Cameroon’s last-minute triumph over Brazil completed the World Cup group stages on a thrilling note, but it wasn’t enough to get them through, now it’s time to move ahead to the knockout round games. Switzerland also guaranteed their position alongside Brazil after defeating Serbia in one of the tournament’s games, while South Korea confirmed their passage into the knockout round earlier in the day alongside group winners Portugal.
Elsewhere, both Belgium and Germany were eliminated after suffering in the group round, with surprise qualifiers Morocco and Japan securing their seats among the major names. There were also qualifications into the knockout round for the United States, Poland, and Australia to compete against traditional favourites England, Argentina, Spain, and Netherlands.
As the competition begins its knockout round, here is a look through the next round of games.
Senegal vs. England
Senegal is missing renowned attacker Sadio Mane, but the team still has firepower up front and a strong backline that includes Premier League stars Kalidou Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy.
Gareth Southgate’s players were not entirely impressive in their group stage games, but they advanced comfortably after scoring nine goals and allowing only two. The Three Lions’ lack of goal threat against the USA and in the first half against Wales will be a concern going into this knockout round match against the African champions. A big test awaits both teams, with the winner facing either France or Poland.
Poland vs. France
Defending champions, France has been plagued by injuries on their road to the World Cup knockout round. Despite missing Christopher Nkunku, Karim Benzema, and Lucas Hernandez, Didier Deschamps’ team topped Group D despite a 1-0 loss to Tunisia in their final group match.
France will face Poland, who despite just qualifying on goal difference, will be a force to be reckoned with courtesy to Robert Lewandowski, who has 13 goals in 14 league games for Barcelona this season and has already scored in Qatar. The winner will face either England or Senegal in the quarter-finals.
Morocco vs. Spain
Morocco has been a revelation at this World Cup, surrendering just one goal while topping Group F ahead of Croatia and Belgium. They only scored three goals in their group, but they will still provide a difficult test for most teams and will be eager to improve on their previous best World Cup result: a round of 16 finish in 1986.
Spain opened the campaign in a furious fashion, defeating Costa Rica 7-0, but has since crumbled, scoring and conceding twice as they have taken only one point from their last two games. It should be an exciting fight between two teams that have everything to lose and everything to win. The victor will play either Portugal or Switzerland.
Switzerland vs. Portugal
Few trophies have evaded Cristiano Ronaldo in his career, but he has never won international football’s most prestigious award. His Portugal side led their group after two wins and a 2-1 lose to South Korea. If they are to go to the quarterfinals, they will need to offer more service to their captain in this last-16 knockout round game.
The Swiss have advanced from their group after winning two of their three group games and turning up a respectable performance in their 1-0 loss to Brazil. In defence, Fabian Schar and Manuel Akanji of the Premier League will have their job cut out dealing with Ronaldo. The winner will face either Morocco or Spain.
United States vs. Netherlands
Louis Van Gaal’s team got their World Cup off to a shaky start against Senegal, but they won 2-0 and have since looked threatening because to the lively Cody Gakpo.
They are now set to play the United States, who impressively held England to a 0-0 draw and fought out a one nil victory over Iran. Stopping Gakpo and getting through Virgil Van Dijk will be critical to their chances of progressing as they attempt to reach only the second quarter finals in their history. Whichever team wins this, will face either Australia or Argentina.
Australia vs. Argentina
1986 winners, Argentina got off to the worst possible start in their campaign, losing to Saudi Arabia in their first game, but rallied back in style, owing in no little part to their ageing hero Lionel Messi, who will be crucial to their efforts as they attempt to go past an Australia team that has never made it past the round of 16.
Meanwhile, the Socceroos responded strongly to their opening setback against France, winning 1-0 against Tunisia and Denmark. To ruin Messi’s last hope at a World Cup, they will need to find some more talent all across the field to get through this last-16 knockout round.
South Korea vs. Brazil
Brazil started the tournament as favourites and have lived up to the hype thus far, gaining six points from their group, despite conceding in injury time to Cameroon to set up an exciting end to Group G. The fact that they have only scored three goals in Qatar so far will be a source of anxiety, as will the likely absence of Neymar who has not played since their first group game.
South Korea advanced to the knockout round thanks to goals scored against Portugal, after seeming defeated in a dramatic 3-2 loss to Ghana. A difficult task awaits, but Son Heung-min has a strong track record for his country and might lead them to a major shock. In the next round, the victor will face either Japan or Croatia.
Croatia vs. Japan
Japan delivered two shock victories in the group stage, defeating Germany and Spain 2-1 to finish first in the so-called group of death. While Japan’s victories were separated by a disappointing loss to Costa Rica, they will be optimistic about their chances in the first knockout round against Croatia, who finished second in group E despite winning just one of their three games. Advance, and the winner will face either South Korea or Brazil.
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