SWOT analysis: Uruguay vs France; Brazil vs Belgium

This is how the odds are stacked ahead of the last-eight clashes, when Uruguay takes on France and Brazil meets Belgium.

Forwards Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez will be the two players to watch out for during France and Uruguay quarterfinal clash.   -  AFP

The quarterfinal stage is here with the qualified teams probably now playing their best football, after having overcome few challenges during their course of progression. Having been drawn in relatively easier groups, Uruguay and France were expected to advance. Therefore, what happened in their first knockout-round matches revealed a lot more than in their three group matches put together.

Ahead of Friday's quarterfinal clashes, Sportstar draws a SWOT analysis of the two high-octane matches.

Uruguay vs France

Strength

For La Celeste, its biggest strength is its defensive solidity. Uruguay has been the best defensive team in the tournament (with three clean sheets and just one goal conceded) and the central-defensive partnership of Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez has been the main reason for it.

France’s biggest strength is the versatility available to Didier Deschamps, who demonstrated this by playing Olivier Giroud ahead of Ousmane Dembele and deploying Antoine Griezmann behind the Chelsea striker against Argentina.

Weakness

Though these two teams don’t have a weakness as such, France’s midfielders boast more experience of having been on such stages for their respective clubs.

Uruguay, however, counter this with tremendous teamwork and Godin’s leadership at the back.

Opportunities

22-year-old Benjamin Pavard was put through a defensive test by Angel Di Maria in the round-of-16 clash between France and Argentina. Pavard’s foul on Di Maria on the left flank and the subsequent free-kick led to Argentina taking the lead through Gabriel Mercado. So, from Uruguay’s viewpoint, France’s right flank is an attacking avenue that it can explore through Rodrigo Bentancur and Cristian Rodriguez. 

Threat

Griezmann is due for a big performance having been largely subdued so far. With his all-round game, he is a threat to any opposition. On Friday, Griezmann features in one of the battles to look forward to: him squaring up against his Atletico Madrid team-mates (Godin and Gimenez).

Antoine Griezmann during France's last-16 match against Argentina.   -  AFP

 

At the end other of the pitch, Luis Suarez may be on his own, leading Uruguay’s attack, in Edinson Cavani’s potential absence. The face off between Suarez and the Raphael Varane-Samuel Umtiti partnership may be decisive.

Brazil vs Belgium

The likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku are not in the Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo territory yet, in fact far from it. But going out at the quarterfinal stage in consecutive World Cups will remind them of the void that their superior counterparts have failed to fulfil in four attempts. In Brazil, Belgium faces an opponent which combines flair and ruggedness like few other teams, but is under the same kind of pressure as the gifted Belgian Red Devils.

Strength

Brazil’s strength is its completeness as a team, from back to front: it has leaders in defence, a combination of box-to-box and creative midfielders, and high-quality forwards. The Selecao has demonstrated its title-winning qualities during its journey to the quarterfinals.

Belgium presents Brazil its first big test of the World Cup. Robert Martinez team’s biggest strength is its attack, which it demonstrated by scoring the most goals (12) in the tournament so far.

Weakness

Brazil doesn’t have a weakness as such. It has, however, not had to dig deep in the tournament so far for a result and we don’t yet know if it has the character to come from a goal behind or overcome the tough moments in a match. 

Belgium is brilliant going forward and suspect at the back line. Japan exposed Belgium’s defensive vulnerability and Brazil, with its dynamic attackers, will fancy itself.

Opportunities

With Belgium expected to operate in a 3-4-3, Brazil’s wide forwards (Neymar and Willian) will have acres of space behind the wingbacks (Thomas Meunier and Yannick Carrasco). Carrasco, who has played as the left wingback, does not have the defensive game to keep up with the likes of Willian, Douglas Costa and others.

Eden Hazard and Neymar will be key in Friday's big-ticket clash.   -  AFP

 

Conversely, Belgium’s formation is such that it can create overloads on both the flanks. Hazard and Carrasco can double up on Raimundo Fagner (the Brazilian right-back) and Mertens can combine with Meunier to create an overload on Marcelo’s side. While Neymar is unlikely to drop deep even if a 2v1 situation arises, Willian, on the other flank, is known for his work rate and is likely to drop deep. Forcing the Brazilian wingers back could mean a moral victory for Belgium and can neutralise the South American nation as an attacking force.  

These battles in wide areas could prove decisive.

Threats

Philippe Coutinho has been Brazil’s best player so far. He has scored one goal and created another. His creativity, goal-scoring ability and level of involvement in Brazil’s offensive play make him the biggest threat to Belgium.

We haven’t seen the best of Kevin De Bruyne yet, but he has not been short of involvement. He has played an average of 4.3 key passes per match in the tournament and was at the heart of Belgium’s last-gasp winner against Japan. With the kind of wide players Belgium has, De Bruyne’s long-range passing make him a big threat.

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