World Cup Recap: Quarterfinals

France-Belgium today, Croatia-England Wednesday will decide World Cup finalists

Harry Kane and England will be in the spotlight. Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

The quarterfinals in the 2018 FIFA World Cup concluded on Saturday with the last two semifinal spots up for grabs. France and Belgium had already booked their spots on Friday. By advancing to the next round, all four teams have secured themselves at least $5 million more in prize money - with the champion set to take a total of $38 million.

Sweden 0-2 England

Samara Arena, Samara
Attendance: 39,991

Two European nations with long droughts from their last semifinal appearance came in to Samara looking to book a place to the last four. Sweden had a shot from range right after the 10 minute mark but, apart from that, generated very little overall in the first half. England’s speed gave the Three Lions the edge in possession but it was a set piece that gave them the lead. A corner in the 30th minute was headed in by 6 ft. 4 Leicester City defender Harry Maguire. England had another chance just before the half on a long lob ball to Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling but Sweden’s defense would be able to fend off the talented winger.

Sweden would played to their strengths in an attempt to get back in the match but England keeper Jordan Pickford came up with three important saves in the second half. One of the saves would deny the header of Sweden forward Marcus Berg in the 47th minute. England would not forgive on a similar opportunity as Tottenham’s Dele Alli scored a mirror image of Berg’s opportunity in the 59th minute. Pickford would come up huge again in the 62nd minute and England would see out the 2-0 win.

Analysis: Sweden put together a good game plan and played with the solid effort they have shown all tournament. The difference in this game was England’s more talented squad. The Swedes will be disappointed because their road ends here but this campaign was a resounding success. Sweden missed the previous two World Cups and advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time since USA 1994. Janne Andersson has to be regarded among the top managers of the tournament for his work in building camaraderie and belief in the team, on top of adjusting tactics to their strengths. The omission of Zlatan Ibrahimovic - the national team’s all-time top scorer- from the team was never a controversy as Andersson handled the situation with grace and total transparency. The next step for Sweden will be to get out of the group stage at Euro 2020.

England’s campaign is also a resounding success and it will see them end it with their best finish since Italy 1990. Will it end with them lifting the cup as they did at England 1966? The fact is very few expected much from this England team. Not because they lacked quality but because they arrived without the pomp and circumstance that England usually arrived in. The didn’t arrive with a “big name” manager, a goalscorer with over 20 goals at the national team level and over half of the team had no more than 25 appearances in an England shirt. This team has had as little pressure as any England squad in the last 20+ years and they are thriving because of it.

Notable stat: England advanced to their third-ever semifinal and their first since Italy 1990, 28 years ago.

Russia 2-2 Croatia (CRO advances 3-4 on penalties)

Fisht Stadium, Sochi
Attendance: 44,287

Both Russia and Croatia played 120 minutes and needed penalties to decide their round of 16 bouts - and they would need them again to decide the winner of this match. Croatia would be a bit better with the ball from the start but it was Russia, with a daring shot from their goalscorer Denis Cheryshev, who would take the lead. It was that magnificent strike that had the hosts up in the 31st minute. Of course, Croatia would press harder looking for the equalizer. Andrej Kramaric would head in the tying goal for Croatia in the 39th minute. Fairly even in the stats, these two would head to halftime even on the scoreboard.

An angsty second half solved nothing on the scoreboard as an extra 30 minutes would be needed to break the deadlock. Domagoj Vida would be the man to break the draw with a header in the 101st minute to give Croatia a 2-1 lead. With both teams running on extra tired legs, it looked as though Croatia had scored the winner. Except, this World Cup has been anything but normal. Mario Fernandes scored headed in a set piece in the 115th minute to send the home fans into ecstasy. Penalties would be needed to decide the winner.

In the penalty shootout is where Croatia showed its quality. Russia missed its first penalty thanks to a softly taken attempt from Fedor Smolov. Marcelo Brozovic and Alan Dzagoev would trade goals before Real Madrid’s Mateo Kovacic’s had his attempt saved. Fernandes, the man who scored the 115th minute goal for Russia, would send his attempt wide and a lucky bounce on Luka Modric’s attempt had Croatia tasting glory. The legendary Sergei Ignashevich scored his shot to give Russia a chance but FC Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic would score the winning penalty for the second consecutive match.

Analysis: Russia came very far for a team that wasn’t expected to do anything despite being the home country. They arrived with a losing streak and fed on their fans’ support to give a performance to be proud of. They fought valiantly against a Croatia team that was head-and-shoulders the more talented team and they gave them a run for their money, just like they did with Spain in the round of 16. How much of that was the opposition playing below expectations? That can be debated but Russia took advantage of the situation and got this far. Going forward, Russia will need to emphasize the development of their talent to improve on the World’s stage.

Croatia continues its magical ride and now they are in the semis. While they boast some of the better midfielders in the world, the big test will come in going toe-to-toe with England. Croatia have had eight different goalscorers in this World Cup, which describes how they are more of a well-rounded team. They are coming off two matches that went 120 minutes so tired legs could begin to be a factor against England. If Croatia can keep the ball against England, they may well be going through to the final round.

Notable stat: Russia is the first country to contest two shoot-outs at the World Cup while hosting the event.

Programming note: Soccer Matters with Glenn Davis will be broadcasting from The Gorgeous Gael (5555 Morningside Dr. Houston, TX 77005) with a two-hour LIVE show, airing on ESPN 97.5 FM, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday.

Additionally, The Blitz will be broadcasting from the Hyatt Regency Houston/Galleria (2626 Sage Rd, Houston, Texas 77056) from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday. Former Houston Dynamo forward and a member of the U.S. national team at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Brian Ching, will be a guest on the show.

Paul Pogba and Manchester United look to extend their 11-match unbeaten streak in the UEFA Champions League. Credit: Adidas

The second week of February always brings supporters across the world a feeling of love with the reboot of the UEFA Champions League. Europe's club championship, and arguably the most important tournament in soccer after the FIFA World Cup, returns with the round of 16 as the road to the final in Madrid continues. A list of TV listings for this week's UCL and other matches can be found at the end of this article.

English Premier League

Manchester City v. Chelsea | PREMIER LEAGUE EXTENDED HIGHLIGHTS | 2/10/19 | NBC Sports www.youtube.com

Sergio Agüero equaled the legendary Alan Shearer for most hat-tricks in the Premier League with his 11th such in Sunday's 6-0 win over Chelsea. The win puts City equal with Liverpool for first place, albeit with one extra match in the books, and dropped Chelsea down to sixth. The loss also benefits Manchester United, who are back in the top four after an 11-match unbeaten streak since Ole Gunnar Solskjær took over as the interim manager. A top four finish guarantees teams a spot in next season's UEFA Champions League and the prize money that comes with it. Should Chelsea and Arsenal not be able to regain a top four spot, winning the UEFA Europa League would be their only way in.

Top six: 1. Manchester City (65), 2. Liverpool (65), 3. Tottenham (60), 4. Manchester United (51), 5. Arsenal (50), 6. Chelsea (50)

Scoring leader: 17 - Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) / Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

Assists leader: 10 - Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC)


Spain's La Liga

A 3-1 win in the Madrid Derby helped Real Madrid jump back into the top two and start thinking seriously about potentially catching rivals Barcelona for the top spot in the league, if certain results were to go their way. At least for this week, that was the case as Bacelona drew 0-0 with Athletic Bilbao.

Top six: 1. FC Barcelona (51), 2. Real Madrid (45), 3. Atlético Madrid (44), 4. Sevilla (37), 5. Getafe (35), 6. Alaves (35)

Scoring leader: 21 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

Assists leader: 10 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

German Bundesliga

Top six: 1. Dortmund (50), 2. Bayern Munich (45), 3. Monchengladbach (42), 4. RB Leipzig (38), 5. Eintracht Frankfurt (33), 6. Bayer Leverkusen (33)

Scoring leader: 14 - Luka Jović (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Assists leader: 9 - Jadon Sancho (Dortmund / Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)

Italian Serie A

Sassuolo 0-3 Juventus | Ronaldo on Target as Champions Go 11 Points Clear | Serie A www.youtube.com

Top six: 1. Juventus (63), 2. Napoli (52), 3. Inter Milan (43), 4. Milan (39), 5. Atalanta (38), 6. Roma (38)

Scoring leader: 18 - Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)

Assists leader: 8 - Suso (A.C. Milan)

French Ligue 1

Top six: 1. PSG (59), 2. Lille (49), 3. Lyon (43), 4. Montpellier (37), 5. Saint-Étienne (37), 6. Marseille (37)

Scoring leader: 18 - Kylian Mbappé (PSG)

Assists leader: 8 - Nicolas Pepe (Lille) / Angel Di Maria (PSG) / Kenny Lala (Strasbourg)

Dutch Eredivisie

Top three: 1. PSV Eindhoven (56), 2. Ajax (50), 3. Feyenoord (42)

Scoring leader: 20 - Luuk de Jong (PSV)

Assists leader: 11 - Steven Bergwijn (PSV)

Belgian First Division A

Top three: 1. Genk (57), 2. Club Brugge (46), 3. Antwerp (45)

Scoring leader: 19 - Mbwana Samatta (Genk)

Assists leader: 12 - Hans Vanaken (Brugge)

Portuguese Primeira Liga

Top three: 1. Porto (51), 2. Benfica (50), 3. Braga (49)

Scoring leader: 14 - Dyego Sousa (Braga)

Assists leader: 12 - Pizzi (Benfica)

Scottish Premier League

Top three: 1. Celtic (57), 2. Rangers (51), 3. Aberdeen (46)

Scoring leader: 15 - Alfredo Morelos (Rangers)

Assists leader: 9 - James Tavernier (Rangers)

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Major League Soccer

The Houston Dynamo continued their preseason preparations out in Tucson, AZ with a 0-0 draw on Wednesday against Minnesota United and a 3-2 win over Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday night. They Dynamo enter their second and final week in the desert before focusing on their Concacaf Champions League match at Guatemalan club Guastatoya next Tuesday.

Liga MX

Top eight: 1. Monterrey (14), 2. Tigres UANL (13), 3. Leon (11), 4. Necaxa (11), 5. Chivas Guadalajara (11), 6. Atlas (10), 7. Pachuca (10), 8. Club America (9)

Scoring leader: 5 - Rogelio Funes Mori (Monterrey) / Brian Leonel Fernández (Necaxa)

Assists leader: 4 - Carlos Rodríguez (Monterrey) / Angel Mena (Cruz Azul)

Superliga Argentina

Top four: 1. Racing Club (42), 2. Defensa y Justicia (42), 3. Boca Juniors (32), 4. Atletico Tucuman (32)

Scoring leader: 14 - Lisandro Lopez (Racing)

Assists leader: 5 - Luis Miguel Rodriguez (Atletico Tucuman) / Mauro Zarate (Boca Juniors) / Walter Montillo (Tigre)

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Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, Feb. 12

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Manchester United vs. PSG (TNT/UniMas/Univision Deportes)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Roma vs. Porto (B/R Live/Galavision)

Wednesday, Feb. 13

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Ajax vs. Real Madrid (B/R Live/UniMas/Univision Deportes)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Tottenham vs. Dortmund (TNT/Galavision)

5:00 p.m. - [MLS Preseason] Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting Kansas City (HoustonDynamo.com)

Thursday, Feb. 14

12:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] BATE vs. Arsenal (B/R Live)

12:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Galatasaray vs. Benfica (B/R Live)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Malmo vs. Chelsea (B/R Live/UniMas)

Friday, Feb. 15

1:30 p.m. - [Bundesliga] Augsburg vs. Bayern Munich (FS2)

Saturday, Feb. 16

6:30 a.m. - [FA Cup] Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Derby County (ESPN+)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Schalke 04 vs. SC Freiburg (FS2)

8:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Stuttgart vs. RB Leipzig (Univision Deportes)

9:15 a.m. - [La Liga] Rayo Vallecano vs. Atletico Madrid (beIN Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [FA Cup] Newport County vs. Manchester City (ESPN+)

11:30 a.m. - [Bundesliga] Hertha BSC Berlin vs. SV Werder Bremen (FS2)

1:45 p.m. - [La Liga] Barcelona vs. Real Valladolid (beIN Sports)

Sunday, Feb. 17

5:00 a.m. - [La Liga] Real Madrid vs. Girona (beIN Sports)

Monday, Feb. 18

1:30 p.m. - [FA Cup] Chelsea vs. Manchester United (ESPN+)

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