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Final 8 World Cup Teams Set


The quarter finals are now set at the World Cup in Russia. It has been quite the tournament so far with some surprising upsets. Joining us now from Moscow is Grant Wahl. He is covering the World Cup for Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports and also for us. Grant, how you doing?

GRANT WAHL: I'm good. How are you?

KELLY: I'm well. Thank you. Although I am still recovering from this England-Colombia match today that went to penalty kicks and delivered England into the final eight along with Sweden, which made it earlier today.

WAHL: Yeah, just a dramatic turn of events. England, which has lost on penalties so many times over the years in the World Cup - it dances on penalties for once after a dramatic game where it seemed like England was going to win the game until Colombia scored on a header in stoppage time. And it was just one more example of the craziest World Cup I've ever covered. This is the seventh men's World Cup I've covered going back to 1994. And there have been so many dramatic moments, so many surprises. And now England has a path potentially to the World Cup final and potentially winning this thing.

KELLY: Yeah. Speaking of surprises, I guess one of the biggest ones is all of the heavyweight teams that have not advanced past the first round. You have Germany, the defending champion. You've got Argentina. You've got Portugal. You've got Spain. They're all out. What does that tell us about the state of global soccer?

WAHL: Well, I think it's getting better in non-traditional soccer countries, and that's something we've seen happening for a while now. And I think that's probably good for the sport. But we'll have to wait and see until the latter stages here if one of the upstart countries will actually win this tournament. Right now I would say the favorite is Brazil, which is playing very well and is very strong. And France is another one. And both those countries have won the World Cup on previous occasions. But I would love to see a new country win the World Cup. And we certainly have the possibility due to sort of a weaker side of the bracket. One of - you know, one of England, Sweden, Russia or Croatia is going to make the World Cup final.

KELLY: OK, and who are the last two? You mentioned Sweden, England, Russia, Croatia, Brazil; France is through. Is that one more we're missing there?

WAHL: We've got a Uruguay and France, and then we've got Brazil against Belgium.

KELLY: Right, OK. So in the moments we have left, I guess I have to end by asking you who's your favorite to win it all.

WAHL: I think Brazil at this point, but there's been so many surprises in this tournament that I wouldn't be surprised if something unexpected happens here. Spain going out to Russia was unbelievable. Argentina being out, Germany being out in the group stage, as you mentioned - there's so many surprises we're seeing.

KELLY: All right, that is Grant Wahl. He's author of the book "Masters Of Modern Soccer." He joined us from Moscow. Grant, thanks so much - look forward to speaking to you with more surprises to come.

WAHL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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