World Cup Round-Up: Last 16 Half-way Point Update
France and Argentina kicked off the last 16 of the 2018 World Cup in thrilling fashion, with dynamic forward Kylian Mbappe lighting up the game with raw pace and power. The PSG teenager won a penalty for his side after Marcos Rojo blighted his electric 75-yard goalbound run, and Antoine Griezmann stepped up to convert coolly from the spot. Angel di Maria equalised shortly before half-time with an audacious effort from 30 yards out, before a Gabriel Mercado deflection from a Lionel Messi shot left Hugo Lloris wanting. Benjamin Pavard made it 2-2 with a fantastic half-volley, and then Mbappe scored twice in quick succession to send the Argentinians down and out. Sergio Aguero headed a late consolation in stoppage time to make it 4-3, but it wasn’t enough to see Messi and Co. progress to the quarter-finals. No controversial celebrations from Diego Maradona this time.
Uruguay will face the French in the quarter-finals after overcoming Portugal by two goals to one, with Edinson Cavani at the double either side of a Pepe header. Cavani’s first finished off a beautiful cross-field one-two with Luis Suarez, and the South Americans look to have seriously got going this summer. The result meant that both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo exited the World Cup on the same day, with the international futures of both players now in doubt.
Spain were thrown out by Russia on penalties after they struggled to find a way through the hosts’ defence throughout the game despite an own goal from Sergei Ignashevich, who seemingly attempted a rugby tackle on Sergio Ramos before bundling the ball into his own net. Artem Dzyuba equalised from the spot after a Gerard Pique handball to make it 1-1, but it was goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev who went on to become the hero for the hosts, saving penalties from Koke and Iago Aspas.
Croatia secured a quarter-final face-off with the hosts after securing the second victory via penalties of the day and the tournament, Ivan Rakitic proving the match-winner against Denmark after Luka Modric had missed a penalty nearing the end of extra-time. Mathias Jorgensen, who incidentally gave away said penalty, opened the scoring within a minute before Mario Mandzukic levelled within four, but there were no goals for the remaining 116 minutes of open play before Croatia won the knockout game with three penalties to two. Domagoj Vida’s name has been mentioned by reports in Russia with regards to a player plus cash deal including Davy Klaassen between Everton and Besiktas, and the centre-back put in another solid performance for the Croats.
Sweden and Switzerland will face off in Russia tomorrow before England and Colombia clash later on, the winners of each match going on to face each other in the quarter-final this weekend.