Teams like Germany, the four-time world champion, or Belgium, who finished third in the World Cup in Russia, have left the group stage. The so-called smaller teams like Japan, Senegal, and Morocco have made a surprise appearance in the knockout stage. The line-up of the last sixteen of the Qatar World Cup has been finalized after the group stage is full of incidents, thrills, and drama. Netherlands, Argentina, England, and France have already secured their quarterfinals.
So far, there have not been any upsets in the knockout phase. As four more matches are left, is there any possibility to happen any unexpected occurrence? Let’s see What we can expect more in the knockout rounds.
What can we expect from the last four matches in the knockout round?
A new record has been set in this year’s Qatar World Cup. For the first time, teams from all continents have made it to the knockout stages of the World Cup. This has not happened in any World Cup before. Arsene Wenger, head of FIFA’s Global Football Development program, described this event as ‘equality in world football.
Among all the continents, Asian countries surprised the world with their incredible performance. So, Japan vs Croatia and Brazil vs South Korea match will have the most attention from the Asian countries. On the other hand, Portugal vs Switzerland and Morocco vs Spain will also get the limelight. Let’s see more details about these matches.
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Japan vs Croatia
The World Cup in Qatar was full of incidents as the teams from Africa and Asia showed surprise. Japan appeared with the biggest surprise. Blue Samurai defeated the two European powerhouses, Spain and Germany, in both group-stage matches. As Japan is in the round of 16, they will have to see off last year’s runners-up team to get a ticket to the quarterfinals of the World Cup for the first time.
Croatia and Japan are meeting for the third time in the World Cup. Croatia won the match 1-0 in the 1998 World Cup. In 2006, the two teams drew goalless. Both the matches were in the group stage.
Defender Kou Itakura will not be available at Japan vs Croatia match after getting up a second yellow card in two consecutive. Takehiro Tomiyasu, who came off the bench and proved himself, has the potential to play in the starting squad. Midfielder Wataru Endo has a fitness issue despite coming on as a substitute in the previous match. On the other hand, right-back Hiroki Sakai has returned to training.
Croatia, however, will start the match with a fully fit squad. However, the team may be in danger if the two experienced players of the team, Modric and Dejan Lovren, get yellow cards. Both have seen yellow cards once.
Considering the teams’ group stage performance, Japan has a great possibility of winning against Croatia. However, Kou Itakura’s absence might be a matter of concern.
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Brazil vs South Korea
Brazil and South Korea have met in seven matches so far. Where the five-time world champion Brazil was dominant. They won 6 out of 7 matches. South Korea won only one match. However, there was no match between Brazil and South Korea in the World Cup, and all matches were friendly matches.
In the last four matches, Korea lost to Brazil by multiple goals. They have conceded 13 goals to Son Heung-Min’s team in the last four matches. In total, Brazil scored 16 goals against South Korea’s 5 goals in 7 matches.
Now, who do you think to win this encounter?
According to the stats as well as recent performance, Brazil is obviously ahead. Also, Neymar is back from the injury. Neymar started training after the Cameroon match. The main star of Tite’s team showed full fitness in the practice session. While Brazil gave the rest of the main players in their last game, they will appear today with full force. Overall, Brazil’s performance has been consistent in this World Cup.
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On the other hand, South Korea’s performance in the World Cup has been up and down. Korea started with Uruguay in the first match but lost against Ghana in the second match. However, Korea beat Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in the last match and booked their place in the last sixteen. Son Heung-min’s team is ready to fight against knockout Brazil.
Korea coach Sergio E Castro Costa is planning a strategy to eliminate Brazil by relying on the experience of Gue-Sung Cho, Hwang Hee-Chan, Son Heung Min, and several young footballers.
Morocco vs Spain
Morocco and Spain met once at the World Cup, four years ago in Russia. The group stage match was a draw. But, this time, they are meeting in the knockout stage, so there is no chance to think of alternatives.
Morocco’s top player Yassine Bounou, who was withdrawn before the win against Belgium, is expected to be in the starting squad against Spain. But, another reliable player Achraf Hakimi faced some ankle issues but is expected to pass the fitness. Sofyan Amrabat and Sofiane Boufal are also fit to start the match. Hence, Morocco is expected to start the round of 16 with full force.
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The Spanish trio Dani Olmo, David Raya, and Cesar Azpilicueta have not been seen in a training session on Friday. However, they all are fit except Azpilicueta, who is dealing with pain in his calf. However, there is no bad news about them. So, it is expected they Enrique will keep them in the squad. Also, Ferran Torres and Jordi Alba will return.
So, considering Spain’s recent performance, Morocco will not get much chance to score. So, Spain will be going to the quarterfinal for sure.
Portugal vs Switzerland
Portugal and Switzerland have met a total of 25 times in international matches so far, and Portugal won in 9 matches. Switzerland, on the other hand, has won a total of 11 times, and the remaining five matches were drawn.
Judging by stats and power, Switzerland must be far ahead. However, if you calculate this year’s FIFA World Cup by excluding the statistics, then, of course, Portugal played very well than Switzerland.
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Also, one of the good sides of Portugal is the world-famous striker Cristiano Ronaldo. Although Ronaldo was dim in the last match, he became active in important matches. Hence, we may see a speedy Ronaldo in the next match.
Portugal is suffering from injury problems in the World Cup. However, the team received good news about Otavio, who is out with an injury. If everything goes well, this midfielder can play in the upcoming match. Manchester City center-back Ruben Dias will pair up with Pepe in defense. He was rested in the 2-1 loss against South Korea.
Switzerland is expected to start the match with its top players. The team is hoping to get their regular goalkeeper Yann Sommer at Lusail Stadium.
So, Ruben Vargas and Xherdan Shaqiri will provide support from out wide, while both Christian Fassnacht and Renato Steffen may alter their position.
Considering the facts, Portugal has a great chance of reaching the quarterfinal.
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While the first four matches of the round of 16 of the FIFA World Cup were pretty expected. The results of the next four matches are also predictable, except the Portugal and Switzerland match. So, it can be said that we might not see any unpredictable outcomes in the knockout stage unless Morocco beats Spain or South Korea beats Brazil.
Source: United News of Bangladesh