The good, bad and ugly from the World Cup second round

Craig Forrest and James Sharman go over what should be a very unpredictable quarterfinals at the 2018 World Cup.

With the quarterfinals at the FIFA World Cup set to kick off on Friday, this is the perfect time to look back and pick out the best and worst moments from the second round…


Uruguay and Brazil: They are the last two South American sides standing for good reason – they both boast a stingy defence, have lethal attackers up front, and play with a sense of tactical balance. Uruguay was masterful in its win over Portugal, neutralizing Cristiano Ronaldo thanks to Diego Godin and his defensive cohorts, while Edinson Cavani supplied the goals. It took Brazil some time to break down Mexico, but it controlled the game against El Tri, and was never in serious danger of letting the match slip away.


Kylian Mbappe, France: The teenager scored two goals, including the match winner, and used his speed and acceleration to rip Argentina’s defence to shreds. At 19 years and six months, he became the second-youngest player to score at least two goals in a World Cup game, behind only Pele (at 17 years and eight months). His marvellous 70-yard run to glory, starting in his half and ending with him earning a penalty that led to France’s opening goal, was pure athleticism and speed, with a dash of confidence thrown in.


July 2 – Belgium 3, Japan 2 in Rostov: The Belgians bossed Japan for the opening 45 minutes in Rostov, stroking the ball around with confidence as they made their opponents chase in vain. But they paid for their lack of ruthlessness up front when Japan took a 2-0 advantage early in the second half against the run of play, marking the first time Belgium trailed at this World Cup. Roberto Martinez’s side dug in, and scored three unanswered goals – including a brilliantly orchestrated counterattack in injury time – to become the first team to come from two goals down to win a World Cup knockout match since West Germany did it against England in 1970.


June 30 – France 4, Argentina 3 in Kazan: In the 57th minute, France’s Lucas Hernandez played a cross to the far corner of the box. It was there that fullback Benjamin Pavard hit a thunderous half-volley shot that nestled into the far upper corner of the net to level the score at 2-2.


July 3 – Colombia 1, England 1 in Moscow: In the penalty shootout with the score tied 2-2 after four shots, Colombia’s Carlos Bacca stepped up to the spot in an attempt to give his country the lead and force England to score. Bacca went down the left with a powerful shot, but England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford turned it away, making a dive stop with his left hand.


July 1 – Spain 1, Russia 1 in Moscow: Russia was the World Cup’s lowest-ranked team — 70th when the tournament began — and few gave them much of a chance against Spain, even with the homefield advantage. And when Spain took an early lead through an own-goal, it looked like the rout was on. But the host nation didn’t wilt, and instead fought back and levelled the score before halftime. After that, the Russians defended as though their lives depended on it, thwarting and frustrating the pass-happy Spaniards at every turn, before pulling out an unlikely victory in a penalty shootout.

The FIFA World Cup in Russia runs from June 14 to July 15, and will have in-depth daily coverage.


No more Messi and Ronaldo: Argentina and Portugal were both eliminated on the same day within hours of one another. Lionel Messi will be 34 when the 2022 World Cup in Qatar rolls around, while Ronaldo will be 37. Neither of them have said whether or not they plan to continue to play international soccer. But considering their ages, and the huge demands they face with their pro clubs, that they’ve more than likely played in their last World Cup. What a shame.


July 1 – Croatia 1, Denmark 1 in Nizhny: Midfield maestro Luka Modric delivered a killer through ball for Ante Rebic that led to a penalty with five minutes left in extra time. Modric stepped up to the spot to take the penalty that almost surely would have sealed a win for the Croatians. Instead, Denmark’s Kasper Schmeichel made the save, and the game went to a penalty shootout. It was there that Modric once again stepped up to the spot, and this time he stroked his attempt past Schmeichel, and Croatia went on to win. Modric displayed great leadership and mental strength to take another spot kick after his earlier failed attempt. It was nice to see such a classy player come through for his country when it needed him most.


July 2 – Brazil 2, Mexico 0 in Samara: Neymar scored off a lovely setup from Willian to give Brazil a 1-0 lead early in the second half. He then turned provider, crossing for Robert Firmino who scored to seal victory for Brazil. But with 20 minutes left in regulation, Neymar writhed in exaggerated pain on the touchline after his right ankle was stepped on by Miguel Layun. There was barely anything in it, although it should have been called a foul. It wasn’t, and maybe that’s because the referee didn’t appreciate Neymar’s histrionics in trying to sell it as though Layun viciously stamped on his ankle. To see Neymar carry on as if his ankle was about to tear off from his leg was pure comedy.



At 39 years and 139 days, Mexico’s Rafael Marquez became the oldest outfield player to start a World Cup knockout match (against Brazil) since Stanley Matthews (39 years and 145 days) in 1954 for England versus Uruguay.


“We wasted a lot of time because of one single player. I think this is a real shame for football, especially for kids who are watching because this has to be a sport of virility, of determination, a man’s sport, like other games, and not a charade.” – Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio takes a shot at Neymar without calling him out by name.

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