What a tournament we have on our hands.
Global viewership for this years’ FIFA World Cup is projected at 3.4 billion (according to research company GlobalWebIndex), and it’s safe to say that half of the world population is thoroughly entertained by the riveting fixtures so far. As the tournament heads into its latter stages and match-ups get considerably more interesting, let’s look back at each teams’ performance in the round of 16 and preview the quarterfinal matchups..
Review of Round of 16 Matches
France vs. Argentina (4 – 3)
France: Griezmann, Pavard, Mbappé (2)
Argentina: Di María, Mercado, Agüero
The match was arguably the most entertaining of all the round of 16 fixtures. This was the match in which we witnessed the tremendous potential of Kylian Mbappe as he bamboozled Argentinian defence with his speed.T here were 7 goals, 3 lead changes, and two goals of the season contenders with Pavard’s spinning volley and Di Maria’s long shot screamer. What more could you ask for? The fixture was perhaps the last match of Argentine legend Lionel Messi, who may end his national career without a major trophy.
Uruguay vs. Portugal (2 – 1)
Uruguay: Cavani (2)
This was a marquee matchup between the tournaments best defence and the tournaments best player--Cristiano Ronaldo. In the end, Uruguay’s centre-backs did a solid job of keeping Ronaldo at bay. On the other end of the pitch, their attacking duo Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani provided a master-class in attacking football, scoring two clinical goals. Practically, this was 5-time BallonD’or winner Cristiano Ronaldo’s last shot at World Cup success. However, by the way, he’s looking it seems as if he could go on and play even in his 50’s!
Brazil vs. Mexico (2 – 0)
Brazil: Neymar, Firmino
Mexico played with heart and soul but Brazil’s elite offence was just too good to handle. After a mediocre start to the campaign, Brazil has steadily improved and it looks as if their attack is finally clicking. This is the seventh time in a row where Mexico have been knocked out in the round of 16.
Belgium vs. Japan (3 – 2)
Belgium: Vertonghen, Fellaini, Chadli
Japan: Haraguchi, Inui
Arguably one of the greatest ‘comebacks’ in World Cup history. Japan shocked the favourites by scoring two goals and leading 2 – 0, before Belgium scored a trio in 20 minutes including the last minute winner.
Russia vs. Spain (1 – 1; Russia win 4 – 3 in penalties)
Spain: Ignashevich (OG)
The biggest upset of the knockout round so far, has left us asking the question ‘Is Spain’s golden generation over?’ Spain was slow, pedantic, and had the remarkable capability of completing a record 1,114 passes without doing anything useful. Fans travelling to Russia say that the home team staying in the World Cup is beneficial as it keeps the atmosphere up and the streets livelier.
Croatia vs. Denmark (1 – 1; Croatia win 3 – 2 in penalties)
Only the second match in World Cup history where both teams scored inside the opening 4 minutes. Denmark opened the score-sheet within the first minute but Croatia was quick to reply with Juventus forward Mario Mandžukić. The rest of the match saw a stalemate which led to a thrilling penalty shootout, with Subasic matching the world cup record of saving 3 penalties out of 5.
Sweden vs. Switzerland (1 – 0)
The two European sides tussled in a physical game which was ultimately won by a deflected shot. Sweden has reached the quarterfinals after a gap of 24 years, a remarkable accomplishment given most critics wrote off the team without their country legend Zlatan Ibrahimović.
England vs. Colombia (1 -1; England win 4 – 3 in penalties)
A nation of over 55 million collectively sang “Football is coming home!” The lyrics are from a 1996 song which has unofficially become the anthem of the team. After un-sportsmanlike physical play from Colombia throughout the match, Captain and golden boot leader (with 6 goals) Harry Kane scored a penalty. Colombia’s Mina, however, equalised with a brilliant header in the last minute, and the game drags on to penalties. Finally, England broke their penalty curse and won their first penalty shootout in World Cup history. After continuous misery in international tournaments, fans across England are once more in love with their young and spirited team.
Authors Team Rankings :
France vs. Uruguay
Uruguay star striker Edinson Cavani was brought off the pitch after suffering what looked like a hamstring injury against Portugal. Team doctors, however, have confirmed that the injury isn’t serious and he has been given the green light to play on Friday. Though France is an extraordinarily talented team, Uruguay has an iron back line and a deadly forward duo, which will provide a huge test for youthful France.
Brazil vs. Belgium
A fixture many consider the ‘actual final’ of the tournament. Brazil and Belgium both have momentum from their previous matches and will be ready for what should be an enticing game of the highest quality. Belgium perhaps has a stronger midfield spearheaded by Kevin De Bruyne but Brazil’s world-class offence consisting of ‘Neymar and Co.’ will prove to be a challenge for Belgium’s defence.
Russia vs. Croatia
Can the host nation continue their dream run? Croatia-- both on paper and based on the performances so far-- have a far superior squad including midfield maestro Luca Modrić who is described by teammate Rakitić as a player ‘from a different planet’. In this tournament of upsets, one cannot say with certainty that this will be an easy match for the hosts. Russia would look to ride on the tremendous home support to reach the semifinals.
England vs. Sweden
England is the favourites to make it to their first semi-finals since 1990. Sweden, after the retirement of Zlatan Ibrahimović, has lost their cutting edge, but make up with it in their compact and disciplined defence. England has a wealth of talent and has played positive attacking football, creating many chances. However, they need to focus on capitalising on them. Out of England’s 9 goals in the tournament, 7 have come from set pieces, and Sweden will be well prepared to combat their set-piece threat.
By: Arya Krishnan