Day 1 Reports: Saturday 30th June
Match 1 – 15.00: France v Argentina
Wow. What a corker of a game to start off the round of sixteen phase of the competition. If you wanted a nail biter then you got one. It was a great game to watch for everyone else… but a tough one if you were an Argentinian of French fan.
This game was really all about the new French star that is Mbappe. What better way to announce himself to the world than in the knockout stages of the World Cup. This was about a new star facing an older star; a change of lead every other minute and a show-stopping seven goals in total.
It was Mbappe who led France to get its first goal, as he surged forwards and Marcos Rojo took his down in the box. Mbappe let Griezmann take the spot-kick and he slotted home the penalty that put Les Bleus in front. However, that lead didn’t last for long.
Argentina hit back and managed to level the proceedings before half time. Angel Di Maria struck a beautiful long-range shot into the net just before the whistle blew and everything was even again. That didn’t last long, however, as early on in the second half; Gabriel Mercado hit another great shot and took the Argentinians into the lead.
Vive La France!
France never backed down though and fought on even more. In fact, in the 57th minute Benjamin Pavard equalised again for the French squad and saw the teams back on an even playing field again. This was where Mbappe took over the pitch and made it all about him.
The young French wonder boy then scored not, one, but two goals in the 64th and 68th minute, giving his team a decent 2 goal lead for the final 25 minutes of the game. Argentina tried hard to fight back and in stoppage time managed to get a third, when Aguero nodded the ball into the net. This led to a very tense last few minutes when the Argies pushed forward and the French tried to hold on… which they eventually did. With a scoreline of 4-3 to France, this was one of the best games of the tournament to date – if not the best. The best part about it is that the Argentinians, led by Messi, are going home. Shame. Those favourite teams are dropping like flies…
Result: 4 – 3 to France
Match 2 – 19.00: Portugal v Uruguay
Europe v South America part 2… but this time the outcome was different. It was the European squad that was sent crashing out; ensuring that the only time Ronaldo would be facing Messi would be at the airport.
Cavani managed to open the scoring after just 7 minutes after a beautiful one-two with Suarez. He finished it off with a stunning goal and he showed that Uruguay is going to be a force to be reckoned with if they can attack like that.
Despite a fight from Portugal and some impressive play all around, the half time score remained at 1-0 and Portugal needed a comeback. This revival seemed to come in the form of Pepe in the 55th minute, and at last Portugal was back equal again. However, that was to last merely 7 minutes as Cavani scored his second goal in the 62nd minute – which would be the goal to see the Uruguayan team through. This would be the first time the country had got through to the last 8 since 2010.
So, where was Portugal’s main man Ronaldo? He seemingly just didn’t really show up. He was heavily marked, thwarted at every turn and because of this is set to join Messi on the next plane home.
Result: 2 – 1 to Uruguay
Day 2: Sunday 1st July
Match 1 – 15.00: Spain v Russia
Another big team, former winners, Spain, were looking to make it out of the round of sixteen and onto the quarters. However, the Russians were there to ensure a shocking result that would see us saying Adios Amigos to our Spanish compadres.
It was Igor Akinfeev that was the hero in Russia on Sunday as he netted the penalty that would see the hosts in the quarters. Thanks was also due to Akinfeev who managed to save some decent penalties and help Russia on its way.
The game started terribly for the host nation as the oldest player, Sergei Ignashevich scored an own goal and handed the lead to Spain after just 12 minutes. In a way, it was karma, as he was so busy trying to wrestle Sergio Ramos to the ground, he didn’t see where the ball was, and it hit his leg and went into the goal. Ramos did try to claim the goal, but alas, Ramos no.
The Russian’s didn’t let it dampen their spirits too much, however, and in the 41st minute, the referee awarded Russia a penalty for a Pique hand ball – which was converted into the equaliser. Despite that bit of action, the rest of the game was a disappointment,
The Russians were very defensive and lacked a real quality attack, and although the Spanish had the majority of the possession, they did nothing with it – apart from a lot of sideways passing. Considering this was a knockout game, the passion and drive on both sides seemed to be lacking and no more goals were scored – either in normal time or extra time. It came down to penalties.
This is where we would have expected the Spanish team to excel, but they just disappointed. The four Russian penalty-takers: Smolov, Ignashevich, Golovin and Cheryshev all managed to convert their penalties. On the other side, Iniesta, Ramos and Pique all hit the spot, but both Koke’s and Aspa’s attempts were saved – leaving Russia with the victory. The only time England won was when they were hosts… will Russia do the same?
Result – 4 – 3 on penalties to Russia
Match 2 – 19.00: Croatia v Denmark
The game looked as though it would be a complete goal-fest after 2 goals were scored in under 5 minutes. It was one of the quickest goals in the history of the round of sixteen phase. But unfortunately it settled down and both teams slowed down, leading to the second penalty shoot-out of the day and victory for Croatia as they sent the Great Danes crashing out of the competition.
The game couldn’t have started off any quicker. Literally one minute into the game, Denmark took the lead. Jonas Knudsen’s long throw created mayhem and Mathias Jorgensen’s shot came off the post and into the goal.
However, just three minutes later and Croatia was back level again. Rebic crossed the ball that was semi cleared and rebounded to Mandzukic who managed to evade Schmeichel and score the equaliser.
Rebic was causing the Danes plenty of trouble and managed to win a free kick on the edge of the area. Unfortunately this golden opportunity to pull ahead was deflected over the bar. Modric set up another great chance but this again went too high. Croatia seemed to have the majority of attacking play but couldn’t capitalise on the opportunities. The Croats could have been ahead by the half time whistle, but it had remained a 1-1 draw.
Danes Paid the Penalty
The second half began quietly with little of the attacking power of the first half. The Danes seemed to recuperate by this point and gave as good as they got. In fact, it was Denmark who began to look more threatening as the game went on. In the remaining minutes of the game and into injury time, both teams made decent attempts but couldn’t find the winner.
Extra time was then on the cards and both teams made efforts to get the winner, but nothing came of it. Modric got a great chance to finish off the game as he sent a through ball goalwards to Rebic, who was brought down and a penalty given. Unfortunately for Croatia, and fortunately for Denmark, Schmeichel went the right way and saved the penalty… which meant more penalties.
Both penalty takers got their first attempts saved. However, Kjaer hit the spot for the Danes, followed swiftly by success for Krameric who kept the Croatians in the game. Krohn-Delhi took Denmark up 2 – 1 and the Modric made it 2 – 2. Schone then gave a poor penalty, which was saved by Subasic, but Schmeichel kept them in it by saving Pivaric’s effort. Jorgensen then failed again for Denmark, which meant that if Croatia scored the next one, they would be through… Rakitic blasted it home and took Croatian into the quarters. It was a close game and the Dane’s put up a great fight.
Result: 3 – 2 on penalties to Croatia
Day 3: Monday 2nd July
Match 1 – 15.00: Brazil v Mexico
It was the South American derby that kicked off day 2 of the round of sixteen, with Brazil going head to head with Mexico. Brazil was always going to be the favourite to win, although. Mexico wasn’t a walkover though and played hard and fast, giving the Brazilians something to worry about.
The first half looked pretty nervy for Brazil as the players simply couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net. If anything it was Mexico that looked to be the stronger of the two teams at the outset. Despite some pretty play and some great passing, the likes of Neymar, Firmino and Coutinho couldn’t hit the spot and the nerves began to show.
However, whatever was said to the players at half time must have worked, because that was when the golden boys started to sparkle. In the 50th minute, just 5 minutes into the second half, Neymar toed home and close-range goal and the Samba boys were ready to party again.
With Mexico unable to answer back, the Brazilians sealed the deal in the 88th minute when Firmino for the second. The Brazilians were through and the Mexicans yet again succumbed to the curse of the fifth game. This means Brazil have now surpassed the World Cup record of 226 World Cup goals, previously held by Germany. These two goals have taken their tally up to 228.
Just Too Good
It was a shame for Mexico as they did start their round of sixteen game off promisingly. The pace of the Mexican attack caused Fagner and Filipe Luis plenty of trouble and the Mexicans had a great chance within 2 minutes of play. It would be fair to say that for the first 20 or so minutes, Brazil was struggling. However, after about 25 minutes, Brazil started waking up and fighting back, with its players creating a few problems of their own. Despite Mexico’s resilience, there was nothing Mexico could do with Neymar’s close-range shot.
After that, Mexico never really looked as though it would make a comeback and Brazil made sure of it with the final nail in the coffin. The history of the World Cup is full of Brazilian victory… could we have another? It’s very likely.
Result: 2 – 0 to Brazil
Match 2 – 19.00: Belgium v Japan
It was the game we could have had – a match against the Japanese. It would be interesting to see how Belgium dealt with the Japanese team… had we done well to avoid them?
Despite falling behind by two goals, the Belgians made a remarkable comeback and snatched victory at the very last minute with a goal that would see them through to the quarters. The Japanese certainly didn’t make it easy for them, and there were points when it looked as though they would be the victors.
Belgium went into the match with their best players having fresh legs, after resting them in the England match. This gave them a decent advantage to start. However, the first half saw an embarrassing amount of stray passes by the European nation. Despite dominating possession, there weren’t many great chances for the Belgians; on the other hand, the Japanese looked dangerous on the counter. Belgian goalie, Thibaut Courtois nearly scored an own goal but managed to recover just in time. By half time, neither team had managed a goal.
Not sure what happened in the Japanese dressing room, but they came out blazing. Within ten minutes of the first half, they were up 2-0. Haraguchi scored the first from a through kick. The second came when Kompany’s clearance fell into Kagawa who laid off for Inui. He then fired home a beautiful goal from 20 yards.
The Come Back Kids
All was not lost for Belgium. The players pulled themselves together and just before the 70th minute, Vertonghen managed to head a poor clearance from the Japan defence that went straight over the head of Japanese goalie – Kawashima. Not long after, sub Fellaini met Hazard’s cross and headed it home for an equaliser. It was equal again.
After a few more attempts from Belgium and a great shot at goal by Honda, Kevin De Bruyne led a counter-attack and set up Chadli’s winner, which came in the dying minutes of the match.
What a game. The Japanese team did themselves proud and looked fierce and threatening. Hats off to Belgium though who snatched triumph from disaster and never gave up. In the history of World Cup football, this is one of the best comebacks ever.