The World Cup quarter-finals get underway on Friday, with two of the 2018 semi-finalists to be decided today.
Each morning during the tournament we will bring you an overview of what is coming up…
Who’s playing today?
Uruguay v France (quarter-finals) – Nizhny Novgorod, 3pm
Brazil v Belgium (quarter-finals) – Kazan, 7pm
What’s the deal?
Uruguay are bidding to win a second World Cup semi-final from three – against a France side who came into the tournament as among the favourites, but have stuttered at times even during their pulsating 4-3 win over Argentina in the last 16.
Kylian Mbappe has hit form for the French and caught the eye in that game, scoring twice, while one of Uruguay’s biggest threats, Edinson Cavani, looks like he will be missing through injury.
“Cavani has been a historical figure for PSG,” Hugo Lloris said.
“He’s scored so many goals. He’s a winner, he’s a leader, he’s very much respected in France as a player but also as a man because of his values.
“We’re getting ready for anything – whether he plays or does not. We know what he represents but we also know they have other players that could also play at a high level.
“It’s true that Cavani and (Luis) Suarez are amongst the most beautiful attacking pairs on earth. Uruguay has a great team, very clear ideas about what they want to do. They are a very difficult team to handle and very strong on the counter regardless of who is playing up front.”
Tite has already named his Brazil side to face Belgium, with two changes from the team that beat Mexico last time out.
Marcelo, having recovered from injury, will start at left-back ahead of Felipe Luis, while Fernandinho will replace the suspended Casemiro in midfield.
Miranda will again keep the captain’s armband as Brazil bid to move a step closer to a record sixth World Cup, and is focused on more than just Golden Boot-chaser Romelu Lukaku.
He said: “Belgium are not just Lukaku. They are a very strong attacking team but the main way to stop the opponent is to be aware of all of the players who are on the pitch because there are several high-quality players, they are very skilful.
“Our defence is going to be very well prepared to neutralise all of the opponents’ attacks.”
Ones to watch
Luis Suarez: With Edinson Cavani looking likely to miss out on Uruguay’s quarter-final appearance, Suarez will lead the line and be on the prowl for his third goal of this summer’s World Cup, having netted twice in 2014 too – both against England – and another two in South Africa in 2010.
Now one of the elder statesmen of the Uruguay side, at 31, Suarez has the chance to lead his nation to the World Cup last four for the second time in eight years.
An incredible 110 goals in 130 La Liga games for Barcelona since his move from Liverpool within months of the last World Cup put him bang in form ahead of this tournament – and if Uruguay are to make it through, Suarez will play a significant part.
Kevin De Bruyne: De Bruyne hasn’t hit the highs of his exceptional season with Manchester City so far with Belgium, but against a Brazil side who may leave space in behind far more than Japan did in the last 16, his world-class passing ability may well come to the fore.
The midfielder is yet to register a single assist in Russia, despite Belgium topping the scoring charts with 12 goals in four games. But Brazil will present the first test from a side who are willing to open up and play them at their own game.
Philippe Coutinho: Having scored a cracker to open Brazil’s World Cup account against Switzerland in their first game of the tournament, Coutinho also provided an equally stunning assist for Paulinho as they beat Serbia 2-0 to seal top spot in the group.
The Barcelona man began to find his feet in Spain towards the end of the season and has carried on that form into the World Cup.
Also look out for…
Golden Boot race hots up
Romelu Lukaku is currently Harry Kane’s closest challenger for the World Cup golden boot, with four goals to his name so far, and he can bridge the two-goal gap against Brazil on Friday.
If Belgium are eliminated without the Manchester United striker scoring another goal, no other player left in the tournament has scored more than three times, and it would move the Spurs man one step closer to claiming the individual gong.
“Griezmann says he is Uruguayan”
On the surface, Antoine Griezmann’s affection towards France’s quarter-final opponents Uruguay might not seem obvious – but the Atletico Madrid forward has a deep-seated admiration for the South American country.
One of those reasons is centre-back Diego Godin, who will turn from team-mate at club level to enemy on the pitch on Friday.
“Diego is a great friend. I am with him every day in Madrid,” Griezmann told reporters ahead of the clash in Nizhny Novgorod. “It is a nationality that I love, a people that I love. It will be a very emotional match for me.”
Griezmann’s love affair with Uruguay began when handed his breakthrough at Real Sociedad by Martin Lasarte in 2009.
Having spent his entire career in Spain, Griezmann has always had a steady stream of Uruguayan team-mates.
He began drinking mate at Sociedad with former Uruguay striker Carlos Bueno and was persuaded to join Atletico in 2014 by Godin.
“He says he is Uruguayan,” said Godin. “He made his debut with Martin Lasarte and had a lot of time for him.
“He has always been surrounded by Uruguayan players. He likes how we are and our customs: eating the barbecue, our music, he even drinks more mate than me!”
Marcelo shakes off ‘soft mattress’ injury
Marcelo will come back into Brazil’s side to face Belgium, manager Tite has confirmed, with his absence from the 2-0 last-16 win over Mexico blamed on a soft mattress at the team hotel.
The Real Madrid full-back limped out of Brazil’s 2-0 win over Serbia in the final group game, and was replaced by Filipe Luis.
“I talked to Marcelo and Filipe Luis,” said Tite.
“Marcelo left (against Serbia) because of a clinical problem and he has not been back because of a physical problem, he only had 45 to 60 minutes and Filipe Luis played very well in those matches but Marcelo is coming back.”
Stats of the day
- France have won just one of their eight previous meetings with Uruguay (D4 L3), losing the most recent encounter 0-1 in a friendly in June 2013 (Luis Suarez with the goal).
- Uruguay have won their last four World Cup matches, last winning five in a row between 1950 and 1954. They’ve never previously won five in a row in the same World Cup tournament – despite winning the World Cup twice.
- Brazil are playing the quarter-final for the seventh successive World Cup tournament. They’ve only gone out twice at this stage in that run (vs France in 2006 and vs the Netherlands in 2010).
- Belgium have reached consecutive World Cup quarter-finals for the first time – they lost at this stage to Argentina in 2014.
- Brazil are unbeaten in their last 15 matches in all competitions (W11 D4), conceding just three goals in that run.