Things are starting to come together in the first knockout round of the FIFA World Cup 2018. This round has been absolutely amazing. We have already seen multiple games go to penalty kicks. We have seen Russia put a second goal into its own net. The only team to have done so twice. We say goodbye to mega superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. We saw Neymar roll around in absolute agony….twice, making the internet laugh its ass off.
France wins 4-3 over Argentina…..France jumped out with a penalty kick score. At the 40′ mark Argentina tied it up with a long boot into the goal. Seven minutes later, Lionel Messi, had a ball redirected and Argentina took the lead. Things were getting exciting as it seemed Argentina really had turned around. Then France went bananas and scored goals at the 56′ 63′ & 67′ marks to take a 4-2 lead and pretty much stamp the win. It really was an incredible run for a France team that had only scored a total of THREE GOALS in the opening division round. Argentina tacked on a goal in extra time to make it 4-3 and literally gave them a shot as they got one final great attempt that would have tied it but to no avail.
Uruguay beats Portugal 2-1…..This was a lot more even of a game than the average fan would have given credit. At the 6′ mark Edinson Cavani, one of the best goal scorers in the world headed a goal in to set the tone very early. It really was an amazing header as he was the only Uruguay player there and he flew through the air to get to it. It was not a set header. After halftime, at the 54′ mark, Portugal tied the game on a Pepe header from a corner kick scenario. Then at the 61′ mark, Cavani put in his second goal. A magnificent bender crossing his body. Cavani got hurt in the game and came out at the 70′ mark. It was a sportsmanship moment as Ronaldo helped walk Cavani off the field. Portugal had one last kick at the net at the 94′ mark but it was blocked and Uruguay advances!
Russia beats Spain in a 1-1 (4-3 Russia PK)…..It didn’t look good for Russia when at the 11′ mark while tackling superstar Sergio Ramos, the ball actually goes off the Russian player’s leg and into Russia’s own net. That made the game 1-0 Spain. Then in another “fluky” play, a Russian header hit a Spain player in the arm getting a “handball” call in the box and a penalty kick. That penalty kick made allowed for a 1-1 tie. They went into extra time and no winner would step forward. So the two teams went into penalty kicks. They each made their first two penalties. Spain then had their third attempt blocked by Russia. And even though Spain made their fourth, their final kick was also blocked…victory Russia!
Croatia beats Denmark in a 1-1 (3-2 Croatia PK)…..This was a very even matchup with no clear-cut favorite. Denmark basically lucked out, and in the first minute got a goal from a scramble of a loose ball in front of the Croatia net. Right before the 4′ mark, Croatia tied the game. Then….no goals for the rest of the 90 minutes! Until the 113′ mark in extra time when Luka Modrić did an incredible dribble around the goalie and was ready to score, but was tackled from behind in the box. It lead to a penalty kick to win the game that Modrić missed. They went to penalty kicks. Right off the bat, Croatia blocked the first attempt. Denmark then blocked Croatia’s first attempt. Each team then made two goals. Croatia then blocked Denmark’s fourth attempt. Denmark then replied with a block itself. It came down to the fifth and final kicks. If you can believe it, Denmark missed its final kick and Croatia didn’t. Game over. The win for Croatia.
Brazil quiets Mexico 2-0…..The game was surprisingly scoreless for a while, even though Brazil was all over Mexico. However, at the 50′ mark Neymar put in a nice centered pass as he had to slide far to stab the ball into the net. At about the 88′ mark, Neymar drove it down the throat at the goal and sent a centered pass that ended the game at 2-0. That was that and the Mexico story was over.
Belgium has to come from way behind but does 3-2 over Japan…..On paper, this was as lopsided a matchup there was in this round. But that is why they actually play the games. And boy was Japan fiesty. At the 47′ mark Japan put in the game’s first goal off of a nice long pass. Then right after that goal, Japan put in another goal with a super boot from far away. Japan is up 2-0 and everyone is shocked! But Belgium would not and could not be denied. They showed heart and did not panic. At the 69′ mark, One of the most incredible headers you will ever see was scored from very far away. It was no ordinary header. It was like a rainbow that probably wasn’t even really an attempt at a goal as much as it was a pass itself. Then at the 73′ mark, Belgium scored another goal to tie it with a header. This may have been the most exciting game of the round. At the 85′ mark Belgium had a chance to score again twice, with two back to back headers that were blocked by Japan, but was quite exciting. The bad news for Japan came in extra time at about the 94′ mark with Belgium pressing and scoring the game-winning goal with some very smooth passing, and an easy place in. Japan gave it their best, but Belgium just outclassed them.
*****As of posting this article, Sweden beat Switzerland 1-0 in what wasn’t exactly the most exciting game. The final game of this round is England vs. Colombia and will be played later today at 2 PM.*****
So, as it stacks up for the next round, you have Uruguay vs. France. Brazil vs. Belgium. Russia vs. Croatia, and Sweden vs. the winner of England / Colombia.