Russia 2018 Watch: Looking forward to the last 16
PUBLISHED: 10:43 30 June 2018 | UPDATED: 10:43 30 June 2018
Read our World Cup blog over the coming weeks. Lee Power previews the second round of matches
Russia 2018 Watch: Last-16 predictions
After a group stage of 48 matches, 122 goals, endless VAR controversies and one huge shock (holders Germany being knocked out at the first stage for the first time in 80 years), what can we expect from the next eight matches over the coming days?
The draw for the last 16 has certainly thrown up some intriguing ties and plenty of argument over which is the better half of the draw to find yourself in.
Here’s a quick look at what comes next and who might do what.
Saturday June 30
France v Argentina, 3pm
The French eased through with minimal fuss after back-to-back wins over Australia and Peru, although their soulless 0-0 draw with fellow qualifiers Denmark left a lot to be desired.
But Argentina needed an 86th minute winner from Marcos Rojo – after a stunning opener from Lionel Messi – to beat Nigeria and ensure their progress behind Croatia.
France appears to have the better defence, but anything is possible with maestro Messi. Argentina to win on penalties.
Uruguay v Portugal, 7pm
Three successive wins, no goals conceded gives Luis Suarez’s Uruguay one of only three 100 per cent records to this point.
Euro 2016 champions Portugal snatched a late opening draw with Spain, scraped past Morocco and were held by Iran. Can Ronaldo carry them into the last eight? More tears for Cristiano?
Sunday July 1
Spain v Russia, 3pm
Big Diego Costa has looked a handful for the Spanish, who lost their manager on the eve of the tournament and then had a scare before claiming their only group win against Iran. The hosts raced through with two big wins before falling to earth against Uruguay. Can they bounce back? Spain by one goal.
Croatia v Denmark, 7pm
Luka Modric has inspired Croatia to three straight wins, outscoring their group rivals 7-1 in the process, while the dogged Danes collecting five points despite only scoring twice, progressing with a pair of draws after beating Peru by a single goal in their opener. Croatia to keep run going.
Monday July 2, 3pm
Brazil v Mexico
Still smarting from their 2014 semi-final humiliation at the hands of Germany on home turf, Brazil managed back-to-back 2-0 wins over Costa Rica – only after two injury-time goals – and Serbia, having been held by the Swiss.
Mexico, meanwhile, upset the holders in their opener and saw off South Korea to secure progress, before a heavy loss to Sweden and could make life difficult for the favourites. Brazil, just.
Belgium v Japan, 7pm
Three successive wins and the best goal difference (plus seven) gave Belgium’s dark horses the best group-phase record. And their bigger stars should be nicely rested having missed the ‘reserve-team match’ with England in Kaliningrad on Thursday.
Japan’s form has declined throughout the tournament as they won their opener against Colombia, drew with Senegal, then lost to already-eliminated Poland, but squeezed through on having fewer bookings than the Senegalese. Too much muscle from Brussels.
Tuesday July 3
Sweden v Switzerland, 3pm
Two penalties from cool captain Andreas Granqvist helped secure wins as the efficient Swedes topped their group, despite losing to Germany.
The Swiss held Brazil and beat Serbia thanks to a last-minute goal from Xherdan Shaqiri – who got into trouble for his celebrations – but were denied by an injury-time Costa Rica equaliser. Right time for Swiss.
Colombia v England, 7pm
After losing to Japan, the Colombians saw off Poland and Senegal to top their group with centre-back Yerry Mina on target with headers from corners in both wins, but have failed to beat England in five previous meetings (two draws, three losses).
Harry Kane’s injury-time header saw off Tunisia, before a hat-trick helped demolish Panama 6-1 to secure a last-16 spot with a game to spare and give him the lead in the race for the golden boot. A much-changed side lost accidentally on purpose to Belgium but ended up in the ‘easier’ half of the draw apparently. It’s coming home.
Predicted quarter-finalists: Argentina, Uruguay, Spain, Croatia, Brazil, Belgium, Switzerland, England.
We shall see.