I’ve loved the World Cup so far, but let’s hope that the one-sided scorelines from now on are a thing of the past.
The tournament would surely benefit from four closely contested quarter-final matches so let’s hope we get them.
They begin on Friday, when Australia play Lebanon at the John Smith’s Stadium in Huddersfield.
I don’t know how many tickets have been sold for this match and of course the Australians will be the overwhelming favourites.
But I’ve been very impressed for the Lebanese so far. Their coach Michael Cheika has been a very astute manager of his team. He is performing a unique dual role, which will see him coaching Argentina against England at Twickenham only two days after the World Cup quarter-final.
The Lebanese may not be expected to beat Australia, but if they did, he would face an interesting dilemma in deciding how much time to allocate between his two duties.
The following day England will face Papua New Guinea, who qualify by being the second team in Group D.
The game will take place in Wigan at the DW Stadium, and I would anticipate that the game will surely sell out at such a strong heartland venue. The Kumuls have possibly been the most entertaining side in the World Cup, but I find it hard to imagine that they will have enough to beat England, although it’s worth remembering that PNG defeated Great Britain in Port Moresby in 2019, when Wayne Bennett was the Great Britain coach.
So let’s not take anything for granted.
Later in the evening New Zealand will take on Fiji at the MKM Stadium in Hull.
Again, I can’t imagine the Fijians winning this game. The Kiwis look too solid in all areas of the game to stumble at this stage of the tournament, and in Joey Manu and Jahrome Hughes they have two of the outstanding stars of the World Cup so far.
But in their first game, the Fijians took a shock early lead against Australia before eventually being overwhelmed as the game unfolded. But they will take some beating.
The final game will be between Tonga and Samoa at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington on Sunday and it is the hardest one to call.
Tonga are a formidable unit, particularly now that they can call upon Jason Taumalolo following the completion of his suspension, as the Cook Islands discovered on Sunday.
The Samoans were a shambles against England in the opening game of the tournament, but they came firing back against Greece and France and they will be no pushovers for their South Pacific rivals.
This game should surely be the easiest one to sell, apart from England’s game, of the coming weekend.
It will be interesting to see how it all unfolds.