The group stages are finished in the 2018 FIFA World Cup and there were some extremely exciting finishes to the eight groups and some shock early exits! Now the real fun begins as we head into the knockout stage beginning on Saturday night with two massive games! We give a brief preview and provide our betting tips for the eight Round of 16 matchups below.
Although France were less than impressive in the group stage, they still managed to finish on top of Denmark, Australia and Peru in Group C. They were winners over both Australia and Peru in their first two games both by one goal margins before playing out a 0-0 draw with Denmark to secure the top spot in the group.
Argentina’s group run wasn’t as easy, they needed to win on the final day of play and hope that Croatia could get a result against Iceland, which is exactly what happened. Argentina looked horrible in their group stage loss to Croatia but bounced back well against Nigeria and should be tough to beat here.
It’s a battle of two teams that definitely weren’t at their best in the group stage and while im not super confident, I think Argentina represents great value here with the amount of pure matchwinners they have. Remember, it only takes one moment of brilliance in the knockout stage.
Along with Croatia and Belgium, Uruguay remain the only team with three wins in the World Cup after edging past Egypt and Saudi Arabia in their first two games before dominating their clash against Russia 3-0 to take the top spot in Group A.
Portugal finished tied alongside Spain in Group B with five points but surrendered the top spot due to scoring less goals. They were extremely lucky to get past Morocco in their second game after going up 1-0 early before the African side dominated the rest of the game.
Portugal were one of my early dark horse picks for the tournament after their fantastic form since winning the 2016 European Championships and although they haven’t looked as good as Uruguay so far in this tournament, they have this ridiculous knack of being able to win in ugly fashion on the back of a moment of brilliance from Cristiano Ronaldo.
Two draws and one win in the group stage for Spain saw them advance in top spot of Group B. Diego Costa was fantastic in the group stage, scoring three goals and arguably keeping a bit of a lacklustre Spanish side in the tournament.
Russia came out firing in their home World Cup, dominating the first two games with a 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia and a 3-1 win over Egypt. They were beaten comfortably in the third match by Uruguay but suffered a red card in the first half.
Really tough match to call here. Spain has looked far from their best and finishing on top of Group B in extremely scrappy fashion might have masked some of the bigger issues in Spanish football at the moment. Russia will have the backing of a nation here and at $3.75 I think they represent great value to advance.
We said it before the tournament started that Croatia have one of the most talented midfields at the World Cup this year, and they have been extremely dominant so far. They won all three of their group games, defeating Argentina, Nigeria and Iceland with a combined +6 goal difference.
Denmark were able to defeat Peru 1-0 in game one before a absolute World Class goal by star midfielder Christian Erikson saw them take a 1-0 lead against Australia. Australia arguably outplayed them in the rest of the game, and they were able to walk through a 0-0 draw in game three against a France reserves side.
Croatia are in ridiculous form at the moment and I cant see Denmark even forcing extra time in this one.
After a rocky start which saw them tie 1-1 with Switzerland in their first game, tournament favourites Brazil went on to win their two remaining games against Serbia and Costa Rica to finish stop Group E and set up a R16 match against Mexico.
Mexico started their tournament with a massive upset win over Germany and secured their passage to the knockout stage with another win over South Korea in game two. They were able to take their foot off the pedal in game three knowing they had booked their ticket, and went down to Sweden 3-0 in a bit of a lacklustre performance.
Hopefully Mexico don’t bring any of that game three form into their match against Brazil and can recapture some of the counter attacking spark they displayed against Germany. Tensions will be high between the two American rivals here and I’m struggling to find any value in the game.
TIP: No Bet
At the moment, Belgium looks like the team to beat in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. They won all three of their group stage games over Panama, Tunisia and England to advance on top of Group G. However, I still think there are some question marks over the Belgian side, as Panama and Tunisia were arguably the worst two teams at the tournament and they only just edged past England.
In arguably the most exciting of the Group finishes, Japan were able to advance second in Group H over Senegal and Poland even after losing to Poland 1-0 in the last game of the group stage. They have put up a big fight so far this tournament but I cant see them being too damaging against Belgium here.
Belgium have shown ability to score in high volume this tournament and a two goal margin isn’t out of the question here, although I will have reservations on them in the quarter finals.
Sweden have been one of the great stories to come out of the World Cup so far. They were winners over both South Korea and Mexico in the group stage to finish on top of Group F and book what they will see as a really winnable game against Switzerland in the Round of 16.
Switzerland remain undefeated in the World Cup after recording one win and two draws in Group E to finish second behind Brazil. A come from behind win against Serbia was the highlight of the group stages for them and they showed in that match that they have genuine match winners that can perform on the big stage.
Switzerland start as slight favourites to advance here but I think this is pretty much a toss of the coin. Back the value in Sweden and hope for a moment in this game.
In my opinion, the most interesting of all the Round 16 matchups is Colombia vs England. The English looked fantastic in the group stage, rolling over Tunisia and Morocco before going down to Belgium in what was essentially a dead rubber. Harry Kane was lights out in the group stage, scoring five goals to lead the golden boot race.
Colombia were looking shaky after a red card in the first three minutes of their tournament handed Japan a win in their first game. However, they bounced back to win their next two group games and finish atop Group H on the back of some outstanding play by star midfielder James Rodriguez.
I’m staying far away from this one as I think these teams are very evenly matched but will be looking on closely as I think whoever wins this has a chance of going extremely deep given the state of the bracket.
TIP: No Bet
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