Questions to answer
The World Cup quarter-finals are upon us, with four more teams set to be eliminated from the tournament this weekend. The eight nations still standing have all done well to reach this stage, but there are still reasons to doubt their credentials ahead of Friday and Saturday's crunch clashes.
In this slideshow, we look at the big questions which will be answered in the World Cup quarter-finals...
Can Antoine Griezmann outfox his best friend?
For Griezmann, Uruguay defender Diego Godin is a role model and a friend. The Frenchman joined Atletico Madrid because of the centre-back, who later became godfather to Griezmann’s daughter.
The pair have trained together for four years now, and Godin will know exactly how he can get the better of the France frontman. That familiarity works both ways, though, and Griezmann will equally fancy his chances against his chum. The winner of that individual duel could determine the outcome of the first quarter-final.
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.
One potential replacement is 31-year-old striker Cristhian (yes, Cristhian) 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. This could be the chance of a lifetime for the pair, and each of them is capable of delivering.
Can Brazil defend without Casemiro?
Casemiro, Zinedine Zidane's very own Claude Makelele at Real Madrid, has also become crucial to his country under Tite. Elegant yet tough-tackling at the same time, the midfielder protects his side’s defence 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. Will his replacement, Fernandinho, be able to stop Kevin De Bruyne?
Will Roberto Martinez miss Radja Nainggolan?
Arguably the most controversial decision by any coach ahead of the World Cup was Roberto Martinez's call to leave Nainggolan out of his squad. The dynamic and versatile box-to-box midfielder 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 could exploit that weakness.
Can Emil Forsberg finally find his form?
The most remarkable aspect of Sweden’s success is that their only top-class star has been in poor form throughout the tournament. RB Leipzig's Forsberg hasn’t provided any breathtaking moments in Russia but – unlike Zlatan Ibrahimovic – he’s a hard worker who contributes a lot to the team even in his current state.
Could that change, though? Perhaps Forsberg will find inspiration from the deflected winner he scored against Switzerland in the last 16 to turn on the magic against England. Sweden will certainly need him to contribute.
Can England score against Sweden from open play?
Of the Three Lions' nine goals, three have been penalties, while four more were scored from dead-ball situations. That’s impressive, but Gareth Southgate's team now face a team who are extremely good in the air and are unlikely to commit needless fouls in the penalty area like Colombia's Carlos Sanchez.
Sweden’s pair of centre-backs, Andreas Granqvist and Victor Lindelof, are enjoying a superb tournament, and the Scandinavians managed to keep clean sheets against South Korea, Mexico and Switzerland. England will need to be more imaginative in open play if they are to break their opponents down.
Is another ultra-defensive performance necessary?
Russia barely attempted to play attacking football in the last-16 fixture against Spain, letting their opponents have all the possession. The plan worked against a rudderless La Roja side, but Croatia are a different type of team – they're much more direct and use the wings more effectively.
Giving the ball to them all the time would therefore be dangerous, so Russia should try to take the initiative themselves. It's unclear, though, whether coach Stanislav Cherchesov will take a risk and field a more adventurous line-up by including Denis Cheryshev, like he did against Egypt.
Is a defensive midfielder needed?
With Russia expected to defend deep, Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic must ask himself whether a holding midfielder is really necessary in his line-up. The Croats could push Luka Modric back into central midfield alongside Ivan Rakitic, and add an offensive player like Andrej Kramaric to the mix.
That was the plan against Nigeria in the opening fixture, and it worked. Croatia were more cautious later on against Argentina and Denmark, but a switch back to a more offensive strategy would be a wise move when facing the hosts.
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