8 big questions that will be answered in the World Cup quarter-finals


England’s breakdown bother, Antoine Griezmann’s ultimate challenge and Brazil’s missing man – Michael Yokhin outlines a key query hanging over every team still at Russia 2018

We are part of The Trust Project What is it?


Can Antoine Griezmann outfox his best friend?

When Cristiano Ronaldo plays against Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez, he never scores and usually loses – as has been the case in three of his four meetings against the duo with Real Madrid. That’s what happened in the last 16 of this World Cup too, as Uruguay prevailed over Portugal. But now an Atletico Madrid striker – rather than a Real superstar – is about to face his own team-mates.

For Griezmann, Godin is a role model and a friend. He joined Atletico thanks to the Uruguayan skipper, who later became godfather to the Frenchman's daughter. They have trained together for four years now, and nobody knows how to stop Griezmann better. Yet if Godin has any weaknesses, Griezmann must have noticed them out by now. Could the Euro 2016 top scorer find a way past him?


Can they replace Edinson Cavani?

Cavani is expected to miss the game against France with injury – unfortunate timing after he scored a majestic brace against Portugal. His partnership with Luis Suarez will thus be broken, but manager Oscar Tabarez actually has two very dangerous potential replacements for the PSG man in his squad.

One is 31-year-old striker Christian Stuani, the former Middlesbrough man who enjoyed an exceptional 21-goal season in 2017/18 with Girona. The other is a youngster, Celta Vigo's 21-year-old Maxi Gomez; a typical burly centre-forward who is magnificent in the air, knows how to position himself in the penalty area and only scored four fewer goals than Stuani in La Liga.

This could be the chance of a lifetime for the pair, and each of them is capable of delivering. The question is whether they're up to the task at this crucial moment.


Can Brazil defend without Casemiro?

Casemiro, Zinedine Zidane's very own Claude Makelele at Real Madrid, has also become crucial to Brazil under his international manager Tite. Elegant yet tough-tackling at the same time, the midfielder protects his back four and allows Paulinho and the full-backs to roam forward at will.

The 26-year-old is especially effective in breaking down counters, so he could hardly have found a worse time to get suspended than ahead of the clash with Belgium – arguably the best counter-attacking team at the tournament. Fernandinho is supposed to step in, and he is definitely better at distributing the ball, but is the Manchester City favourite able to stop his friend and club-mate Kevin De Bruyne?


Will Roberto Martinez miss Radja Nainggolan?

Arguably the most sensational and controversial decision by any coach ahead of the World Cup was Roberto Martinez's call to leave Radja Nainggolan out of his squad. The dynamic and versatile box-to-box midfielder, who has recently moved from Roma to Inter, is one of the best in the world in his position and specialises in closing space, tackling and distributing possession.

Belgium managed to beat Panama, Tunisia and Japan without him, but the last-16 fixture showed vulnerability in central midfield – the Red Devils were nearly knocked out by opponents who found a lot of space to explore. Brazil naturally have much more quality than Japan, and the main question remains whether Belgium can survive against a really top team without their Ninja.