World Cup Recap: Round of 16 Day 1

France crushes Messi’s Argentina, Uruguay puts down Ronaldo’s Portugal

Messi and Argentina are out. Gabriel Rossi/Getty Images

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
Attendance: 42,873

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
Attendance: 44,287

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)

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
The Rockets got a steal at No. 3 overall. Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images.

With the Astros absorbing their worst loss of the season Thursday night at the Yankees, here's to the Rockets! Wait, what? It's only educated guess work, but in landing Jabari Smith out of Auburn the Rockets had a spectacular night. Heaven knows they have had very few of those the last two years. After having to settle for the third pick in the NBA Draft despite being the worst team in the league again, in Smith the Rockets got the best player in the Draft. Of course Smith could be an epic flop, it’s very inexact science. But Orlando taking Paolo Banchero from Duke first then Oklahoma City selecting Gonzaga beanpole Chet Holmgren second left the "surest thing" two-way player on the board. Through most of the run-up to the draft the six-foot-10 inch Banchero was most commonly projected to the Rockets. It's not as if he would have been a bad choice as a player. Banchero certainly could turn out to be the best player in this draft class. But his game is skewed toward his offensive skills, his fit in Houston would have been quite questionable. The also 6-10 Smith has shown the vastly better outside shooting ability, and is indisputably more athletic and better equipped to defend at a higher level and with more versatility. Jabari Smith is not going to be Kevin Durant or Kevin Garnett. Let's at least call it extreeeeemely unlikely given very few in the history of the planet come close to those guys, still, envisioning Smith providing some KD and KG level moments on both ends of the floor is pretty, pretty, pretty good.

The Rockets' defense was an absolute joke last season. Little to no improvement was shown as the death march of 2021-22 dragged on and on and on to its 20-62 finish. Frankly if Head Coach Stephen Silas can't demand/develop vastly improved D this coming season he'll deserve and need to be fired. The Rockets love Alperen Sengun, and his rookie season offense showed both flair and promise. Defensively he was one of many parts of the joke. Just 20 years old late next month so some improvement should come, but Sengun is slow. Quick twitch muscles, slow. Lateral movement, slow. He’s not long, not a leaper, not thick. Sengun will be hard-pressed to become an average defender. In today's game he's the kind of big who quality small-ball opponents play off the court. Banchero would have been a lousy defensive pairing with Sengun. Smith-Sengun has a chance. Smith as a small-ball center has potential. Christian Wood was a dog, not in a good way. Smith’s character grades are very high.

The seven-foot 194 pound Holmgren has a fascinating array of skills. He could be Rudy Gobert defensively with way better offense, or a skinny guy who can’t hack it physically. Had the Thunder taken Smith at two, Holmgren to the Rockets would have been interesting. Getting Smith to pair with Jalen Green as the tent poles of the Rockets’ still long way to go reconstruction is more encouraging. With due respect to all the other first round picks added in 2021 and 2022, what Green and Smith become individually and as a tandem is what will foremost determine how long the Rockets remain horrible. It could go pretty well for the duo and the Rockets could still be awful for multiple more years. A third consecutive losing season is virtual certainty. By the end of it though at least a few meaningful rays of light at the end of the tunnel need to be peeking through.

As for the other two first rounders added Thursday night, both are interesting darts at the board. Tari Eason out of LSU brings defensive chops and size (six-foot-eight) for his position, a combo that exactly zero returning Rockets have. Jae’Sean Tate plays really hard, but he’s a six-four forward. All their Josh Christophers, Garrison Matthewses, Kenyon Martin Jrs., and David Nwabas add up to very little.

No one smart really believes in Kevin Porter Jr. as a long term winning point guard growth stock. TyTy Washington should get some rookie run at the point. He’s the only non-worthless to the team ex-Kentucky point guard on the Rockets’ roster. Yes, John Wall and his 47.3 million dollar salary are still on the roster.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome