World Cup 2018: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric — what to savor from the final 16


However what can we count on from the remainder of the match? Will Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo meet within the quarterfinals and battle it out for supremacy on the best stage of all? Who’re the favorites and what have we realized from the final fortnight?

One factor is for certain: with simply 15 matches remaining, we should savor what’s to return.

Messi vs. Ronaldo on the horizon?

Maybe we’re getting too far forward of ourselves, we virtually actually are, however in seven days’ time soccer followers around the globe may very well be salivating over the prospect of Portugal versus Argentina within the quarterfinals which might, in fact, give us a showdown between Messi and Ronaldo.

What may very well be higher for the impartial than watching two of historical past’s best gamers going head-to-head on the largest stage of all?

For the winner, a spot within the semifinals, placing him two matches from a victory which might be the crowning glory of a celebrated profession. For the loser, the prospect of falling behind within the age-old debate of who’s the best: Ronaldo or Messi?

Ronaldo has scored four goals at Russia 2018

However a lot will occur earlier than such a beautiful situation may even be contemplated.

On Saturday, a so-far unimpressive Argentina should overcome a France workforce which has additionally underperformed.

The Argentines had been 5 minutes from elimination however reside on due to a late Marcos Rojo objective towards Nigeria in what was a must-win remaining group sport.

Rojo and Messi celebrate Argentina's late winner against Nigeria
This was imagined to be the World Cup the place Lionel Messi would carry his nation to victory, cementing his place alongside otherworldly World Cup winners resembling Pele and Diego Maradona.
Messi scored an exquisite objective towards the Nigerians, however neither he or his teammates have shone on this match. Certainly, the Barcelona star missed a penalty towards Iceland, and was nameless as Argentina crumbled to a historic 3-0 defeat by Croatia.

However maybe Argentina’s dramatic last-gasp qualification may have given Messi and co perception as they put together to face a France workforce which, as one of many pre-tournament favorites, has didn’t impress.

The French, Euro 2016 finalists, have performed largely defensive opponents to date, which suggests a defensively frail Argentina may very well be the foes they should face kick begin their marketing campaign.

The workforce which beat France to be topped European Champion was, in fact, Portugal. Then, like now, the Portuguese had been impressed by Ronaldo, scorer of 4 targets to date on this match.

The Actual Madrid star has already damaged data in Russia — his hattrick against Spain made him the primary man to attain in eight consecutive main tournaments and solely the fourth to attain in 4 separate World Cups.

Portugal faces Uruguay on Saturday, a workforce with Barcelona’s Luis Suarez and PSG’s Edison Cavani main the road, and with each groups historically proving to be stubborn opponents, it may very well be a match the place one slip proves expensive.

Regardless of the consequence, Saturday’s last-16 ties will present us with a quarterfinal to not be missed.

Saturday, June 30: France vs. Argentina (15:00 BST); Uruguay vs. Portugal (19:00 BST)

Sunday, July 1: Spain vs. Russia (15:00 BST); Croatia vs. Denmark (19:00 BST)

Will Coutinho proceed to outshine Neymar?

Neymar has scored one goal and provided one assist so far in this tournament

Neymar, the world’s most costly footballer, was dominated out of the World Cup 4 years in the past after breaking a bone in his again within the quarterfinals and damage has additionally considerably hampered his match in Russia.

His first aggressive outing since breaking a bone in his proper foot in February was towards Switzerland in Brazil’s opening match and so a little bit of rustiness from the 26-year-old ought to maybe be anticipated.

Although he has not been excellent, the Paris Saint-Germain star has however performed his half in Brazil’s progress to the final 16, scoring within the 2-0 win over Costa Rica and offering an help in victory over Serbia.

However it’s Barcelona’s Philippe Coutinho, the third most costly participant in historical past, who has caught the attention for the five-time champions.

He scored a surprising objective from distance within the 1-1 draw against Switzerland and, due to great steadiness, talent and management, has emerged from Neymar’s shadow in his nation’s opening three video games.

Fifth in FIFA’s fantasy soccer rankings with 20 factors, Coutinho has been straight concerned in three of Brazil’s 4 targets and the South Individuals will want the previous Liverpool playmaker to proceed to shine if the Selecao are to see off Mexico on the Samara Area on Monday, July 2.

Modric and Croatia impress

Vying with Coutinho for the title of greatest midfielder on the World Cup is Croatia captain Luka Modric. The Actual Madrid star has been his nation’s totem of their unbeaten run to the final 16.

Certainly, the Croats are one among three groups, together with Belgium and Uruguay, to have gained all three of their group video games. Three victories, with merely one objective conceded, in a gaggle that includes Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland is not any imply feat.

The standout efficiency, in fact, was the 3-Zero thumping of Argentina and Modric’s luxurious objective — no Croat has scored as many targets from outdoors field because the midfielder — was one to recollect.

Modric is "from another planet" says his teammate Rakitic

In his three matches, the 32-year-old has scored twice and made 143 passes, and Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic, who alongside Modric kinds Croatia’s all-star midfield, has informed reporters that his teammate is “from one other planet.”

Croatia are many individuals’s favorites to progress to the quarterfinals from Sunday’s last-16 match with Denmark in Novgorod, however the Danes additionally possess a tremendous midfielder in Christian Eriksen and are unbeaten in 18 matches.

Nonetheless, the final participant to attain a World Cup objective within the knockout levels for Denmark was Brian Laudrup in 1998.

Croatia’s Milan Badelj, man of the match towards Iceland, echoes many individuals’s ideas on the tie. “It is going to be a tricky match, however I imagine that we have now sufficient high quality to achieve the quarterfinals,” he informed reporters.

Will England rue not profitable the match ‘no one needed to win’?

Each Belgium and England had secured qualification earlier than their remaining Group G encounter on Thursday, courtesy of victories towards Panama and Tunisia.

A lot speak earlier than the group finale targeted on whether or not profitable the match, and subsequently topping the group, could be detrimental to either side’s hopes of progressing to the latter levels, being that one half of the draw appears to supply kinder hypothetical fixtures.

That was earlier than Japan progressed as Group H runners up — eliminating Senegal on the honest play rule within the course of — and Colombia topped the group after a 1-Zero win over the Senegalese.

Belgium’s 1-Zero win over England means the Purple Devils prime the group and can face Japan, at the moment 61st in FIFA’s world rankings, whereas England now put together to face Colombia, ranked 26th on the earth, and quarter finalists 4 years in the past.

Ought to Gareth Southgate’s males beat Colombia, they’ll admittedly have a better quarterfinal than the victors of Belgium versus Japan — Sweden or Switzerland, versus Brazil or Mexico.

However being that England has solely gained six knockout matches at main tournaments since 1966 — the final knockout win at a significant match coming on the 2006 World Cup — maybe, on reflection, going full throttle towards Belgium for the prospect to play Japan would have been wiser. However we’ll discover out on Tuesday, July 3, when the Three Lions tackle Colombia in Moscow.

Monday, July 2: Brazil vs. Mexico (15:00 BST); Belgium vs. Japan (19:00 BST)

Tuesday, July 3: Sweden vs. Switzerland (15:00); Colombia vs. England (19:00 BST)

Time to say a tragic farewell…

Senegal created a chunk of undesirable historical past, changing into the primary workforce to be eradicated from the World Cup on the honest play rule.

Degree with Japan on factors, objective distinction and head-to-head after three video games, Senegal left the competitors after having amassed two extra yellow playing cards than Japan.

It was a merciless method to depart the match, although Senegal’s coach Aliou Cisse, the youngest and solely black coach on the match, stated his workforce should “respect” FIFA’s guidelines.

Senegal’s departure, nevertheless, means there will probably be no extra fist pump celebrations from Cisse, which went viral on social media, tales of Senegal’s fans cleaning up at stadiums and footage of the workforce joyously warming up.

The top of the group levels additionally means we have now seen the final of Egypt’s Mo Salah, a person who a lot was anticipated of however whose shoulder damage sustained within the Champions League remaining had a significant influence on his workforce’s fortunes.

And, in fact, the German squad has already flown dwelling after failing to progress from a gaggle which included Sweden, Mexico and South Korea.

“I do not know if is the darkest second for German soccer however it’s positively a really black one,” midfielder Toni Kroos informed reporters.

However Germany’s departure means a brand new champion will probably be topped and, even with out the Germans, there may be nonetheless a lot to stay up for.

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