Over the next month, I'll be covering the World Cup for Tribalfootball. And along the way, I'd like to share with you some of my experiences and keep you up to date with all the action.
The Closed City
Today I arrived in Nizhny Novgorod ahead of this afternoon's quarterfinal between Uruguay and France. Formerly known as 'Gorky', Nizhny Novgorod was a 'closed city' during the Soviet Era. This means for that for 60 years foreigners couldn't visit the city, which lies over 400km east of Moscow. Gorky was an industrial and technology hub, home to armament manufacturers and weapons storage, making it an important target for Hitler's Luftwaffe aeroplanes during WWII. Due to movement restrictions, Soviets also exiled political dissidents to Gorky. It must be strange for the locals seeing their town overrun with people from all over the world. On first impression, they seemed to have embraced the change.
Uruguay vs. France
France received a timely confidence boost with their last-16 win over Argentina. In Kazan, Jorge Sampaoli's tactics afforded the likes of Kylian Mbappe plenty of space to exploit. The same can't be said for Uruguay, whose stout 4-4-2 presents a completely different test for Didier Deschamps men. Les Bleus struggled to break down deep-lying teams in the group stage, so it'll be interesting to see how they go against a team defined by its organisation and discipline. La Celeste will probably be without their hero from the last-16 stage, Edinson Cavani. What is encouraging for Oscar Tabarez's side is that in their last three games without the PSG striker, they've won all three. It is the classic football story of defence vs. attack and I'm excited to see who comes out on top.
Brazil vs. Belgium
The contest in Kazan should be completely different. Brazil and Belgium are very similar in a number of ways. Both have more than one player who can win the match off their own boot. They are both deadly on the counter-attack, and their weaknesses at fullback means that they're susceptible to opposition counter-attacks. Two of the top five goalkeepers in world football will also be playing in this match. I'm not game enough to try and pick a winner but it feels as though this is Brazil's World Cup. Make no mistake, this is the game of the tournament so far and you'd be wise to tune in.
The quarter-finals begin TODAY! #WorldCuppic.twitter.com/jOnerrANSM
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) July 6, 2018