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Olé, Olé, Olé! If you come from a fútbol loving family like me, you’ve got a raging  case of World Cup fever at the moment. Things are getting real in the global soccer tournament, as only eight teams are still in the mix. It remains to be seen if Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, England, France, Russia, Sweden, or Uruguay will take home the coveted cup, but the only thing predictable about World Cup play is just how unpredictable match results can be. Sure, folks study hard to accurately forecast winners and losers by tracking shot ratios, expected goals, and team chemistry, but I am opening a cook book to predict the teams who will advance to to the semi-finals next week. Pitting an array of traditional dishes head-to-head seems like a totally logical way to figure out who will find their way to a big win!

JULY 6th: URUGUAY vs FRANCE

THE DISHES: CHIVITO vs POT-AU-FEU

CHIVITO: Uruguayan fare is a melting pot of various European cuisines and features meat-heavy dishes. The Chivito is a sandwich found all over Uruguay featuring grilled steak, ham, bacon, tomato, lettuce, mayonnaise and cheese on a generously-sized bun.

POT-AU-FEU: France sets the culinary standard across the globe and Pot-au-Feu is a warming winter dish revered throughout the country. A departure from the fussy sauces and fancy plates we commonly associate with France, Pot-au–Feu, is a family-friendly, hearty boiled beef and marrow bone stew spiked with assorted root vegetables like parsnips, leeks, potatoes, and carrots.

OAK PARK EATS PREDICTS: France, a powerhouse team, was a slow to start in the World Cup, but just like a good Pot-au-Feu, success sometimes comes slowly. Look for slow-simmering France to take out Uruguay this week. Not to worry a good Chivito sounds like the perfect comfort food for heart-broken fans to enjoy.

WINNER: FRANCE

JULY 6th: BRAZIL vs BELGIUM 

THE DISHES: FEIJOADA vs MOULES ET FRITES

FEIJOADA: The national dish of Brazil has Portuguese origins. Feijoada is a hearty bean stew studded with pork ribs and dry cured sausages and serve alongside sauteed greens, white rice, fresh oranges, and hot sauce. The dish is highly personalized among Brazilian cooks and subject to various interpretations, but the pork and bean theme remains constant.

MOULES ET FRITES: Sure, the Belgians could fuel up on waffles, but the country is most know for their seafood dishes. Moules et Fries, featuring mussels steamed in a fragrant wine based broth with a side of hand-cut, double-fried potatoes, may sound like an uncommon combo to burger loving Americans, but its a classic for a reason.

OAK PARK EATS PREDICTION: Let’s face it the mussels and french fries combination seems like a little bit of a culinary outlier. Sure the Belgian dish features lovely ingredients, but they are cooked separately and may not work together as harmoniously as the Brazilian bean stew. This  will be close match, but Brazil’s Feijoda (a fully balanced meal) will win a spot in the semi final round.

WINNER: BRAZIL

JULY 7th: RUSSIA vs CROATIA

THE DISHES: BORSCHT vs CRNI RIZOT

BORSCHT: Russia has more than one national dish, but Borscht and a shot vodka tops the list of most recognizable Russian meals. The red hued soup gets it vibrant color and sweet flavor from cooked beets and and a sour balance thanks to the addition of vinegar or lemon juice. A big dairy hit from a garnish sour cream rounds out the flavor profile, while the vodka shot makes eating beets easier for folks who don’t love ’em!

CRNI RIZOT: Croatia has a diverse topography and embraces ancient cooking techniques in the nine separate regional cuisines recognized in the country. Crni rižot, a risotto, requires a cook’s full attention in the kitchen and came to the region thanks to Italian culinary influences. The creamy rice dish is jet black thanks to cuttlefish ink and features squid meat, herbs, butter, and wine. You can’t deny eating Crni rižot as it will leave all tongues jet black!

OAK PARK EATS PREDICTION: The humble beet is an underdog in the vegetable world, just as Russia is an underdog in their match against Croatia. As much as I love beets and believe in home-field advantage, I fear the host nation will fall to the black tongue wielding Croatians. At least they’ll have a little vodka to drown their sorrows. 

WINNER: CROATIA

JULY 7th: SWEDEN vs ENGLAND

THE DISHES: SVENSKA KOTTBULLAR vs FISH AND CHIPS

SVENSKA KOTTBULLAR: The Swedes have a corner on the meatball market despite their Turkish origins. Svenska kottbullar, or Swedish meatballs, feature a pork and beef mixture enhanced with an arrange of sweet spices like cardamom, allspice, and nutmeg. The meatballs are shaped and cooked in a rich gravy before being served with mashed potatoes, lingonberry jam, and pickled cucumbers.

FISH AND CHIPS: Okay, Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding or Chicken Tikka Masala could have topped the list of English dishes, but nothing seems more quintessentially British than good ole fish and chips. Chip shops in England fry up cod in a batter made from flour and water before serving the crispy fish alongside thick cut fried potatoes (chips) and mushy peas’ a dash of malt vinegar gives the the finished dish a sour punch.

OAK PARK EATS PREDICTION: Swedish meatballs are a marvel, but frankly can’t hold a candle to the undeniable global love for fish and chips. That being said, Svenska kottbullar, are a surprisingly well balanced comfort food while fish and chips relies on one thing, a deep fryer. And just like fish and chips relies on a fryer, England relies heavily one player. If Sweden can keep Harry Kane in check, I predict meatball loving Sweden could pull a quarter final upset.

WINNER: SWEDEN

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