The 2018 FIFA World Cup Round Of 16 is here and we’ve got nail-biting, jaw-dropping and mouth-watering clashes lined up.
The group stage saw some mighty exits (looking at you, Germany) and the fact that known heavyweights like Italy and Netherlands didn’t qualify at all, gave minnows like Sweden and Japan to make a mark of their own in the knockout stages.
But hey, can they defeat the giants they’re paired up against? Let’s analyse all the clashes of the FIFA World Cup Round Of 16:
#1. Argentina vs France:
OH, WHAT A STARTER!
The first match of the knockout stages is bound to be a cracker when you’ve got a South American heavyweight against a European one.
Argentina have been jittery but when you have a top-heavy team, scoring goals is something they CAN do (even if they haven’t done much of it, so far).
On the other side, the current French side comes brimming with confidence after decent performances in the group, thanks to their sturdy defence and dependable attack.
Expect a tight game with attacking flair and end to end play in this clash of the titans.
#2. Uruguay vs Portugal:
Another clutch fixture with plenty of attacking firepower. On one side, you’ve got the world’s most famous biter and a relatively dependable striker (Luis Suarez) and on the other side, you’ve got one of the 2 best players in the world (Cristiano Ronaldo).
This is the 2nd fixture out of the 4 in total (out of 8, overall) that has a South American team going against a European one. Expect plenty of direct attacking football in this one!
#3. Russia vs Spain:
Russia lost their spark in the final group stage game and might look as the underdog hosts but Spain hasn’t been essentially walking on a bed of roses, as they struggled to a 2-2 draw against Morocco in their final group fixture.
I’m billing this as a cagey fixture, with the midfield of the 2 sides being the defining factor.
#4. Denmark vs Croatia:
Another all-European clash, this one. Denmark with their heavy reliance on Christian Eriksen have made it to the round of 16.
Whereas the golden generation of Croatia have proven their mettle by defeating pre-tournament favourites Argentina in a convincing 3-0 victory with a brilliant midfield.
Can Croatia continue their journey to glory, further?
#5. Mexico vs Brazil:
The battle of the South American bragging rights, if at all. Brazil have shown their resilience after the first game and won 2 of their next fixtures, as their star midfielder Coutinho has been in inspiring form.
Mexico have had glory of their own, as they defeated reigning world champions Germany in their opening fixture.
Flair, poise, REALLY creative and attacking football is bound to be exhibited, especially when Brazil’s main man Neymar and the ever-so-brilliant Coutinho are in top gear.
#6. Japan vs Belgium:
The underdogs vs the elite underdogs defines Japan vs Belgium, respectively.
The world cup round of 16 has been relatively kind to the second bracket teams as compared to the first bracket teams and Belgium have been in good form, evident by the display of their star attacking midfielders Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne as well as striker Romelu Lukaku.
As for their Asian opponents who managed to beat a feisty Colombian side, Japan will rely on their big names like Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa as both of them have scored vital goals.
#7. Sweden vs Switzerland:
A Zlatan-less Sweden has surprisingly made it to the World Cup Round Of 16 and they’ve been teamed up against an inspired Switzerland team, which drew 1-1 with Brazil and came from behind to triumph 2-1 against Serbia.
Sweden recorded a 1-0 victory against South Korea, were defeated by Germany thanks to a brilliant Toni Kroos free kick in stoppage time but they went into top gear and defeated Mexico 3-0 and qualified for the knockouts.
Both the teams play an attacking brand of football and have a midfield-reliant lineup. This match of the minnows might just prove to be a surprise highlight in this World Cup.
#8. England vs Colombia:
Europe vs South America, again. A direct attack based English side going against a fiery and creative Colombian side, this match will be a cagey affair.
England are yet to make a mark on the big stage whereas Colombia, led by an inspired James Rodriguez and his 6 goals romped their way to the quarter-finals in the 2014 World Cup.
Can this cross-continental affair prove to be a delight for the spectators? We’ll find out, soon!
Watch this space for more exclusive coverage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup!
Let the games begin!
Image Credits: Google Images
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