After 15 days of triumphs, tears and controversy, the World Cup’s group stage drew to an in depth on Thursday.
Sixteen of the 32 groups groups that made it to Russia have been eradicated, together with the defending champions Germany and your complete African contingent made up of Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia.
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The remaining sixteen groups will now play knockout video games, that can take them nearer to the largest prize in soccer.
Right here, AFP Sport ranks the 16 groups to have made it via primarily based on their performances in Russia to date. Croatia, Belgium and Uruguay, who received all their group video games are main within the rankings whereas Lionel Messi’s Argentina, that scrapped via with one win, one draw and a humiliating loss towards Croatia are ranked 16.
Three wins out of three, together with a thumping of Argentina, sends Croatia via high of arguably the hardest group within the draw. Fears the corruption scandal would have an effect on the gamers haven’t materialised whereas Nikola Kalinic’s trace of revolt was swiftly handled. Luka Modric has been arguably the participant of the match to date.
Wins over Panama and Tunisia have been backed up by a victory over England and even when the latter match was performed between two second-string line-ups, Belgium have hardly put a foot mistaken. Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard are each firing and, after being rested towards England, contemporary. This workforce can go far.
Additionally via with most factors, Uruguay’s advance via a form Group A has gone quite unnoticed. Led by the imperious Diego Godin, they’re but to concede a aim in Russia and on the different finish, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani are up and operating. They’ve three objectives between them.
Neymar’s histrionics have confirmed tedious however the striker is getting sharper with each sport. As he has regained health, Philippe Coutinho and Paulinho have crammed the void whereas the depth of attacking choices got here up trumps towards Costa Rica. Marcelo’s again harm is a priority.
A younger squad arrived with low expectations however a late win over Tunisia was adopted by a storming 6-1 victory over Panama. Defeat to Belgium may be put all the way down to a closely rotated facet and with Harry Kane main the race for the Golden Boot, England are rising in confidence.
Few would have anticipated Sweden to progress in any respect not to mention end high of Group F. Solely Toni Kroos’ Ninety fifth-minute winner spoiled an unbeaten file and Sweden responded with an emphatic win over Mexico. What Sweden have misplaced in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, they seem to have gained in self-discipline and spirit.
They actually would have taken this place when Julen Lopetegui was sacked two days earlier than the beginning of the match however Spain have been a combined bag. In spells they have been wonderful towards Portugal however defensive errors and the worrying type of David de Gea are each huge asterisks. There may be room for enchancment.
On the one hand, Ronaldo has 4 objectives already and as Portugal proved two years in the past, he can take a workforce a great distance, notably with a sound defence behind him. However when Ronaldo missed a penalty towards Iran, they drew 1-1. If their star man has an off-day, what else have Portugal obtained?
Had Carlos Sanchez not been despatched off within the third minute of their opening defeat to Japan, Colombia could be amongst these thought of darkish horses within the knockout stage. James Rodriguez was excellent towards Poland however then compelled off injured towards Senegal. His absence can be an enormous blow.
A convincing defeat to Sweden has tempered expectations barely however Mexico confirmed sufficient of their opening two video games to recommend they could be a actual risk. They beat Germany 1-0 however ought to have scored 4 or 5 whereas Hirving Lozano on the left has been one of many gamers of the match to date.
They continue to be unbeaten however, save Germany, there isn’t a workforce to have disillusioned extra. Tactical upheaval and painfully ponderous performances recommend Didier Deschamps remains to be understanding the way to profit from his gifted squad. Is Nabil Fekir the reply? Out large or up entrance? France have extra questions than solutions.
A blistering begin, a powerful center and a discouraging finish. After thrilling wins over Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Russia have been dealt one thing of a actuality examine by Uruguay. However the hosts have confirmed their doubters mistaken and proven they are going to be no pushovers, notably in Moscow, the place they play Spain subsequent.
Controversy and the specter of suspensions may have diverted focus however Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri escaped punishment for his or her politically charged celebrations towards Serbia, and their objectives carried Switzerland via. They did simply sufficient however, in reality, not way more.
Denmark held France to a goalless draw and Christian Eriksen is constant to indicate himself as one of many most interesting playmakers on this planet. These are the positives. However there was additionally a turgid draw towards Australia and a win over Peru which may properly have been totally different had their opponents scored a penalty.
Japan took 4 factors and their solely win got here towards Colombia, who performed with 10 males for 87 minutes. They then scraped via forward of Senegal on truthful play factors. Maybe it could be harsh to say Japan have been fortunate however a shaky defence can solely final so lengthy towards higher opponents.
4 minutes away from going out and seemingly saddled with a coach with out authority, Argentina’s progress may hardly have been bumpier. They ran out of concepts towards Iceland, have been outplayed by Croatia and survived solely because of a last-gasp win over Nigeria. They’re via although, they usually nonetheless have Lionel Messi.
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