Round of 16
Brazil 2-0 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Algeria 1-1 (p) Costa Rica
Switzerland (a.e.t.) 1-0 Nigeria
Colombia (p) 2-2 Chile
Germany (a.e.t.) 2-0 Greece
Netherlands 1-0 United States
Argentina 2-1 England
Belgium (p) 0-0 France

Quarter-finals
Brazil 1-0 Costa Rica
Switzerland 0-2 Colombia
Germany 2-1 Netherlands
Argentina 1-0 Belgium

Semi-finals
Brazil 2-1 Colombia
Germany (a.e.t.) 1-0 Argentina

Bronze match
Colombia 0-0 (p) Argentina

Final
Brazil 1-7 Germany
 
  • Brazil vs Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • Algeria vs Costa Rica
  • Switzerland vs Nigeria
  • Colombia vs Chile
  • Germany vs Greece
  • Netherlands vs USA
  • Argentina vs England
  • Belgium vs France
 
2014 Knockout Stage

2014 Knockout Stage


Hosts Brazil would kick off the knockout stage against first timers Bosnia & Herzegovina; despite a brave performance, Edin Dzeko’s late goal would prove too little too late, as David Luiz and Neymar gave the hosts the victory.

They would face the winners of the match between the two surprises of the first round, Algeria and Costa Rica. After a goalless first half, Bryan Ruiz gave Costa Rica the lead ten minutes into the second half, but Abdelmoumene Djabou would rescue the game with an injury time strike, that took the game to extra time, and eventually all the way to penalties. It would be Costa Rica whose run continued however, as Sofiane Feghouli missed his kick, the only one to do so.

Germany would defeat Greece 2-1 the next day, a scoreline that suggests a much closer match than reality, with Der Mannschaft comfortable throughout before Giorgios Samaras scored an injury time consolation for the Greeks. They would be meeting their old friends the Netherlands, who would controversially beat the USA by the same scoreline via a contentious last minute penalty converted by Huntelaar after Robben got away with a blatant dive.

Day three would sadly be the dullest so far: Switzerland won a much boring match against Nigeria 1-0 via a single goal from Shaqiri, while the highlight of Colombia vs Chile was a spectacular long range strike from James Rodrigues that was later voted goal of the tournament. It was one of two goals he scored as his team dispatched their fellow South Americans 2-1.

The final day of the round began with a heavyweight clash between Argentina and England. It was no contest though; the Albiceleste ran riot with a Messi double, Higuain and di Maria seeing them soar into a 4-0 lead, before Steven Gerrard, in his final game for his country, pulled one back late on. Speaking afterwards, Alan Shearer called it the worst performance he’d ever seen from an England team, though the Iceland game at the Euros two years later would then take that title without any question...

The second game of the day, and the last of the round, would thankfully be much better; Belgium vs France would be a closely fought and entertaining contest, ultimately decided via a single goal from Paul Pogba midway through the second half.

The quarter-finals would, sadly, be a rather poor round of matches. The first day would be a rather boring one; a single goal from, once again, James Rodrigues saw Colombia win a dour contest against the Swiss, while Costa Rica’s run was finally ended by Brazil in another one goal game decided by an Oscar penalty.

The second would be a bit better. Not at first, as the much anticipated heavyweight tie between the Germans and the Dutch ended 0-0 and went to extra time, where an admittedly pretty good goal from Mario Gotze proved the difference as Joachim Low’s team reached the semi-finals.

The last match of the round, Argentina vs France, went the same way; 0-0, all the way into extra time. Di Maria looked to gave sent the Albiceleste through to the semis with a goal in the 118th minute, only for Antoine Griezmann to scramble an even more dramatic equaliser with just seconds left to go! The match would go to penalties, which Argentina, having been just seconds from victory, were not mentally prepared for, and Higuain, Palacio and, irony of ironies, Di Maria, would all see their kicks saved by Hugo Lloris, while Les Bleus scored all of theirs to go through to the semis.

And so the semi-finals would be an all-South American affair and an all-European affair. Firstly, Brazil would face Colombia, and lead 2-0 with ten minutes to go via goals from Thiago Silva and David Luiz. A penalty from, who else, Rodrigues pulled one back for Colombia with ten minutes to go, but no equaliser would come. What did come was an injury to Neymar after Zuniga accidentally fractured his back with a mistimed jump while trying to beat him to a header.

Through to the final, they would face the favourites, Germany, who dispatched the exhausted after the quarter-final France 1-0 via a single Mats Hummels goal. Les Bleus would finish fourth after losing the third place play-off to Colombia, where something very unusual happened: a Colombian player who wasn’t James Rodrigues scored a goal for them! Carlos Bacca’s first half shot was one of two as Los Cafeteros secured the bronze medals.

And so, eight years after a Germany vs Brazil final in Germany, we would be seeing a Brazil vs Germany final in Brazil, with Der Mannschaft obviously seeking vengeance. And they were very much favourites to, with the Selecao missing both the stricken Neymar and captain Thiago Silva, who’d been booked in the semi-final.

But, even considering those absences, no-one could’ve possibly foreseen the final score of the match…

No-one could’ve possibly foreseen the scoreline after just half an hour of the match…

2014 Knockout Stage.PNG

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Yeah, I won't bore you with the gory details of the final; you all know what happens and don't need me to recap it.

This wasn't how I planned for it to end however; in my original plan, the Netherlands beat Germany in the QFs in the same scenario I used on the Alternate Scores thread last year, and then beat Brazil in the final. However, after I rewrote 2006 and that ended with Brazil beating Germany in Germany, I knew there was no way I couldn't have the Germans return the favour here. You'll have noticed I used the Turkey-Croatia style scenario with Argentina which I posited in that same previous post as well; except, unlike before, it made no difference to the final outcome in the end.

OK, so we've completed the main part of this TL. Next week, we will be continuing into 2018, but a very different WC to OTL. Won't give two much away, except that...
1. Russia won't be hosting it, and 2. three European teams who didn't qualify IOTL will here.
Make of that what you will, and I shall see yous again next week...
 
2018 Group Stage, Part 1

2018 Group Stage, Part 1


In December 2010, FIFA held the votes to decide the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. After much excitement, the tournaments would eventually go to, what most considered to be, the safest choices: England for 2018 and the USA for 2022, both of which would thus host for a second time. Out of the 15 stadiums initially presented as part of England’s bid, twelve would get the nod to host the tournament, including new stadiums for Bristol City and Nottingham Forest, while Plymouth Argyle’s Home Park stadium would receive a rebuild and a temporary expansion that could then be downsized after the tournament so as not to be too much of a white elephant.

2018 Stadiums.PNG

After their successes at the Euros two years earlier, many were hopeful that the other three Home Nations would qualify for the tournament (unlike ’66, when none of them had). And, indeed, Scotland and Wales would both end their long absences from the tournament, with Scotland topping their group pretty easily, while Wales would narrowly win theirs ahead of Russia, though they would subsequently make it through the play-offs.

2018 EU Qualifying.PNG

Sadly, Northern Ireland would miss out in contentious circumstances. After finishing second to Germany in their group, they went into the play-offs against Switzerland, and would sadly lose 1-0 thanks to a decidedly dubious free kick.

Also falling in the qualifiers would be the Netherlands, who barely scraped into the play-offs ahead of Sweden, before being drawn in a heavyweight tie against Italy (a draw which would’ve almost certainly had TPTB collectively groaning and annoyed that they couldn’t undo it!), which they would also lose 1-0 thanks to a single Andrea Belotti goal.

2018 EU Qualifying Play-Offs.PNG

Outside of Europe, the biggest surprise in qualifying would be when the USA crashed and burned in CONCACAF, finishing fifth behind Panama, who qualified for their first ever World Cup, and Honduras, who fell in the play-offs. Though, like Northern Ireland, they could feel aggrieved that refereeing decisions hadn’t gone their way. Nonetheless, for the nation that was to host the next WC, this was a huge embarrassment, and a clear sign that improvement would be needed in the subsequent four/five years.

2018 Seedings.PNG

England weren’t in great form either; Roy Hodgson had resigned two years earlier following the humiliating loss to Iceland at the Euros, and his successor Sam Allardyce had been forced to quit after just one game (a 1-0 friendly win over Mexico), meaning it would be Gareth Southgate who led them into the tournament. His friendly results had been decent, but they were only friendlies, and many England fans weren’t exactly optimistic about how such an inexperienced manager would fare in an actual competitive match.

They’d soon find out as, on June 14th, England walked out at Wembley for their first game of the tournament, against Tunisia.

And relief across the county was palpable when, just 11 minutes in, captain Harry Kane scored the first goal of the tournament with a rebound from a corner. A penalty drew the opposition level just after the half hour however, and they stood firm throughout the rest of the game, and it looked like it wouldn’t be England’s day.

Until, as injury time ticked in, Kane would header in a winner from a corner, and the whole country let out a huge cheer of joy and relief, as England kicked off their home World Cup with a win!

In the second game of the group the next day, Switzerland would play South Korea, and were expected to win, and did lead through a Xherdan Shquiri penalty. But Son Heung-Min would get a deserved equaliser for the Koreans late on to make it 1-1.

Both European teams would get wins in the second round of matches, as England beat the Koreans 2-0 thanks to goals from Kane and Lingard, while the Swiss would beat Tunisia by the same margin, which meant a point from their final game would be enough for them to go through.

England, already through, obliged them by fielding a second string team, but still took the lead through Jamie Vardy early in the second half. But Xhaka would equalise for the Swiss and, while South Korea defeated Tunisia via a Son double, the Swiss would hang on for the point that put them through…

2018 Group A.PNG

In Group B, Portugal and Mexico met in a heavyweight clash on the second day of the tournament, but it would be a very easy game for the Portuguese as a spectacular Ronaldo hat-trick saw them thrash the Mexicans 3-0. Both would go ultimately go through however, with victories over their other two opponents, Saudi Arabia and debutants Iceland, would put them both through easily.

For European champs Portugal, their 1-0 win over Iceland, Ronaldo again the goalscorer, was seen by many as vengeance for the draw they’d been held to two years earlier (even if it hadn’t really mattered in the end). For Iceland, their first World Cup would sadly be a disappointment after the highs of two years earlier, with a late defeat to the Saudis seeing them finish bottom of the group, but, for a nation of their small size and resources, just being there was a great achievement.

2018 Group B.PNG

Group C was a strong group featuring France and Spain, plus Australia and Costa Rica, with the two European heavyweights expected to progress. Both would begin the tournament with wins, France a 2-1 win over a valiant Australian effort, while Spain would easily get their own back for four years earlier (though without the assistance of Dave Benson Phillips!) with a 3-0 thrashing of a Costa Rica team that was a sad shadow of that that had done so well in Brazil.

The two heavyweights met next, and played out a very entertaining high quality game, with Les Bleus coming from behind twice after a Diego Costa opener and a screamer from Nacho had twice given La Roja the lead; Mbappe and Pogba would score to secure the point in a great 2-2 draw.

It did mean neither were through just yet though heading into the final round of fixtures, with Australia having beaten Costa Rica 1-0 to keep themselves in with a chance if they could beat Spain. In the end, though, the Europeans would both go through as expected, though Costa Rica would earn a credible 2-2 draw with France thanks to a late penalty that hit the crossbar, but deflected in off Hugo Lloris’s back!

Australia also made Spain work hard, and made things interesting with a late Tom Rogic equaliser, but they never seriously threatened to score a shock winner and Spain hung on for the 1-1 draw that saw them top the group on goal difference…

2018 Group C.PNG

to be continued…

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So, here we are in 2018, and football has come home! Yeah, it's probably a bit ASB that FIFA gave the tournaments to the safe options, but I wanted to do something a bit different to OTL, no matter how common it is for England to host alternate 2018s on this site. Maybe someone should do a version of 2018 where either the Benelux or Spain-Portugal bid wins instead sometime.

Thanks to QTX btw for advice on how to do the maps; I'll be going back and maybe adding some to my old TL now that I know what I'm doing. And, yes, it's the same twelve stadiums as in his original TL; I was going to do a few different ones just to be different, but there just weren't any from his that I wanted to get rid of in the end, so just went with the same twelve.

Anyway, we'll be doing things a bit differently this time; we'll be doing the group stage in two parts, for reasons that will become apparent next week. So, tune back in next week to see how the rest of the groups go...
 
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2018 Group Stage, Part 2

2018 Group Stage, Part 2


The returns of Scotland and Wales to the World Cup after 20 and 60 years respectively were both met with much anticipation, especially after their ‘successes’ at Euro 2016. While Scotland’s reaching only a second ever knockout stage before falling to France in the Round of 16 was only a modest success, Wales’ spectacular underdog run to the semis meant they were now tipped by many as dark horses to fare at least half well at the WC.

With multiple home nations at a WC for the first time in years, on British soil too, it seemed written in the stars that two of them (at least) would end up drawn in the same group. And indeed they were, as Wales and Scotland found themselves drawn together in Group D, alongside group favourites Argentina and, as seemed an unwritten rule when they both qualify, Nigeria. The two would face each other in their final match of the group, in what was expected by many to be a winner-takes-all match to decide who went through alongside the Albiceleste.

That script went right out the window in the first round of matches however, as a Leigh Griffiths equaliser and a saving of a Lionel Messi penalty by David Marshall secured the Scots a totally deserved draw against the Argentines, before an own goal and a Gareth Bale penalty gave the Welsh victory over Nigeria to start with.

Scotland would also beat Nigeria, albeit they had to come from behind via goals from Armstrong and a late winner from Forrest to secure their first World Cup victory since 1990! Wales, meanwhile, faced Argentina, and would leave them utterly stunned, as goals from Vokes, Bale and a Ramsey penalty ensured a 3-0 drubbing. And put Wales through to the knockout stage!

And Scotland only needed a draw against them to join them…

Argentina would do all they could, Messi and Marcus Rojo scoring in a 2-1 victory over Nigeria, but it was no good: the much-anticipated Home Nation vs Home Nation tie would end goalless (though not for want of trying; both Marshall and Wayne Hennessey made numerous good saves), and, amid howls of a fix-up from the Albiceleste, both were safely through. Though much tougher games awaited in the Round of 16…

2018 Group D.PNG

Brazil and Italy began Group E as the favourites ahead of Japan and Egypt, back after 28 years and whose talisman Mo Salah still hadn’t recovered from his infamous injury in the Champions League final. And it told, as Japan defeated the Pharaohs 1-0 via an 89th minute winner, while goals from similarly late goals from Neymar and Coutinho gave Brazil a late 2-0 win over the Azzuri.

Things would get worse for the Italians, as a Shinji Kagawa penalty and a late second from Osako gave Japan a 2-0 victory that sent them through and Italy were out at the group stage for a third tournament in a row. They’d ben joined by Egypt, who valiantly lost 2-1 to Brazil, before Salah scored the only goal of the game as Italy finished bottom of the group without a single point or having scored a single goal. (Though, in hindsight, this failure was a blessing for the Azzuri, as it inspired the rethink and overhaul of the team that would ultimately lead them to glory at the Euros three years later).

Brazil and Japan, meanwhile, both put out weakened teams for their final game, a 1-0 win for the Selecao via a Thiago Silva header.

2018 Group E.PNG

Reigning champs Germany were handed, what looked like, a pretty straight forward group, but faced a tough start in the form of the team that had humiliated them in Japan 16 years earlier. Joachim Low was confident there would be no repeat of that though, telling his pre-match press conference “we’re definitely not losing 1-0 to Senegal again”.

And they didn’t.

They lost 2-0 to Senegal, the first coming from a howler from Neuer as Niang caught him out and walked the ball into an empty net; the second even more humiliating for the keeper as he got caught in possession while joining the last minute push for an equaliser and Sadio Mane tapped into the same empty net.

Next up though was a pretty straight forward game against debutants Panama, whose first every World Cup game had ended in a 2-0 defeat to Peru. The Germans ran riot, scoring five in the first half and a sixth in the second, before Felipe Baloy’s consolation for Panama saw them celebrate as if they’d just won the whole tournament!

It also meant victory over Peru, who’d also lost 2-0 to Senegal, would be enough to put them through. But, again, Der Mannschaft just didn’t turn up, squandering loads of chances, and they paid the price for it when, with the clock about to tick into extra time, Paolo Guerrero scored a goal that was initially ruled out for off-side, only for a VAR replay to show it had clearly come off a German player beforehand. 1-0, Peru had won the game and gone through, and Germany were out!

Senegal, meanwhile, defeated Panama 2-1 to become the first ever African team to go through with a 100% group stage!

2018 Group F.PNG

Belgium and Uruguay began Group G as the favourites, and both lived up to those expectations, Belgium demolishing Iran 3-0 in the first game of the group, before Uruguay did likewise to Russia. Both secured their places in the knockouts with a game to spare in the second fixtures, Belgium bouncing back from a Denis Cheryshev opener to beat the Russians 3-1, while a Luis Suarez double put pay to Iran.

Belgium would top the group with a 2-1 win in an entertaining final match between the two, both fielding weakened teams, while the dead rubber between the other two proved surprisingly entertaining, Artem Dzyuba scoring for the Russians in the first half, only for a late penalty awarded after VAR to allow Iran to equalise in injury time, and they could even have won it had an even later shot from Mehdi Taremi not hit the side netting.

2018 Group G.PNG

Finally, in what many were calling the most open group of the stage, group seeds Poland began with a 1-0 victory over Morocco via a Jan Bednarek header, while Rakitic would score the winner for Croatia as they defeated Colombia 2-1. A 2-0 victory over the Moroccans all but ensured Croatia’s passage to the knockouts, while Poland fell apart completely as Colombia ran out 3-0 winners.

Croatia obliged the Poles by fielding a weakened team in their final game, but still triumphed 2-1, which, coupled with Colombia’s 2-1 win over Morocco, ensured a third top seeded team would be falling in the first round…

2018 Group H.PNG

to be continued…

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So, that's the group stage completed, and what a group stage it was! A few similar results to OTL; I promise you, that Group D draw was totally random that I got Wales and Scotland in the same group, and kinda ironic that I published it on the same night as QTX's latest update, as you'll know if you've already read his!

Anyway, here's the Round of 16 line-up:

  • England vs Mexico
  • Spain vs Scotland
  • Brazil vs Peru
  • Belgium vs Colombia
  • Portugal vs Switzerland
  • Wales vs France
  • Senegal vs Japan
  • Croatia vs Uruguay
So, we'll be doing this round by round from now on, so post your predictions below; you'll get one point for each correct outcome prediction, and three if you get the score right as well. We'll keep a tally of who has how many points and a winner after the final is completed in four weeks' time!

So, get voting, and we'll see how the second round goes next Wednesday...
 
Round of 16
England (p) 1-1 Mexico
Spain 1-1 (p) Scotland
Brazil 2-0 Peru
Belgium 3-2 Colombia
Portugal (a.e.t.) 2-1 Switzerland
Wales 0-2 France
Senegal 2-2 (p) Japan
Croatia (p) 1-1 Uruguay

Quarter-finals
England 1-0 Scotland
Brazil 1-2 Belgium
Portugal 0-1 France
Japan 1-2 Croatia

Semi-finals
England 0-2 Belgium
France 4-2 Croatia

Bronze match
England 1-2 (a.e.t.) Croatia

Final
Belgium 0-1 France
 
Ofc Argentina would cry out a conspiracy between the Scots and Welsh! :p Funnily enough if you remember in the original version of ATPF, in 2018 both Northern Ireland and Wales are also in the same group and a set results sees them both go through and has Brazil go out with them crying foul.

Think we both have developed a Wednesday update not out of copying each other but rather as just a coincidence due to my work hours, anyway looking forward to seeing what happens next. :)
 
  • England vs Mexico
  • Spain vs Scotland
  • Brazil vs Peru
  • Belgium vs Colombia
  • Portugal vs Switzerland
  • Wales vs France
  • Senegal vs Japan
  • Croatia vs Uruguay
 
2018 Round of 16

2018 Round of 16


The knockout stage of the 2018 World Cup would begin with two Home Nations in action on the same day. Firstly, Scotland would face Spain at Old Trafford in what was expected by most, Scotland included, to be an easy victory for La Roja. And when a blameless own goal from Grant Hanley gave Spain the lead just 12 minutes in, it very much looked to be going that way.

But Scotland dug in, denied Spain further goals, and a penalty from a handball gave them the chance to pull level; Griffiths calmly dispatched it to make this the case. No further goals came, in either the rest of normal time or extra time, and so, for the first time in their history, Scotland would face a penalty shootout (which seemed rather extraordinary until you remember this was only their third knockout stage appearance/match).

And David Marshall would be the hero for the Tartan Army, as he saved shots from Koke and Aspas to win the game for Scotland, their first ever knockout stage victory! They were through to face the winner of the second game of the day: either Mexico or… England!

And a clash with the Auld Enemy it would be: goals from Lingard and Alli gave the Three Lions a very easy victory to send Gareth Southgate’s team into the quarters.

The first game of the second day would sadly not be a great game: Portugal dominated against the Swiss, but laboured in front of goal, and it would once again fall to Mr C. Ronaldo to bail them out with a(n admittedly pretty good, but then what do you expect from him?) goal 10 minutes from time to win the game. This meant they’d face either Wales or France, both of which would very much be out for vengeance after two years earlier.

What followed was one of the best games of the tournament, an epic seven goal thriller, as France took the lead from a Griezmann penalty 13 minutes in, only for the Welsh, spurred on by a massive contingent inside the ground, to spectacularly level through a Bale belter four minutes from half time.

The roof then came off the ground when the Welsh, against the run of play, took the lead three minutes into the second half! But an even more belting belter from Pavard pulled France level again, before a Kylian Mbappe double pushed Les Bleus more or less over the line. And though Bale got another deep into added time, it was too late: despite a great effort, Wales were out of the World Cup, as France marched on to the rematch with Ronaldo et al.

Day 3 would sadly be a bit underwhelming after the high drama of the first two. Brazil were expected to beat Peru, and did so very comfortably, though their opponents did well to shut them out for the first half, before second half goals from Neymar and Roberto Firmino put the Selecao through.

There, they would face Belgium, who were similarly easy winners over Colombia, though their opponents did give them a bit of a scare when a late Yerry Mina goal made it 2-1, and, straight from the kick-off, they forced a corner. But it was a poor one easily saved by Courtois, and was followed by an utterly sublime counter, at the end of which Nacer Chadli made it 3-1 to secure the win.

The final day of the round would begin with the two neutral favourites, Senegal vs Japan. It would be another good game as well, with Senegal twice taking the lead through Mane and Moussa Wague, only for Inui and Honda to twice equalise, which took the match to extra time. Senegal had the better chances to win it there, but, in the end, both teams seemed happy to settle for penalties.

And Khadim N’Diaye would make the only save of the shootout, as he blocked Osako’s shot to win the game for Senegal and send them through to a second World Cup quarter-final!

Sadly, the final game of the round would be the worst of it. It started well enough, with Edinson Cavani giving Uruguay the lead less than a minute into the game, only for Mandzukic to equalise for Croatia just three minutes later. After that, no goals game, with Luca Modric spurning a great chance to win it for Croatia when Fernando Muslera saved his penalty with five minutes of extra time to go.

Muslera would save two more kicks, from Badelj and Pivaric, in the ensuing shootout, and Uruguay were through to the quarter-finals against Senegal, while, for Croatia, it was yet another case of what might’ve been…

2018 R16.PNG

to be continued…

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So, that's the Round of 16 in the bag, with quite a few matches based on games from OTL. Spain vs Scotland pretty much the same game as Spain vs Russia IOTL, and ditto Wales vs France with Argentina vs France. Croatia vs Uruguay also the same as the Denmark game, except Croatia lose the shootout, like with Scotland in my first TL. And Senegal have done it again! Honestly, that Senegal team deserved better; hopefully they'll get the run they deserve in Qatar this year...
Anyway, after that round, the prediction tallies are:
  • NTF: 10
  • Matthew Firth: 6
  • Unknown: 6
And the draw for the quarter-finals goes like this:
  • England vs Scotland
  • Brazil vs Belgium
  • Portugal vs France
  • Senegal vs Uruguay
So, get your predictions in below, and we'll see you again next week...
 
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Shame my predictions aren't as good when it comes to actual tournaments.

Quarter-finals
England 1-0 Scotland
Brazil 1-2 Belgium
Portugal 0-1 France
Senegal 0-1 Uruguay
 
Now updated yesterday's post with the correct Wiki graphics; an extra round of the bracket will be revealed every week, if that makes sense...

Also, a couple of other things. Firstly, as its now nearly a year since I started writing these, I'd like to thank everyone for your continued feedback and support over the past year. Honestly, I wasn't in a great place in the first half of last year, but writing these every Wednesday has given me something to build towards and kept me going for large parts of the last year. So, again, thanks very much everyone!

Also, once this TL is finished (for the time being), I'll be going back to my first TL and redoing one of the tournaments in it, as I'm not totally satisfied with what I wrote originally and have thought of a better, more satisfying way of doing it. All will be revealed in due course!
 
2018 Quarter-Finals

2018 Quarter-Finals


The first two quarter-finals would be played on July 6th, and, throughout the British Isles, the first of the two was very much the one everyone was talking about. For, for the first time since that game in Euro 96 (clips of which had been doing the rounds endlessly for the last few days), England and Scotland would meet each other in a major tournament.

The rest of the world, however, was very much more interested in the Brazil vs Belgium game that would be taking place in Sheffield later that evening, with the game in Newcastle being met with a fair bit of indifference (probably because they expected the winners to almost certainly lose to whoever won the other game).

Nonetheless, as the two teams walked out at a packed St James’ Park, even the naysayers couldn’t argue that the atmosphere was utterly amazing, and that both the England support and the very large Scottish contingent were both giving a great effort. Though there were some ugly scenes when, sadly, the two National Anthems were booed by the other team’s fans.

After their run so far, which had pretty much extinguished the negative attitude towards the team after the Iceland debacle two years prior, England were very much expecting to win this one. Especially as the Scots hadn’t exactly convinced so far, scraping through the group stage with one win and two draws before having to rely on penalties to beat Spain. But Scotland weren’t going to make it easy for them; they, after all, were also very much optimistic after that victory over the Spanish.

As the match began, any thoughts England had that they were going to run away with the game were confounded quickly; the Scots put up a fantastic defensive display in the first half, blocking England off at every opportunity; though they rarely threatened at the other end themselves, when the first half ended still 0-0, even England would admit Scotland deserved it.

As the second half began, however, Scotland’s efforts were finally breached when Scott Brown rather stupidly pushed Harry Kane over during a corner; the England captain converted his kick, and England were finally 1-0 up.

And it quickly got worse for the Scots as, just minutes later, Gary Cahill, of all people, would get his header on another corner and, just like that, it was 2-0, and suddenly it was all looking so easy for England.

A third from Sterling on the 70 minute mark seemed to secure the match for England, and the choruses of “It’s coming home, it’s coming home” were beginning to raise around St James’. (Though some Scotland fans did respond with rather playful chants of “Where were you when you were [censored]?!”)

But then, with three minutes to go, and the game seemingly over, Scotland won a free kick just outside the D; Leigh Griffiths took the kick… and it rocketed past Pickford! 3-1!

It looked like it would be no more than a consolation for the Scots but, with the clock just about to tick into the 90th minute, they won another in a near identical position. Again, Griffiths would take it… and, again, Pickford had no response to it! 3-2!

Suddenly, there was an air of nervousness in the air for England as Scotland sensed they might just be able to pull off something quite remarkable.

But it wasn’t to be, as a misplaced pass from Stuart Armstrong was intercepted by Eric Dier, who nudged it forward to Kane, who couldn’t miss, and England heaved a huge sigh of relief. They were through, but even they’d admit the Scots had given them a fantastic game, and thankfully Messrs Lineker, Shearer and Ferdinand were honest enough to say to token Scots pundit James McFadden in the BBC box!

For the Scots, their tournament was at an end, but it had been a historic tournament for them: a first ever knockout stage victory and, even though they’d lost to England, they’d put up a much better effort than anyone expected of them. And, with a mainly young team many of whom were starting to, or were about to, break through at the top level, the future looked bright…

Once that was done, all eyes turned to Hillsborough for Brazil vs Belgium. And it too would be a pretty good match, but even those indifferent to the England-Scotland game would admit it wasn’t as good as that one.

Brazil were the favourites but, in the first half, they just didn’t turn up, and a Fernandinho own goal and an underrated belter from Kevin de Bruyne put Belgium 2-0 up at half time. Substitute Rene Augusto pulled one back for the Selecao midway through the second half, but no equaliser could be found, with Thibaut Courtious making a fine save to deny Neymar in injury time, and it would be Belgium who would be playing England in Manchester in four days’ time.

And so to the second day of the quarters. First, Senegal would face Uruguay at Villa Park. The match would be disappointing at first, until, on the stroke of half time, Idrissa Gueye would fire in a belter from well outside the box, and Senegal had one foot in the semi-finals!

But a similarly spectacular free kick from Cavani would put Uruguay level ten minutes into the second half, and that would be enough to take the game into extra time. And then, right at the end of that, controversy all round, as a Senegal corner resulted in a mad scramble in the box, during which keeper Muslera found himself all at sea; Mane had a tap in… but Suarez blocked it with his hands on the line! Red card to the Barca man and a penalty to Senegal! Mane would take it… and Muslera saved it! (Suarez, who’d waited to watch it, duly ran off down the tunnel celebrating like they’d just won the whole tournament!)

It was the last action of the game. More penalties followed in the shootout and, this time, Mane wouldn’t even get the chance to take another, as Muslera made two more saves, from Sarr and Kouyate, while Uruguay, again, scored all four of their’s, and they were through to the semi-finals.

But whoever they faced, the neutrals would almost certainly be rooting against them.

That evening, Portugal and France met in Sunderland in the final QF. And, after three pretty good dramatic games, this one would sadly be an altogether more dour affair. France were dominant throughout, and it was only through the efforts of Rui Patricio that they only won 2-1; goals from Griezmann and an Umtiti header from a corner put them 2-0 up, and though Ronaldo pulled one back late on (because of course he did), Les Bleus hung on to secure a semi-final date at Anfield with the Uruguayans…

2018 QFs.PNG

to be continued…

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So, that's the quarter-finals done, and a pretty good foursome of games there, even if they are a bit derivitive. Yeah, Brazil vs Belgium is the exact same as OTL, while England vs Scotland is a combination of both the qualifying matches between those two IOTL. And yes, Senegal vs Uruguay is the exact same as Ghana vs Uruguay in 2010 IOTL; apologies, but it sort of fitted, so I ran with it.

Also, quickly going to pop back to last week and expand a bit to include locations of some of the matches, which I didn't mention last week as I hadn't got the graphics ready yet.

Anyway, here are the running scores:

  • NTF: 16
  • Matthew Firth: 9
  • Unknown: 6
  • GeorgeUK: 3
  • QTX: 3
So, get your predictions for the two semi-finals in below; just a reminder they are:
  • England vs Belgium
  • France vs Uruguay
And we'll see next week how you've gotten on. See you then then...
 
2018 Semi-Finals

2018 Semi-Finals


Manchester and Liverpool would host the two semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, both of which were very heavyweight clashes that were expected to be good matches. It was no secret, however, that the final that most neutrals wanted was Belgium vs France.

The first semi-final would be at Old Trafford, as the Belgian ‘Golden Generation’ took on England, with a packed out stadium very much behind the hosts and Gareth Southgate was no doubt hoping the fans could be the twelfth man, as they’d need all the support they could get to beat, on paper, the strongest team at the tournament (many of whom played in England nonetheless).

As the game began, the atmosphere inside the stadium was superb (for once! :p), but it was, as expected, the Belgians who got off to the better start, as their upwardly mobile front line forced England back, with the defence seemingly unable to cope with the clearly superior opposition. However, despite having the vast majority of possession, and the much better chances, Belgium just couldn’t find a way past Jordan Pickford in the England net, who made numerous saves to keep the scores level.

As half-time came, it was somehow still 0-0, but no-one quite knew how; Belgium could, and probably should, have been ahead by several goals and, while England had barely threatened at all, the doubt demons were starting to creep into the previously unflappable Red Devils, as it felt like, if they didn’t eventually score, England would somehow find a way to…

Those doubts were seemingly evaporated when, just five minutes into the second half, Manchester rivals De Bruyne and Lukaku played a superb 1-2 that finally caught out the England defence, and the United man fired past a helpless Pickford. Belgium were finally in front, and pretty much every England fan assumed that was it and they’d now disappear over the horizon.

But they didn’t. They could’ve, but they didn’t. Somehow, despite continuing to dominate proceedings, Belgium couldn’t find the second goal to kill the game off, either through missing the target or Pickford’s efforts.

And then, with extra time just minutes away, England got a rare push forwards and forced a corner. Ashley Young took it, and Harry Maguire got his head on it and nodded it past a horrified Courtois! England had, somehow, rescued the game and forced extra time!

Belgium’s worst fears had been realised and they were now kicking themselves that they hadn’t finished off an England team that was there for the taking when they could’ve/should’ve. But worse was to come as, just a couple of minutes into extra time, a revitalised England won a free kick just outside the D. Kieran Trippier would take it…

“It is Kieran Tripper, IT IS DELICIOUS!!! GLORIOUS, GLORIOUS ENGLAND GOAL!!!”

Old Trafford hadn’t heard cheers this loud in years!

How this had happened, no-one knew. Not even England. They had no right to have taken the game to extra time, let alone taken the lead in it!

Belgium now had to go for it like there was no tomorrow. They did, and continued to dominate possession but, again, Pickford and the England defence, now with a lead to defend for their lives, and spurred on by the now dynamite atmosphere among the home fans, dug in and managed to keep the defence at bay.

Finally, the whistle blew. England hardly deserved it, but they were through to the World Cup final on home soil! While Belgium, somehow, would have to pick themselves up in time for the third place play-off at Villa Park. (To be fair, they weren’t the first and certainly wouldn’t be the last, Red Devils not to win at Old Trafford when they really should’ve! :p)

The next day, Anfield would host Uruguay vs France, with Les Bleus very much the neutral favourites for this game after Uruguay’s victory over Senegal, which BBC commentator Jonathan Pearce only half-jokingly said in his pre-match spiel had made England’s win look deserved!

Unlike the first semi, this match was surprisingly few of chances, with both teams rather cancelling each other out and being restricted to few chances. Uruguay in particular, with no Suarez of course, had very next to no chances.

Finally, with five minutes to half time, France would get a free kick; Griezmann would take it, and Raphael Varane got his head on it; France led from the first shot on target of the game!

Uruguay responded well to be fair, and Godin so nearly equalised just minutes later, only for a fine save from Hugo Lloris to deny him. 1-0 France led at half time.

And fifteen minutes into the second half, they would do what Belgium couldn’t and made the match safe, albeit fortuitously. Griezmann would take a kick from a similar position to the free kick for the first; it looked a comfortable block for Muslera, but he got his punch wrong and the ball went though his hands into the net! It was a horrible goal to concede and France, to be fair, realised this and didn’t celebrate that much out of respect.

That error killed the game off for Uruguay; neither team had any more real chances of note in the game, and France held out for the 2-0 win that sent them on to face England at Wembley…

2018 SFs.PNG

to be continued…

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The semis are concluded, and the unwritten rule that England must reach the 2018 WC final on this site still holds! That game is basically England vs Colombia IOTL as far as normal time is concerned, before that Kieran Trippier goal comes in extra time. And the other game is basically the same as the QF IOTL.

Also, I've noticed that the Wiki images have the wrong score for the England-Scotland match; I'll fix that at some point in the hopefully not too distant future. Don't ask when; I have a lot of work scheduled for this site and others for the next month or so. Speaking of which, its my first TL's first anniversary tomorrow! So, once again, thanks to everyone for your support over the past year!

Anyway, here are the totals so far:

  • NTF: 17
  • Matthew Firth: 11
  • GeorgeUK: 7
  • Unknown: 6
  • QTX: 3
Get your predictions for the third place match and the final in below, and we'll be back for the final installment of this TL (for now) next week!
 
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