The group stages have now seemed to be concluded and the knockout stages are getting ready to house entertainment on a very high level. The group stages presented us with football drama at its best and we’ve seen some teams step up and some underperforming as they are all vying for a crack at football’s biggest crown and not just be another part of the competition. Some teams secured passage to the Last 16 in only the second round of the Group fixtures, while some were subject to last minute calculations and depending on results elsewhere. Round of 16 qualifications and Group Stage eliminations.
It was Netherlands and Senegal who ended up qualifying for the last 16 at the expense of Ecuador. Senegal needed a win against Ecuador to secure a top 2 finish, and Ecuador only needed to avoid defeat to advance. Senegal drew first blood in the game taking a 1-0 lead in the game, and a late Koulibaly goal gave the African champions the lead again a minute after a Caicedo equaliser for Ecuador. Netherlands in the other game managed to beat hosts Qatar to finish top of Group A and secure passage to the Last 16 having only conceded a single goal.
England, Iran, USA and Wales all stood a chance to advance to the knockout stages before they commenced with their last round of Group stage fixtures. The 2 UK countries faced each other and Wales had the slimmer chance of qualify for the knockout stages in comparison to the other teams in their group, and England were able to come out on top in the contest with a score-line of 3-0, 2 goals from Rashford and 1 from Foden ensured that England finished top of their group. USA managed to get a 1-0 win over Iran, thanks to a Christian Pulisic goal, to join England as Group B’s representatives in the Round of 16.
Lionel Messi’s Argentina needed to avoid defeat against Poland, but would secure top spot of the group with a win against Robert Lewandowski and his fellow Poles. While Mexico needed Argentina to beat Poland to stand a chance of qualifying, and since Argentina managed to beat Poland 2-0, Mexico needed to win by a 2 goal deficit at least. The Mexicans were able to beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 and that meant they would lose out on a top 2 finish to Poland and crash out of the World Cup. Argentina and Poland managed to secure passage to the Last 16 despite Argentina’s win over Poland.
France suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat to Tunisia in their final game of the Group stages but fortunately for them they had already been through to the knockout stages, and Denmark fell to a 1-0 defeat against Australia. The results of the final match of the group meant France were eventually joined by Australia as the teams that qualified from Group D, and the EUROs 2020 semi-finalists, Denmark, were knocked out of the World Cup in what will be seen as an underachievement by them.
Group E’s final round of matches brought about the most excitement that we’ve witnessed in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, with a flurry of goals from both matches and yet another surprise result subjected by Japan. Spain took the lead early on against Japan but ended up losing the game 2-1 and at a certain point during the game were in threat of elimination from the World Cup when Costa Rica took the lead against Germany in their game. Germany were able to turn to turn their tie around and win the game 4-2 but needed a Spain equalizer (against Japan) which unfortunately for them sealed their elimination from the tournament for the 2nd time in a row in as many tournaments. Japan’s victory against Spain means the Spaniards have still only managed 3 wins in the the FIFA World Cup since their triumph in 2010, while the Germans have only managed 2 wins since their win in 2014 following their win against Costa Rica. Japan advanced through to the knockout stages being first in Group E, an unprecedented feat they accomplished against all odds. The latest of many surprises in a string of Qatar 2022 FWC shock results.
Belgium’s ‘golden generation’ turned to ashes when they failed to reach the knockout stages, this comes after they finished 3rd in the tournament in Russia back in 2018, this time finishing 3rd in their group in 2022. The Belgians needed a win over Croatia to progress through to the Last 16 at the expense of the Croatians, they needed this result since Morocco managed to overcome Canada’s efforts and win against the North Americans to secure their qualification by topping the group. Belgium failed to win against Croatia and the 2 sides played out to a goalless draw meaning Croatia kept 2nd spot in the group and moved through the knockout stages as well. Belgium only managed to score 1 goal in the group stages and that was in a 1-0 win against Canada.
Brazil had already secured qualification to the Round of 16 heading into the final Group matches and were playing Cameroon in their last game, while Serbia faced Switzerland in a bid to grab late qualification. Cameroon needed a win against Brazil and perhaps a draw between the 2 sides in the other game, while Cameroon did exactly that with a late goal by captain Vincent Aboubakar in the 92nd minute. The latest shock result in a World Cup that just “keeps giving”. However results elsewhere did not work in their favour as Switzerland managed to beat Serbia 3-2 to get their second win in the tournament and were able to finish 2nd behind tournament favourites Brazil as the 2 teams to qualify from Group G.
A group that featured a team that had already qualified to the Last 16, Portugal, provided entertainment with the remaining teams battling it out to grab their place in the knockout stages. South Korea needed to pull out all the strings to get a win vs Portugal, and their determination and passion gave them a late goal in the game to get a 2-1 win that would potentially send them through to the Round of 16. After their game had ended they had to wait a long 6 minutes for the grudge match between Uruguay and Ghana to end with that very same score (2-0 to Uruguay) to give them the ticket. Uruguay needed to better South Korea by just one more goal to have a better goal difference than the Koreans, but unfortunately for them they didn’t manage more past the 2 goals they had already scored, while Ghana’s qualification hopes lay in a victory that never came and were subsequently knocked out alongside Uruguay.
The Round of 16 promises to give more as this tournament has become the embodiment of unpredictable and has costed a lot people on their bet slips as well. These are the confirmed fixtures of the Round of 16 and kicking us off is the Netherlands facing off against USA.
Round of 16 confirmed fixtures:
- Netherlands vs USA (03 December; 17h00)
- Argentina vs Australia (03 December; 21h00)
- Poland vs France (04 December; 17h00)
- Senegal vs England (04 December; 21h00)
- Japan vs Croatia (05 December; 17h00)
- Brazil vs South Korea (05 December; 21h00)
- Morocco vs Spain (06 December; 17h00)
- Portugal vs Switzerland (06 December; 21h00)