By Christian Smith
Play at the 2018 FIFA World Cup gets back underway Friday, and the day's quarterfinal match-ups shouldn't disappoint.
For Quartz editor and soccer fanatic Mike Murphy, France is the team to beat this World Cup.
"They've probably looked the strongest, most organized team of the true real contenders," Murphy said in an interview on Cheddar Thursday.
France takes on Uruguay in Friday's first game, which kicks off at 10 am ET. Nineteen-year-old rising star Kylian Mbappé, who helped lead France to a stunning 4-3 victory over Lionel Messi and Argentina, will be one of the players to watch as Les Bleaus look to knock out the Uruguayan squad led by Luis Suarez.
But the other real contenders in Murphy's (and most of the world's) book are Brazil and Belgium, which face each other on the field at 2 pm ET Friday. Brazil was slow out of the gate in its 2-0 victory over Mexico Monday, but so was Belgium. That team came back to win the game 3-2 in the last minute of stoppage time, despite being down by two scores earlier in the match.
Both teams have world-class strikers - Brazil in Neymar and Belgium in Romelu Lukaku. Brazil's defense has only given up one goal this World Cup, but Belgium is the highest-scoring team so far, so the match-up should make for some great soccer. The winner of the match will take on the winner of France and Uruguay in the semifinals.
On Saturday the other side of the bracket steps onto the pitch. Sweden goes head-to-head with England at 10 am ET. The young English team will have to pick themselves up, coming off a near upset in penalty kicks in their Round of 16 against Colombia. Sweden has been playing a consistent game throughout the tournament. That consistency is the reason Jeffrey Marcus, publisher of the World Cup newsletter "The Banter," calls Sweden "predictable but effective."
Whichever team walks away victorious Saturday morning will take on the winner of the Russia-Croatia match. The hometown favorites surprised most critics by making it to the quarterfinals, and it will be even more surprising if they can upset a better-fielded Croatian team just days after stunning Spain in a penalty kick shootout.
However, there is something to be said about home-field advantage. Six countries have won the World Cup while hosting the tournament.
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