KATHMANDU, July 5: Some high scoring matches, some nerve-wracking penalty shootouts, some dominating attacking performances and some early disappointments, the Round of 16 had no short of excitement and last-minute drama.
A total of 24 goals were scored in which seven of them came in the match between France and Argentina. Belgium scored thrice in the second half to overturn a 2-0 lead of Japan.
The most shocking result included the host defeating Spain in the penalty shootout, similarly, Denmark along with Colombia and England created intriguing dramas.
Sweden narrowly beat Switzerland thanks to its brilliant defensive performance, while Brazil was too good for Mexico producing third consecutive 2-0 win.
Uruguay defeated Portugal with a mixture of both attacking and defensive displays. Edinson Cavani scored a brace before going out of an injury.
Uruguay is only one of the two teams to have conceded only once in the tournament so far. It conceded its first goal in a win over Portugal.
It took a lead in the seventh minute from a Cavani header after Luis Suarez provided a delightful cross. Pepe equalized for Portugal in the 55th minute heading in a Raphael Guerreiro corner.
Portugal dominated creating 12 chances and 15 shots more than Uruguay, but the finishing was missing from the reigning European champions.
Portugal’s possession neutralized the contest after scoring the equalizer, but a curling Cavani effort from just outside the box in the 62nd minute pushed Portugal on the back foot failing to come back in the match. Uruguay had its defense to thank for balanced and compact performance.
France’s 4-3 win over Argentina in the first Round of 16 match was highlighted with a stellar second half attacking performance when teen sensation Kylian Mbappe scored a second half brace in four minutes to give France a comfortable lead.
France was awarded a penalty when Mbappe was fouled inside the box by Marcos Rojo, and Antoine Griezmann coolly converted his spotkick in the 13th minute.
But, Argentina scored twice in either side of the half in the 41st and the 48th minute to take a 2-1 lead. Angel Di Maria and Gabriel Mercado scored the goals.
Benjamin Pavard equalized for the French side with a sumptuous volley from outside the box in the 57th minute. Mbappe completed the rout in the 64th and 68th minutes to send France into the quarterfinals.
Many predicted host Russia’s campaign would end when it drew Spain in the Round of 16. However, a solid defensive approach from the host nation helped take the team to the penalty shootout as the game ended 1-1 after the extra time.
Russia went down in the game inside 12 minutes after center back Sergei Ignashevich scored an own goal and gave Spain a lead. Artem Dzyuba leveled the game from the spot as Gerard Pique handled the ball in the 41st minute to help Russia fancy its chances after the game ended 1-1.
In between the penalties, Spain had 78.9% of possession, 23 shots to only seven of Russia and a total 1008 passes with 90% pass success, but was neutralized by the defensive work of the Russians. Spain lacked creativity once Andres Iniesta was left on the bench and David Silva struggled to perform.
Russia won the shootout 4-3 after keeper Igor Akinfeev stopped the penalties of Koke and Iago Aspas.
Croatia defeated Denmark 3-2 on penalties after the game ended 1-1 on extra time. Both the teams played well, and were tied on 1-1 inside the first five minutes of the match.
Denmark scored the first inside 58 seconds through Mathias Jorgensen. But, Croatia leveled the game through Mario Mandzukic in the fourth minute and the score stayed as it was at the end of 120 minutes.
Croatia enjoyed most of the possession and chances in the match with 53.6% possession, 13 chances created and a total of 20 shots among which six were on target.
Denmark had 46.4% possession, 10 chances created, 14 shots and among which only three was on target.
Denmark keeper Kasper Schmeichel saved the 116th minute penalty of Luka Modric which took the game into penalties. Both the keepers did exceptionally well in the shootout before Ivan Rakitic scored the decisive spot kick.
Brazil has enjoyed the most clean sheets with Alisson Becker managing to keep three clean sheets, that too in the last three games.
Brazil is one of the two teams to have conceded only one goal so far, and lately, defeated Mexico 2-0 in the Round of 16.
Brazil, tactically, was not too dominant on the ball against Mexico, but with its 10 shots on target out of the total 20, helped the side get over Mexico with goals from Neymar and late substitute Roberto Firmino.
Belgium is the only team in the competition who has taken its goal tally to double digits scoring 12 in four games. It came back from two goals down to beat Japan 3-2 in the Round of 16.
Japan scored two back-to-back second half goals in the 48th and the 52nd minutes, but Belgium pulled one back through Jan Vertonghen in the 69th minute. Belgium dominated the game with 57.4% possession and 22 chances created. It attempted 24 shots among which eight were on target.
Substitute Marouane Fellaini equalized for the Belgian side in the 74th minute, and the another substitute Nacer Chadli scored the winner in the last stoppage minute to give his team a splendid result.
Belgium has been very good on the ball, passing around in the small pockets of space and has an attack that could upset any team.
Sweden has been performing exceptionally well with its defense-first approach, and defeated an attacking Switzerland side 1-0 in the Round of 16.
Switzerland had 67.3% possession with six more shots than Sweden, but the decisive goal from Emil Forsberg in the 66th minute was enough for a Sweden win which sent the side through to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1994.
England has been indulging on some attacking inconsistencies with the latest one being in a 4-3 penalty shootout win over Colombia. England switched off in the second half, after going a goal up in the 57th minute via a penalty from captain Harry Kane.
England had most of the ball with 52.4% possession, and was clinical with shot attempts than Colombia. It lacked composure and creativeness in the middle of the park. Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard, who both play as attacking midfielders kept leaving gaps in the midfield. The second half performance was dull, with no intent and failed to convert any of the 14 created chances into goals.