Published on 9 Dec 2022 3:00 pm (UK Time)
After a group stage of upsets, the round of 16 follows as the underdogs take their shots at glory for a chance at a quarter-finals position.
Netherlands 3-1 USA
The Netherlands booked their place in the quarter-finals, as they managed to see off a young, energetic USA team, that proved tricky customers at points for the Dutch.
It did not take long for the scoring to open in this game, as Memphis Depay benefited from Denzel Dumfries’ cross, making it 1-0 in the 10th minute. Dumfries was once again the man pulling the strings, with Daley Blind this time profiting from his neatly picked-out ball across the box, doubling the Netherlands lead on the stroke of halftime.
The USA however, did give the Dutch something to think about, when Haji Wright scored a cutback provided by Christian Pulisic, making the contest 2-1 in the 76th minute.
But Denzel Dumfries refused to give up, as Daley Blind this time put the ball on a plate for his teammate, sending the crowd into elation as they knew they were heading through to the quarter-finals.
Next up the Dutch face off against Argentina and will once again need their finishing boots on if they are to progress to the semi-finals. A game where Holland’s wingbacks will be key in both the attacking and defensive areas and will be vital for success.
Argentina 2-1 Australia
Australia came into the round of 16 as severe underdogs, against an Argentina side containing some of the most elite talents in world football.
With relatively no goalscoring opportunities presented in the first half, Lionel Messi, as he always does, popped up when a loose ball broke his way inside the box, guiding it through a crowded area into the far corner and giving Argentina a precious lead.
Australia however shot themselves in the foot, as goalkeeper Matt Ryan’s first touch took him head-first into an Argentinian high press, which saw Julian Alvarez pounce on a glorious opportunity to compound Australia’s problems.
But Australia did not lie down in dejection after this moment, as a considerable slice of fortune went their way from a wayward effort by Matt Goodwin, taking a cruel deflection off Enzo Fernandez, landing in the Argentinian goal.
A flurry of late chances for both sides saw Argentina’s Lautaro Martinez miss two glorious chances, while Australia’s Garang Kuol and Aziz Behich also both missed opportunities to equalise late on.
Next up for Argentina is the Netherlands, where once again they will look to their phenomenon Lionel Messi to be the potent man up front, alongside youngster Julian Alvarez. Argentina will likely dominate a large portion of the possession in this affair and will need to be wary of the Netherlands’ dangers in transitions to progress to the semi-finals.
Japan 1-1 Croatia (1-3 on pens)
Japan agonisingly was knocked out of the tournament by Croatia on penalties, after a historic group stage run to the round of 16.
The first half was closely contested, with Japan edging the half through a late goal in the 43rd minute, as Daizen Maeda pounced on a loose ball in the penalty area. A neatly worked freekick that Croatia failed to deal with, sending them 1-0 down on the stroke of halftime.
A lower energy second-half performance saw Japan concede early on in the second half, as they failed to close down a deep cross into the box that Ivan Perisic powerfully guided into the far corner, leveling the scores.
Neither team was able to find a winning goal after extra time, causing the first penalty shootout of the tournament.
Japan however could not find the back of the net from their spot kicks, only scoring one of the four that they took, with Croatia netting three of their four, sending them through to the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
Next up for Croatia is the task of defeating Brazil, a game that they will be heavy underdogs to progress through. Croatia will need to stay disciplined and look to frustrate the tricky Brazilians, as Croatia will be able to utilise their own quality in forward areas to exploit the defensive risks that Brazil takes in the attack.
Brazil 4-1 South Korea
Brazil eased through to the quarter-finals of the competition, as a naive South Korean side was punished when trying to take the game to Brazil, leaving themselves open in transitions from attack to defense.
Raphinha started off the game in sensational fashion, as his dazzling footwork started off a move of slick passing that opened up the South Korean defense. Raphinha received the ball back on the edge of the box, drove inside the penalty area, and picked out Vinicius Junior, who kept a cool head and caressed the ball into the top corner, giving the Brazilians the lead just seven minutes into the game.
It did not take long for the Brazilians to threaten their opponents, as Richarlison was brought down in the area, winning a penalty for Brazil. A penalty that was cooly converted by Neymar, passing it into an empty net and making the goalkeeper jump in the opposite direction.
The scoring bonanza did not stop, as Brazil scored their third in the 29th minute through a stunningly satisfying move that was a serious contender for the goal of the tournament. The move began when Richarlison controlled the ball with his head, bringing the ball down and releasing it to Marquinhos. A slick exchange between Marquinhos and Thiago Silva saw Richarlioson’s oncoming run met, where he rolled the ball past Seung-Gyu Kim, to make it 3-0.
The fourth came shortly after this in the 36th minute, with Lucas Paqueta arriving late in the penalty area to meet Vinicius Jr.’s incoming dinked ball. A cross that he made a strong connection with, placing it in the far corner and beyond the goalkeeper’s reach.
South Korea replied with a stunning half volley by Seung-Ho Paik, which flew into the top right corner, giving the fans something to take away from a game that ultimately was a one-sided beatdown.
As Brazil commence into the quarter-finals they face a formidable assignment in Croatia. This will be Brazil’s biggest test yet, as they face last World Cup’s runners-up, albeit a slightly different side in this tournament.
England 3-0 Senegal
England raise eyebrows as they comfortably dealt with their toughest challenge in the form of the 2021 African Cup Of Nations champions, Senegal.
England started this affair flat in possession, conceding sloppy counterattacks, however, the speed of play changed for England, as they began to move the ball around much quicker. This led to the opening goal of the match, as a quick and direct passing sequence ended with Jude Bellingham picking out Jordan Henderson’s run into the box, guiding it into the far corner of the net.
A counterattack by England on the stroke of halftime resulted in Phil Foden playing Harry Kane through on the net, drilling it across the keeper to double England’s lead.
The quick pace of England’s play carried into the early parts of the second half, as Phil Foden skipped beyond Youssouf Sabaly’s sliding challenge, playing the ball through the legs of Kalidou Koulibaly and laying the ball on a plate for Bukayo Saka to dink beyond Edouard Mendy for England’s third of the game.
Comfortably progressing into the quarter-finals, England faces the reigning champions, as they take on France in the next stage of the competition. This a challenge that will test the ability of this England side, seeing how they will cope defensively against the likes of Kylian Mbappe.
France 3-1 Poland
Kylian Mbappe was the star for France in their matchup against Poland in the round of 16, as he became the tournaments leading goalscorer after scoring a brace.
The scoring in this affair opened up in the 44th minute when Mbappe was at the heart of a French attack, sliding the ball through to Olivier Giroud, who smashed it across the goalkeeper.
Ousmane Dembele then found Mbappe in acres of space out on the left-hand side of the box, where he took his time and drilled it into the roof of the net, sending France into a dominant 2-0 lead. Mbappe then found the top corner of the net in style in the first minute of added time, ceiling France’s qualification into the quarter-finals.
However, Poland did get a consolation late on, with Robert Lewandowski executing a penalty to give the Poland fans a moment to savour in a match where they were largely dominated by the French.
Next up for France will be their biggest test yet, as they face an England side who look confident and dangerous in attacking areas, an area the French have not been severely tested in so far. But France will look to exploit England themselves, through the pace and trickery of Dembele and Mbappe in wide areas.
Morocco 0-0 Spain (3-0 on pens)
Morocco headed into their clash with Spain undefeated, as their defensive structure has paid dividends for them this tournament.
Spain was the dominant force in this game, holding the possession, and trying to strangle the Moroccan team into submission through lengthy spells of possession. However, Morocco kept their nerve and picked their moments to counterattack on the Spanish.
This style of the game ultimately left the game goalless after 120 minutes of football had been played. With no clear winner in both full time and extra time, the fate of both sides was left down to a penalty shootout.
Spain was still the favourite to advance through to the next stage of the competition regardless of the ambiguous nature of a penalty shootout. But it noticeably began to go wrong for the Spaniards when Pablo Sarabia missed his first spot kick, instantly sending Morocco into the advantage. The beginning of a shootout to forget for Spain, as they continued on to miss every penalty that they took, with Morocco dispatching three of their four taken, sending an eruption through North Africa as they qualified through to the quarter-finals.
Morocco will play Portugal in the quarter-final where once again they will look to frustrate their opponents through a strong defensive performance, living off moments where they can counterattack. A game they will be heavy underdogs to progress through, however will not be an easy task for Portugal.
Portugal 6-1 Switzerland
Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo was surprisingly left on the bench for their round of 16 game against Switzerland, after starting all three of Portugal’s group-stage games.
Goncalo Ramos started off the scoring for Portugal, as he belted the ball from a tight angle into the roof of Yan Sommer’s goal. The second of the game was scored by legendary centre-back Pepe, as a cross in from a corner met the path of his run into the six-yard box, sending the ball crashing into the back of the net.
The third of the game came after Diogo Dalot squared up Ruben Vargas and sent an inviting ball across the area that Ramos cooly finished through the legs of the goalkeeper. Ramos again was at the heart of another Portugal goal, setting up Raphael Guerreiro to fire home a fourth of the game, capitalising on Switzerland’s poor defensive shape.
Manuel Akanji was able to pull one back for the Swiss, as he profited from his back post run to give Switzerland a lifeline. But Switzerland again was caught out defensively, as Ramos sealed his hattrick after Joao Felix had slotted him through on goal. The last of the goalscoring in this game was done by substitute Rafael Leao, as he made an instant impact by curling a gloriously weighted shot into the top corner to make it 6-1.
Portugal made a significant blow to Switzerland in this game, sending shockwaves through the rest of the tournament. Next up on Portugal’s agenda will be a Moroccan side that will not be as easily broken down as the Swiss and will try to cause problems for the Portuguese in transitions. A game Portugal will be expected to come out of the other side in, however the same was said for the Spanish side that Morocco upset in the round of 16.