World Cup Recap: Round of 16 Day 1
France crushes Messi’s Argentina, Uruguay puts down Ronaldo’s Portugal
The Round of 16 in the 2018 FIFA World Cup kicked off on Saturday and it featured the two biggest names in world football, also known as soccer. The dream match between Leo Messi’s Argentina and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in a World Cup was not to be as France and Uruguay proved to be too strong to overcome.
France 4-3 Argentina
Kazan Arena, Kazan
The match of the day and what could end up being the match of the tournament kicked off the round of 16 with a seven-goal thriller. The 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe stole the show and was influential in helping a talented French side into the next round. Immediately the youngster's speed was a factor, forcing a penalty in the 11th minute. Antoine Griezmann would convert from the spot for the second time in this tournament to put Les Blues up 1-0 early. Angel Di Maria would answer just before the half, with a long-range rocket in the 41st minute.
Immediately in the second half, Argentina would take the lead with a Gabriel Mercado goal in the 48th minute. Messi got the assist as Mercado redirected the ball past French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. France would retake the momentum with what Ian Darke would call “an absolute firecracker” from Benjamin Pavard that is arguably the new goal of the tournament. The 22-year-old’s goal would be followed up by Mbappe’s appearance on the scoresheet, making it 3-2 France in the 64th minute. As they say, “speed kills” as the speedy Mbappe made it 4-2 France with another score four minutes later. Argentina would make it 4-3 with a Sergio Aguero goal in second half stoppage time but would fall short of forcing extratime.
Analysis: France is flying high after their most impressive result of the tournament. One of the more talented sides and one of the tournament’s most expensive teams looked like a dangerous contender against a talented Argentina. The come from behind win, and the dominance in which they took the game, may lack luster to some because of the “hot mess” that Argentina is perceived as but make no mistake, this French side showed plenty of muscle. They will face another tough test in Argentina’s neighbor Uruguay but should they get past them, the sky's the limit.
What to make of Argentina? There will be plenty of talk about the team with one of the world’s best players and what the legacy of Messi will end up being. This World Cup was supposed to be their redemption from falling short in 2014 but the pressure of their expectations may have did them in. Argentina has bigger problems than the on-the-field product so the best solution would be to find stability. Whether that comes in the way of a new coach is to be seen.
Notable stat: Didier Deschamps is now the longest-tenured coach in the history of the French national team after coaching his 80th national team match.
Uruguay 2-1 Portugal
Fisht Stadium, Sochi
Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez would look to lead Uruguay to its third consecutive round of 16 match at a World Cup. while Cristiano Ronaldo would look to lead Portugal to its first round of 16 since South Africa 2010. Everything to play for with some of the World’s top scorers on display. Both teams went on the offensive early to try and get a quick lead, and wouldn’t you know it, it would be Uruguay who would accomplish such a task thanks to Suarez and Cavani. Suarez, the FC Barcelona scorer, would connect with the French league’s top scorer in Cavani, a turning header in the seventh minute. That would force Portugal to have to chase the game. Portugal would outshoot Uruguay 8-5 but the best opportunities came from free kicks. Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez would have a chance to from the set pieces but neither were able to convert. The match would be 1-0 at halftime.
Portugal continued insisting and pulled things level on a corner kick. It would be the long-time defender Pepe who would score with a header of his own in the 55th minute, making him Portugal's oldest scorer at a FIFA World Cup. Unfortunately for Portugal, the former Real Madrid man would mistime a goal kick that would give Uruguay the ball and in two touches it would end with a marvelous curl by Cavani. Uruguay would be up 2-1, withstood Portugal for the rest of the half, and took the win.
Analysis: Uruguay looked strong all around. The Suarez and Cavani duo is one every team wishes to have. Their solidarity in defense is another feature most teams would wish for - Uruguay allowed their first goal of Russia 2018 against Portugal. The bad news is Cavani left with a reported hamstring injury and is doubtful for the next match. They also let Portugal have a little too much freedom in attack, something they would be playing with fire if they do the same with France. But they say defense wins championships so let’s see how far they can go.
Portugal, on the other hand, may not have deserved to go this far. They looked bad in their last two group games and could’ve lost both. Cristiano Ronaldo could not carry the team, which was too much to ask, and Portugal fans may be wondering what they could be if they had another talented player that could have helped the reigning FIFA Player of the Year. The question now will be if Ronaldo will stay with the national team for Euro 2020 or bid farewell. We may have just seen Ronaldo in his last FIFA World Cup.
Notable stat: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo remain goal-less in the knockout stage of the FIFA World Cup.
Programming note: Soccer Matters with Glenn Davis will be broadcasting from The Gorgeous Gael (5555 Morningside Dr. Houston, TX 77005) with a two-hour LIVE show, airing on ESPN 97.5 FM, following the conclusion of the Croatia-Denmark match on Sunday.
Listen to Glenn Davis break down Saturday’s matches by listening to the Soccer Matters podcast, available on iTunes, Google Play Music and PodcastArena.com/SoccerMatters
Remaining Round of 16 Matches (All Times CT):
Sunday, July 1
9 a.m. - Spain vs. Russia (FOX, Telemundo)
1 p.m. - Croatia vs. Denmark (FOX, Telemundo)
Monday, July 2
9 a.m. - Mexico vs. Brazil (FOX, Telemundo)
1 p.m. - Belgium vs. Japan (FOX, Telemundo)
Tuesday, July 3
9 a.m. - Sweden vs. Switzerland (FS1, Telemundo)
1 p.m. - Colombia vs. England (FOX, Telemundo)