With all 8 matches wrapped up, World Cup 2018’s round of 16 is in the books. And if you thought that shock results were only restricted to group play, you’re sorely mistaken! Having only accurately predicated 5 out of the 8 games, yours truly was certainly surprised.
Round of 16 Wrap Up
Uruguay ran out as 2-1 winners over a Ronaldo-led Portugal. The difference maker was Edinson Cavani. The striker bagged a brace and carried the South Americans forward. As for CR7, his hopes of a World Cup trophy are over.
France overcame a 2-1 deficit to overturn last tournament’s runner-up Argentina. Le Bleus won 4-3 thanks to two goals from teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe. However the fact that Argentina even progressed to the knockout stages is nothing short of a miracle. Their dire performances in their group and their overall lack of team chemistry were definite signs of what was to come. We’ve also probably seen Lionel Messi’s last chance of earning immortality on the world stage.
Brazil had to overcome a stubborn Mexican side, who, truth be told, were the better team for the majority of the first half. Having kept the Samba Boys quiet, el Tri kept looking to attack, but to no avail. Eventually the five-time world champions wore the CONCACAF side down, (with the aid of some very shameful antics….Neymar…) and progressed 2-0.
BIGGEST SHOCK: Russia advancing past 2010 champions Spain on penalties. The host nation was a strong example as to why possession is not everything in football so as long as the team makes use of what (little) they have. They limited their forays up the pitch to set pieces and were rewarded for their efforts with a well-deserved penalty off of a rather silly handball conceded by Gerard Pique. As for la Roja, an end of an era. Several of their players are calling it a day at the international level, but Spain’s future looks bright nevertheless.
Belgium fans can breathe easy but that was not the case for a large portion of their match against Japan. Despite my predication of a comfortable night out for the European side, the Blue Samurai sure made things interesting. Japan had a two-goal lead with just over 20 minutes remaining but Belgium manager Roberto Martinez made some game-changing substitutions which rescued the day for his side. Belgium bounced back to win 3-2, with their last goal coming in the final minute of the game following a delightfully devastating counterattack.
Switzerland vs. Sweden did not produce much in terms of attractive football, but then again these teams were probably never going to anyway. Sweden ran out deserved winners and Switzerland’s suspended players certainly played a factor. However, Sweden won’t mind, given that this is their first quarterfinal appearance since the 1950s!
Croatia needed penalties to get past opponents Denmark. Man of the match, despite playing on the losing side, has to be Danish player Kasper Schmeichel. The keeper is the reason the game even lasted as long as it did, pulling off some fantastic saves, including one off of a Croatian penalty with only 10 minutes left! He then went on to make more saves in the shootout but his own teammates couldn’t deliver from 12 yards out.
England left it late..real late, in their match against Colombia. The game eventually went to penalties thanks to a last-minute goal by Colombia to draw level against the Three Lions. Perhaps more significant is the possibility that England may have exorcised their spot-kick demons which have so badly plagued them in the past, winning 4-3 over the South Americans. Is it coming home!?