Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
The 2018 World Cup moves from the group stages to the first round of knockout matches this week as the tournament in Russia really starts to take shape. After one of the most dramatic World Cup group stages in living memory, sixteen teams have emerged from the eight four-team sections to take their place in the do-or-die next round.
Of course, we are guaranteed to have a new World Cup champion this year after current holders Germany unexpectedly crashed out of Group F. The unpredictable nature of the tournament so far will have given each nation in the Last 16 an enormous surge in confidence. With the extra flow of self-belief pushing performances to higher levels, the remaining teams will be convinced that qualifying for the latter rounds of the World Cup is a real possibility.
Let’s take a closer look at the fixtures, dates and information you need to know ahead of the 2018 World Cup Last 16.
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World Cup 2018: Last 16 Guide
The eight last-16 fixtures will be played from Friday 30 June to Tuesday 3 July. On each day of the schedule, one match will kick-off at 3pm UK time and one match later on at 7pm.
Nations that have reached the Last 16 of World Cup 2018
- Uruguay (winners of Group A)
- Russia (runners-up in Group A)
- Spain (winners of Group B)
- Portugal (runners-up in Group B)
- France (winners of Group C)
- Denmark (runners-up in Group C)
- Croatia (winners of Group D)
- Argentina (runners-up in Group D)
- Brazil (winners in Group E)
- Switzerland (runners-up in Group E)
- Sweden (winners in Group F)
- Mexico (runners-up in Group F)
- Belgium (winners in Group G)
- England (runners-up in Group G)
- Colombia (winners in Group H)
- Japan (runners-up in Group H)
France vs Argentina – Saturday June 30 – 3pm kick-off – Kazan
In arguably the tie of the round, two former World Cup winners, France and Argentina, face off in Kazan for a place in the Quarter Finals. Although Dider Deschamps guided France to top spot in Group C, Les Bleus looked a little flat in their trio of fixtures, finding the net just three times in total.
Argentina needed a late Marcos Rojo goal in game three of Group D to see off Nigeria and make the knock-out stages. With the Argentine squad in open revolt against Coach Jorge Sampaoli, their performances have been underwhelming at best. Nevertheless, any team that counts Lionel Messi among their number cannot be underestimated.
It’s worth noting that France have never beaten Argentina in five previous meetings with them since 1930, though the Albiceleste will still come into the Last 16 contest as heavy underdogs.
Uruguay vs Portugal – Saturday June 30 – 7pm kick-off – Sochi
Uruguay are one of only three teams in the Last 16 to have maintained a 100% record so far. While their football has been reductive and a little dull at times, the effectiveness of their play so far cannot be questioned.
Portugal found life in Group B tough going and their reliance on Ronaldo for goals continues to be a problem. Uruguay have yet to concede and the meeting between their mean defence and Portugal’s stuttering attack should ensure a low scoring game in Sochi on Saturday evening.
Neither team are afraid to use their respective versions of football’s dark arts to win and things could get very unsavoury at times at the Fisht Olympic Stadium this weekend.
Russia vs Spain – Sunday July 1 – 3pm kick-off – Moscow
Spain stuttered through what should have been a comfortable Group B, though managerial upheaval and uncharacteristic goalkeeping errors certainly didn’t help. There have also been plenty of positives however and Fernando Hierro will hope that Isco and Diego Costa can maintain the electric form they showed in the group stage. Both players will be key to Spain’s chances of progression as will the effervescent Andres Iniesta.
The energetic Russians were excellent against Saudi Arabia and Egypt in Group A, though they struggled with the step up in class against Uruguay in their final contest. That performance will be a real worry ahead of their meeting with Spain, though with the backing of the home crowd in the Russian capital, anything is possible.
Russia played Spain as recently as last November, when the sides drew 3-3 in a friendly match at the Krestovsky Stadium.
Croatia vs Denmark – Sunday July 1 – 7pm kick-off – Nizhny Novgorod
It’s reasonable to suggest that Croatia have been the most impressive team at the World Cup so far. Driven by the performances of their star-studded midfield, Croatia coasted through Group D, recording impressive wins over Nigeria and Argentina, before squeezing past Iceland with a weekend team.
In contrast, Denmark were second best in each of their three group matches, though they did at least show a robustness at the back with some determined defending. Having found the net just twice in their section, Denmark are the lowest scoring side in the Last 16.
Brazil vs Mexico – Monday July 2 – 3pm kick-off – Samara
Having started slowly in their opening group match against Switzerland, Brazil are slowly starting to feel their way into the tournament and their performances seem to be improving with each game. Neymar’s self-indulgent streak meant that they scored fewer goals than they might have, but you get the sense that there are still some big moments to come from the PSG striker.
Mexico had been riding the shockwaves from their opening fixture triumph over World Cup holders Germany, though they were brought crashing down to earth somewhat in game three against Sweden. That 0-3 scoreline showed just how vulnerable the Mexicans can be. Two of Mexico’s three World Cup goals so far came on the counter attack and they are likely to sit deep and attempt to transition fast again against Brazil.
Belgium vs Japan – Monday July 2 – 7pm kick-off – Rostov-on-Don
Roberto Martinez will restore the biggest names to his Belgium team for their Last 16 clash with Japan after he rested most of them in the Belgian’s 1-0 win over England in the final match of Group G. Belgium were expected to make light work of their opponents in their section and the dark horses didn’t disappoint. They will expect to dispose of Japan in similarly comfortable fashion.
Japan escaped from Group H through the controversial FIFA Fair Play separation system ahead of a desperately unlucky Senegal side. The Japanese have yet to keep a clean sheet and their chances of keeping Hazard, De Bruyne and Lukaku at bay look extremely slim.
Sweden vs Switzerland – Tuesday July 3 – 3pm kick-off – Saint Petersburg
Sweden topped a very difficult looking Group F, finishing the section in style with a resounding 3-0 win over Mexico. With a squad shorn of ego, the Swedes looks highly organised and motivated, though despite their big win in game three, goal scoring remains a problem. Their 3-0 victory over the Mexicans was the first time they scored more than once in twelve games.
Switzerland’s unbeaten run through Group E means that they have now lost only once in their last twenty international games. The Swiss were hit and miss in their trio of Group E games, though they remain a very tough nut to crack. The Swiss did prove their mettle in their match day one draw against Brazil however, and that performance showed the high levels they are capable of reaching.
Colombia vs England – Tuesday July 3 – 7pm kick-off – Moscow
After a ropey opening match loss against Japan, Colombia recovered well to record back-to-back victories over Poland and Senegal to finish at the summit of Group H. The Colombians seem to be peaking at right time and they have quality in abundance all over the pitch. The talismanic James Rodriguez is a huge injury concern after he limped off against Senegal and if he is indeed absent for Tuesday’s fixture, it would be a sizeable blow to the South American’s chances.
England showed plenty of determination and character to win late on in their first Group G match against a dogged Tunisia side. They followed that up by exhibiting a ruthlessness in front of goal against Panama in game two. Gareth Southgate will be able to field a physically fresh side against Colombia after ringing the changes in England’s game three defeat to Belgium, and the extra energy in the XI could make all the difference.
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