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05/07/2018 15:52 SAST | Updated 06/07/2018 10:33 SAST

World Cup Preview: The Remaining 8 Prepare For Battle

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ANALYSIS

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From 32 teams to eight, the Fifa World Cup 2018 is nearing its endgame — and come the end of the weekend, those eight teams will have been whittled down to four.

The World Cup quarterfinals take place this weekend, serving up a mouthwatering clash between the teams vying for football's most prestigious title.

Here is everything you need to know about the schedule:

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Uruguay vs France

Venue: Nizhny Novgorod Stadium

Kick-off: 4pm, Friday

Pilar Olivares / Reuters

The first quarterfinal is a mouthwatering clash between South American favourites Uruguay and 1998 champions France on Friday.

The South Americans, who were once seen as the favourites for this game, have been hampered by the injury of Edinson Cavani. It is doubtful that he will start for Uruguay today. However, La Celeste will be buoyed by their talisman Luis Suarez, who has been leading by example from the front.

Murad Sezer / Reuters

But France, with their long list of talented prodigies who seem to be coming of age, will have momentum on their side after a resounding 4-2 win over a toothless Argentina in the previous round. It's doubtful they will underestimate Uruguay, but Le Bleus will be banking on star players Antione Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba.

Catch the game live on Supersport 3 and SABC 1.

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Brazil vs Belgium

Venue: Kazan Arena

Kick-off: 8pm, Friday

David Gray / Reuters

It's a clash between five-time champions Brazil and 2018's dark horses, Belgium, as they lock horns at the Kazan Arena tonight. Brazil held their nerve against Mexico and triumphed 2-0, with goals courtesy of their theatrical starman Neymar and Roberto Firmino.

The Seleção of South America will be banking on their experience — and were the outright favourites for a World Cup win, even before the tournament started. Brazil is chasing their sixth World Cup title with a golden generation of footballers.

Toru Hanai / Reuters

The Red Devils of Belgium, however, escaped from the jaws of defeat in their game against Japan, and will be spurred on by their magnificent comeback from 0-2 to eventually win 3-2. They will be well aware that anything could happen — and that the "favourites" tag has usually gone out the window by this stage of the tournament.

If Belgium plan to stage an epic encounter, they might want to tighten up their defence. But they can bank on their terrifying front line to get the job done at that end of the field.

Catch the game live on Supersport 3 and SABC 1.

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Sweden vs England

Venue: Samara Arena

Kick-off: 4pm, Saturday

Darren Staples / Reuters

The Swedes, led by the mercurial Emil Forsberg, will be seen as the underdogs coming into this one. But they have shown throughout the tournament that they are a solid team in defence and can unlock any side they play against, especially after overcoming Switzerland.

The Three Lions of England, on the other hand, are seen as hot favourites after they won their first World Cup penalty shootout ever, to boot Colombia out of the tournament.

Carl Recine / Reuters

Led by Harry Kane, who is the top scorer in the tournament so far, England will be looking to emulate the 1966 team and "bring the trophy home". The hype is so real among the England fans and British public, that they already have their own hashtag: #ItsComingHome. But they must realise that this quarterfinal against the Swedes will not come easy.

Catch the game live on Supersport 3 and SABC 1.

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Russia vs Croatia

Venue: Fisht Stadium

Kick-off: 8pm, Saturday

Carl Recine / Reuters

Who would have thought that the host nation, who are also the lowest-ranked team left in the competition, would make it this far? [Er, clever bookmakers? — Ed]

It just proves that Russia's hard work, determination and the partisan fans — who act as the 12th man — have worked. Perhaps they can go all the way, a possibility opponents Croatia have surely considered as the host nation attempts to make history.

Carlos Barria / Reuters

But Croatia boasts one of the most talented and gifted midfields, and will have the backing of an entire nation in their attempt to emulate the 1998 side that made it into the semifinals.

Catch the game live on Supersport 3 and SABC 1.