
Getting past a technically adept Croatia side won’t be easy, but the Three Lions have the strength at the back, along with the pace and power in forward areas, to overpower Modric and Co. if they are at their best.