World Cup Wednesday

Hey everyone, you know what time it is….. It’s World Cup Wednesday! And would you look at that…. It’s actually Wednesday! Wow, what a coincidence. Anyway, everyone’s favourite segment is back for its fifth edition. Wow, we’re up to five? I know what you must be thinking: That’s impossible. Well, you’re not just wrong…. hold up, I think I’m quoting movies again. (Whoever gets that, you’re a legend.) Anyway, the Round of 16 has finished. Yes, that’s right we are now heading into the Quarter Finals of the World Cup. Things are really getting intense now. And a lot has happened in the Round of 16. There has been so much drama, and so many tense moments. So let’s get right into what has been one of the most brilliant Round of 16 rounds we’ve ever seen.

France v Argentina: What a match this was. The opening match of the Round, and wow did it provide top quality entertainment. France managed to put one in from a penalty given to them early on, but the Argentines drew it level, and then went one better in the second half, turning the tables and going 2-1 up. But the French weren’t done yet, and went all out on the Argentines, scoring three more in the second half to take back the lead comfortably with a score line of 4-2. The Argentines fought to hold on to the match, with striker Sergio Aguero putting in a late header to make it 4-3, however, it was too little too late for the Argentines, with the final whistle coming shortly after their final goal of the match, putting France through to the Quarter Finals, and sending Argentina packing, potentially for the last time for star player Lionel Messi.

Uruguay v Portugal: Uruguay fought valiantly in this match, and got the win they do thoroughly deserved. After Luis Suarez took a tremendous free kick which came off Edinson Cavani to put Uruguay 1-0 up just 7 minutes in, Portugal were left floundering, fighting to get back into the match. And their fighting paid off early in the second half, levelling the scores to 1-1. However, their redemption was short lived, when just 7 minutes later, Edinson Cavani scored again to put Uruguay 2-1 up, a lead which they held to the end. Cristiano Ronaldo saw yellow in the match once again towards its end, meaning he wouldn’t have played in the Quarter Finals if Portugal had made it through. However, Portugal were sent packing, and Uruguay now progress to the Quarters, where they will take on France.

Spain v Russia: This game was somewhat ridiculous. Both teams played quite well in defence, however the attacking play for both was underwhelming, with neither team really able to go forward well and score. However, a chance for Spain saw one of the Russians put the ball in the back of his own net, the own goal putting Spain 1-0 in the lead, with Spanish defender and Captain Sergio Ramos taking credit for the goal as his own. But Spain practically put themselves out of the tournament, when in the 40th minute of the match, after Russia took a corner, Spanish defender Gerard Pique conceded a handball in the box, gifting the Russians a penalty, which they ultimately converted. The teams played on deadlocked at 1-1 for the entire second half. They went to extra time, and still couldn’t be separated after half an hour. And so we saw the very first penalty shootout of the tournament, with the Russians prevailing over the Spaniards 4-3 on penalties. The Spaniards were sent home, whilst the host nation progress to the Quarters.

Croatia v Denmark: Surprisingly, this match also went to a penalty shootout. After Denmark scored in the 1st minute of the match, and Croatia levelled with a goal of their own 3 minutes later in the 4th, the two sides couldn’t be separated, and played into extra time. Croatia had a chance with a penalty in the 116th minute, however Danish keeper Kasper Schmeichel kept Croatian Captain Luka Modric’s shot out of the goal, resulting in a penalty shootout, in which the Croatians prevailed 3-2, sending Denmark home. Croatia now progress to the Quarter Finals where they will play the host nation, Russia.

Brazil v Mexico: The Mexicans tried so hard to break their Round of 16 curse this year. In the last 6 World Cups, they have made it to the Round of 16 and lost, and they made it a 7th straight loss this year. The two sides couldn’t be separated for much of the game, however, Brazil put one in in the 51st minute, and then followed it up with another in the 88th, putting them through to the Quarter Finals, whilst Mexico were once again sent packing in the Round of 16.

Belgium v Japan: This game was brilliant. Neither team scored in the first half, keeping the scores at 0-0 until early in the second half, when Japan opened the scoring with two goals in the space of four minutes, coming in the 48th and 52nd. And although it was so unlikely, almost impossible, Belgium came back from 2-0 down, with Jan Vertonghen scoring the greatest header you will ever see in your life in the 69th, before Fellaini put another header in the back of the net 5 minutes later in the 74th to bring the scores level at 2-2. Both sides fought to get themselves a winning goal, and it looked very likely that the match would go into extra time. However, the impossible occurred in the dying seconds of the match. After Japan took a corner that went straight into the hands of Belgian keeper Thibaut Courtois, the keeper rolled it out straight to Kevin De Bruyne, who ran it up the field and got it to the winger, who put it in the box, and after striker Romelu Lukaku let it roll by him, putting the defenders off, Chadli put it in the back of the net with 14 seconds to go, winning the match for Belgium and putting them through to the Quarter Finals for the first time since 1986. Japan are now out of the tournament, whilst Belgium progress to play Brazil in the Quarters.

Sweden v Switzerland: This one was close, and without a mistake would have potentially gone to extra time and possibly even penalties. Both teams were deadlocked, with chances coming and being wasted at every opportunity. However, Sweden turned it around when a shot from Forsberg was deflected off one of the Swiss players straight into the top corner of the goal, putting Sweden ahead 1-0. They managed to hold the lead for the remainder of the match, with another opportunity coming right in the last minute after one of the Swiss defenders was give a red card and sent off. The game finished 1-0, with the Swiss sent packing and Sweden progressing to the Quarter Finals.

Colombia v England: What a match. There were no goals in the first half, with the two sides staying level at 0-0. But in the second half, England were gifted a penalty in the 57th, which striker Harry Kane converted with ease, putting the English 1-0 up. But Colombia pulled back right in the dying minutes, drawing the game level with a header from a corner coming in the 93rd, two minutes before the match was to end. After a half hour period of extra time in which the two sides stayed level at 1-1, a penalty shootout took place. The odds were against England, having never won a penalty shootout in World Cup History. They had lost around 6 previous World Cup penalty shootouts, but redemption was well and truly on the cards. After a nail biting moment when Colombian keeper David Ospina managed to save a penalty taken by English midfielder Jordan Henderson, the English came from behind, with a miss from the Colombians, a good penalty from the English, keeper Jordan Pickford pulling off a save, and then English midfielder Eric Dier putting his penalty shot right into the back of the net to win the shootout for England, and put them through to the Quarter Finals. Colombia are now eliminated from the tournament, whilst England progress to play Sweden in the Quarters, with the English supporters now very much convinced it’s coming home.

Highlight Of The Round: Three highlights this week. The first was Belgium’s comeback against the Japanese, with the absolutely astonishing header from Jan Vertonghen and the amazing play to pull off a magnificent last minute goal to win the match 3-2. The second highlight was the France Argentina game, with some amazing goals and brilliant play from both sides, particularly France, with two of their four goals coming from 19 year old Kylian Mbappe. It was really a match that provided. And the third highlight: England’s win against the Colombians. A first time win in a penalty shootout for the English making World Cup history for them, and giving them all the potential they need to actually pull through and go all the way. Well done to the English.

Biggest Upsets: Honestly there was only really one big upset this Round, that being the Russians knocking the Spaniards out to progress to the Quarter Finals ahead of them. Although in retrospect it was the Spanish who knocked themselves out of the tournament, with the hand ball from Gerard Pique ultimately costing them the match, and the Cup. The host nation is proving to be a real contender at this point, and who knows what they could do next.

On England: England is performing so well at this World Cup, and its just so great to watch. They are playing some really great football, and are progressing quite well through the tournament. And after their win in the penalty shootout against Colombia, they will be looking to go all the way and take home the Cup. I know the English supporters are all going crazy about their team this year, and ‘It’s Coming Home’ is very much a trending phrase. In all honesty, I’d love to see the English win the World Cup this year, I reckon it would be brilliant. And the scenes in England would be mental. They take on Sweden next in the Quarter Finals, then either Croatia or Russia in the Semis if they beat the Swedes. They could really make it to the Final this year, there is a real chance for them. It’s coming home!

What To Expect From The Quarter Finals: We’re getting down to the pointy end of the tournament now, and each and every one of the remaining teams will be fighting harder than ever before, with each team wanting so badly to progress to the next Round. The Quarters will be interesting, they will be exciting. Each of the four matches will be a close contest. Uruguay take on France, Brazil take on Belgium, Sweden take on England, and host nation Russia take on Croatia. We could see more penalty shootouts, we could see teams winning in extra time. There will be some close calls, and no one team will want to be making a single mistake, especially conceding a penalty. Every goal will count, and each team will do their best to defend any lead they have. The Quarter Finals will be highly entertaining, and only four teams will progress. Enjoy!

JJ

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