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5 July, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 4 July, 2018 11:43:50 PM
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Eight big guns primed for quarterfinals

Favourites rally strongly amidst Spain, Argentina fall
Syed Mohammed Pithu
Eight big guns primed for quarterfinals

The 2018 FIFA World Cup found some stability after a manic first round that saw some favourites bidding adieu to the tournament, leaving their fans disappointed.

The only time the second round produced an upset was the departure of Spain, who paid the price of their excessive passing football, popularly known as Tiki-taka, by being defeated by hosts Russia in a tiebreaker.

Belgium was also on the brink of tasting an upset but a late rally, which saw them scoring thrice in 20 minutes to overcome a two-goal lead established by Asian powerhouse Japan. This match unexpectedly gave the spectators an adrenal rush, which was not to be, given the difference of football culture and strength between the two teams. Yet, it was considered to be the best match of the tournament so far.

However, the two matches that had an exciting prospect lived up to the billings—the match between France and Argentina and Uruguay vs Portugal. Given the strength, there was chance for both teams in both games but France and Uruguay prevailed to set up an exciting quarterfinal clash.

The margin of victory in both games said it all—France got a 4-3 the victory against Argentina, while Uruguay edged out Portugal by 2-1, sending off the world’s two biggest stars, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, in a space of just two hours.

The France-Argentina game unleashed a new star in Mbappe who tore the Latin American team apart with his searing pace with the ball. The 19-year-old scored twice and also realized a penalty to give France a deserving win over Argentina. The aged and listless defence of Argentina could do little to counter Mbappe’s pace.

Even though France got a goal in the 13th minute, Argentina recovered well to take a 2-1 lead just after the start of the second half and, as usual, Messi had a great impact in setting up the game twice.

But an Mbappe storm then took the game completely away from Argentina, when he scored twice in just five minutes before Pavard’s astonishing shot just few meters away from box equalised the game. Sergio Aguero, however, had a consolation goal in the extra time, but Messi once again left the World Cup without conquering it. Moreover, Messi’s goal-drought in the World Cup knock-out stage continued, and with the age of 35 in the next World Cup, it is highly unlikely to end the trend for him.

“We have been preparing for months, for weeks to play matches like that,” said France coach Didier Deschamps, quoted by AFP.

Like Messi, his great rival Christiano Ronaldo’s goal-drought in the knock-out stage also continued. Messi, however, still assisted twice but Ronaldo had no impact on the game against Uruguay, who rode on Edison Kavani’s sparkling performance.

After a slow start, Brazil gained momentum and pace in the second round to make their last 16 game against Mexico a completely one-way traffic. Much to the delight for their fans, Neymar Junior was best in his business, scoring a goal and assisted Firmino in Brazil’s 2-0 victory.

But the world’s most expensive player has hit the headlines as much for his perceived play-acting as for the on-pitch performances that have helped his side ease into the last eight without ever being seriously troubled, AFP adds.

Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio said the stoppages caused by Neymar’s antics stalled his team during their 2-0 loss to Brazil in the last 16 l, claiming the Paris Saint-Germain forward’s reaction to Miguel Layun stepping on his leg was a “shame for football”. Yet much of the focus surrounding Brazil’s bid for a record-breaking sixth world title inevitably rests on Neymar.

Favourites Brazil will come up against Belgium’s ‘golden generation’ in Kazan on Friday, what is being foreseen as another high-voltage game, to book a semi-final berth other than the game between France and Uruguay.

Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens and Kevin De Bruyne are likely to give Brazil’s defence the biggest test of their campaign so far, although the South Americans have only conceded once in four matches.

“This is the sort of game you dream about as a little boy and we can enjoy it from the first second,” said Belgium coach Roberto Martinez.

Janne Andersson’s Sweden have recovered well from a heartbreaking group-stage defeat to Germany, seeing off Mexico before edging out Switzerland 1-0 in the last 16.

RB Leipzig midfielder Emil Forsberg grabbed the only goal of a tight encounter midway through the second half to send his country into the quarters for the first time since the 1994 side finished third in the United States.

England became the last team to qualify for the World Cup quarter-finals after a dramatic penalty shootout. The victory against Colombia takes English manager Gareth Southgate’s team into what looks like a winnable match against Sweden to get the ticket of last four stage.

But Southgate said he was already looking forward to Saturday’s quarter-final against Sweden in Samara, with a last-four clash against either Croatia or Russia up for grabs.

“This was special but I want us to go on,” Southgate, whose penalty miss saw England lose to Germany in the Euro 96 semi-finals at Wembley, said.

“Sweden is another team we have a poor record against. We have underestimated them for years. They have created their own story and made history. I don’t want to go home yet.”

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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