Whether "it's coming home or not" remains to be seen but it's the mantra the Poms are fiercely embracing as the Fifa World Cup hits a crescendo with the quarterfinals kicking off overnight in Russia.

But patriotism rapidly makes way for the head to rule the heart when spectators have to put their money where their mouths are.

No doubt, placing bets on the donkeys is where the windfall is but the New Zealand TAB has revealed confidence in England is waning as they head into their first cup quarterfinals since 2006.

"Only 25 per cent of the head-to-head money is on the Brits, yet they are still firm favourites to beat the Swedes [tomorrow] morning," the TAB reports.


However, most Kiwis are picking France, Brazil and Croatia to progress to the semifinals.

By the time you read this the chances are a youthful France will have dusted Uruguay although I'm not gung ho about the Belgians' prospects against the Brazilians.

Uruguay fall into the category of one-trick pony teams. Luis Suarez is their go-to man but fellow striker Edinson Cavani has stolen the thunder from him.

Yes, it was Cavani for pretty boy Cristiano Ronaldo in the win over Portugal in the second round but it seems Suarez's cannibalistic ways are still fresh in the minds of global fans.

Besides, Suarez looks like the blokes from Germany and Argentina - too old, too slow - and Cavani, even if he did start, couldn't possibly have recovered that quickly from his calf injury. They are both 31, after all.

For Brazil to go all the way, Neymar will have to start playing more like a cog in the wheel because his teammates have shown several players are capable of planting the ball in the net.

It's a shame the Samba boys didn't put him on the bench in the weaker pool matches to see if they could function better. Someone please rubber-stamp Neymar's obscene contract with Real Madrid so he doesn't have to audition for any more Hollywood roles although the Belgians may well argue otherwise.

Yes, the winners of the Brazil and France side of the draw will go on to lift the cup.


Of course, there's always room for the unthinkable.

If the gods can play a cruel game with England for years and then offer them a weaker pathway with the bonus of a lucky dip to reach the quarterfinals on the platform of a penalty kick and penalty shootout, then it's safe to say Fifa should borrow cricket's slogan, "Anything can happen".

A dubious penalty kick here, a red card there, turn a blind eye to acting or a blatant foul and it's game on.

This has been a "genetically engineered" world cup with the selective employment of technology, the VAR (video assistant referee), to extract the desired result to evoke maximum emotions. For that, fans must take off their hats to Fifa.

Yes, penalty kicks do turn games into lotteries but there's nothing that stirs the primitive animal instincts more than an emperor lifting a thumb or turning it down to decide the fate of gladiators in a colosseum.

It's blatantly obvious the rules of the game have been modified because how else can you explain all the grappling, diving and clumsy fouling.

Nevertheless, any suggestions of fiddling with the penalty shootout to a hockey-type one is a recipe for disaster. Nothing warms the cockles more or shatters the soul into thousands of pieces than the opportunity to plunge a blade into the heart with one shot.

If you're not convinced ask the Poms, who are now in the penalty-kick corner after loathing it for decades. It's time for the Colombias of the world to sip from the poisoned chalice and pass it to the left-hand side.

Do England rely too much on captain Harry Kane? Photo/Photosport
Do England rely too much on captain Harry Kane? Photo/Photosport

As with Uruguay, you somehow get the feeling England are banking on captain Harry Kane to milk penalties in the box.

An English fairytale will perhaps prompt the Queen to grant a public holiday but it'll most certainly take the sheen off the Rugby World Cup prospects of England v the All Blacks.

You see, nothing will be more enchanting than Croatia proving the pundits wrong.

Funnily enough, it's the weaker side of the draw that appears to be more intriguing because all of the four teams have the propensity to shock.

Like Suarez, the beautiful game isn't ready for Russia to etch their name on the silverware just yet amid all the speculation over performance-enhancing cocktails.

On the flip side, the host nation has already put in a gold-medal performance in providing an excellent global stage up to this point, both inside and outside the playing arenas.