With the knockout round at the FIFA World Cup set to kick off on Tuesday, this is the perfect time to look back and pick out the best and worst moments from the quarterfinals…
France: Les Bleus dominated proceedings against a defensively stingy Uruguay, with N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba teaming up to overpower and thwart the South Americans in central midfield, while Antoine Griezmann gave their defence plenty of fits with his deft movement both with and without the ball. This was a controlled and rock solid performance by France, who were facing questions about its toughness, and whether it could hang with a physically robust side such as Uruguay. The French emphatically erased those doubts, and moved one step closer to reaching their first World Cup final in 12 years.
Luka Modric, Croatia: Real Madrid’s midfield maestro continued his string of excellent performances in Russia with a man-of-the-match effort in Croatia’s dramatic win over the host nation. Modric had a hand in setting up Croatia’s extra time goal, converted from the penalty spot in the shootout, and worked his socks off in orchestrating his team’s attack over 120 minutes.
July 6 – Brazil 1, Belgium 2 in Kazan: A return trip to the World Cup semifinals for the first time in 32 years was Belgium’s just reward after a fabulous display against Brazil. The Red Devils jumped out to a first-half lead, thanks in large part to their exemplary counter-attack, and then defended for their lives after halftime – riding their luck at times along the way – to send the Brazilians packing and set up a tasty final four showdown against France in Saint Petersburg.
July 7 – Russia 2, Croatia 2 in Sochi: In the 31st minute, Denis Cheryshev played a tidy give-and-go with Artem Dzyuba, took a few touches and then unleashed a rocket of a shot from 25 yards out that beat Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic inside the near post to give Russia a 1-0 lead.
July 7 – Sweden 0, England 2 in Samara: In the 47th minute, a high cross from the left flank is delivered into the box at the far post where Sweden’s Marcus Berg rise over England’s Ashley Young to connect on a powerful header. Jordan Pickford quickly leapt into action, diving to his left and parrying the attempt away with his left hand.
Full credit to England. They were completely dominant and fully deserving of their victory. But Sweden looked completely lifeless in limping to a disappointing 2-0 loss to the Three Lions. Much was expected of the Swedes after they hammered Mexico 3-0 to win their group, and then bested a tough Switzerland side in the first knockout round. Instead, they fall completely flat, and never threatened to put England under any serious danger.
BIGGEST FLOP PLAYER
Flop is a bit strong, but there’s no question that Neymar flattered to deceive in Brazil’s 2-1 loss to Belgium. This was a massive match for the Brazilians, who were looking to make amends at the World Cup after their infamous 7-1 loss to Germany on home soil four years ago. Neymar showed plenty of pace against the Belgians, but no final product in front of goal. At times, he looked far more interested in trying to win fouls than try to create something in the final third of the pitch.
The celebration from Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović after Domagoj Vida’s goal against Russia in extra time was priceless – and, ultimately, short-lived.
July 6 – Uruguay 0, France 2 in Nizhny: France’s Antoine Griezmann consoling Uruguay’s Diego Godin after the game. Not only are they teammates at Atletico Madrid, but Godin is the godfather to Griezmann’s daughter Mia.
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) July 6, 2018
France is only the second team to beat three different South American nations in a single World Cup tournament, after the Netherlands in 1974.
“Randomness happened and it was cruel to us. It was hard to swallow.” – Brazil coach Tite