World Cup Last16 Preview

World Cup Last-16

Just 16 teams are left standing at Russia 2018 after the group stage ended. With 24 hours off to steady ourselves before the knockouts begin, we’ll take a look at the eight ties coming along over the next four days and try and pick the best bets!

They don’t come much better than France v Argentina to start…

France v Argentina Saturday 2pm

Best Bet: Argentina to win @ 3.40

France haven’t exactly been impressive and Argentina…haven’t exactly been impressive, so far. Surely one of these is going to lift the tempo soon.

Despite the plethora of talent at his disposal, Didier Deschamps appears relatively clueless in terms of his best team. Les Bleus have chopped and changed and, being brutally honest, none of Deschamps’ combinations have been anywhere near convincing. They’ve scored three times in three games and there hasn’t been a decent goal amongst them.

Argentina are lucky to even be here, such was the peril they found themselves in after collapsing in a 3-0 loss against Croatia. Their spirit has been questioned, their manager has been questioned and their talisman has been questioned, but there was a lot to like in how Argentina got by a tricky Nigerian team to advance to the last-16.

They showed the spirit and desire to win, and it may galvanise them. France look shaky favourites and Lionel Messi can send them packing.

Uruguay v Portugal Saturday 7pm

Best Bet: Edinson Cavani first goalscorer @ 5.50

A second heavyweight clash on what looks a fantastic opening day of the knockouts. Uruguay haven’t pleased the purists but they’ve come through the group stage without conceding any goals and picked up three wins. Crucially, their star forwards Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani are coming to the boil.

Portugal are equally tough to asses. As they did at Euro 2016, they’ve relied on Cristiano Ronaldo and it certainly hasn’t been plain sailing. They mirrored Uruguay’s style in a 1-0 win over Morocco in their second game and were quite fortunate to escape with a draw in that six-goal thriller against Spain.

Failing to beat Iran, when Ronaldo missed from the spot at a vital stage, could yet haunt them.

Uruguay are the Atletico Madrid of the World Cup. Tough to play against, rigid and uncharitable in defence with crafty attackers that you underestimate at your peril.

Cavani has threatened in every game but finally got his goal against Russia. The big powerful forward can make the difference in what should be an attritional battle on Saturday.

Spain v Russia Sunday 3pm

Best Bet: Spain to win 2-0 @ 7.00

The hosts got off to a fantastic start, scoring eight goals in two games as they brushed aside Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but Russia came crashing down to earth as they fell 3-0 against Uruguay last time.

Igor Smolnikov was sent off in that game, while boss Stanislav Cherchesov is also set to be without the injured Alan Dzagoev on Sunday.

For Spain, it has been a bit of a nearly-tournament so far. Having sacked their manager on the eve of kick-off, they delivered a hugely impressive performance in the 3-3 with Portugal. They moved the ball with pace and precision and showing their willingness to mix things up at times by going direct to Diego Costa, something that will spell trouble should they get it right again in the latter stages.

They’ve flattered to deceive in both games since against fairly limited opponents in Iran and Morocco. There is more in the Spanish tank and they can start by dispatching the hosts from the party in the Luzhniki Stadium.

Croatia v Denmark Sunday 7pm

Best Bet: Croatia to win @ 1.95

Croatia have been one of the most impressive, if not the absolute standout, team in this tournament to date and it is a little surprising to find them priced this close to evens against the Danes.

This game is a tale of current and former Tottenham playmakers in Christian Eriksen and Luka Modric.

The former scored against Australia in Denmark’s second game, but it was an early lead they failed to capitalise on. Goals are not likely to flow in this game, with Denmark routinely being involved in low scoring affairs (Under 2.5 goals scored in six of Denmark’s last seven games World Cup games).

Real Madrid’s Modric has been pulling the strings much more effectively for Croatia in comparison to his Spurs successor.

He also has an in-form Mario Mandzukic up top and the quality of Ivan Rakitic alongside to aid him. Croatia have the better quality and, having rested some of their key men against Iceland, are well placed to win this.

Brazil v Mexico Monday 3pm

Best Bet: Both teams to score @ 2.10

Mexico shook the tournament up when the defeated defending champions Germany, kick-starting a hugely disappointing run for Joachim Low’s team. After backing that up with victory over South Korean, El Tri were on course to take spot in their group but they failed to show up against Sweden, losing 3-0 and coming very close to a disappointing exit.

Failure to top the group means a familiar foe in Brazil, the pre-tournament favourites.

Juan Carlos Osorio’s team were excellent in that opening game against the Germans, Mexico looking particularly sharp on the breakaway. They can score against Brazil, but that might be all.

The five-time winners are starting to get things right, though Brazil did cough up several very decent chances against Serbia before winning 2-0.

Neymar is getting up to speed but Philippe Coutinho has been Brazil’s go-to man so far and he can help them overcome this potential banana-skin.

Belgium v Japan Monday 7pm

Best Bet: Belgium -1 @ 2.20

The Red Devils have done everything that was asked of them so far. A mouth-watering quarter-final against Brazil may be in store, but first they have to get by the Japanese in Rostov-on-Don.

Roberto Martinez made a host of changes for the 1-0 win over England, a game many suggested Belgium wouldn’t like to win, but they still came out on top.

The Red Devils boss did not risk any player already booked. Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku were carrying knocks but should come back in alongside Kevin De Bruyne and Dries Martens.

The firepower in this line-up should be too much for Japan, who had their limitations exposed as they quite literally settled for a 1-0 loss against Poland in their final group game.

Belgium are solid contenders for the outright win now, a theory they can rubberstamp by seeing off their last-16 opponents with a bit to spare.

Sweden v Switzerland Tuesday 3pm

Bet Bet: Sweden to win after penalties @ 9.50

This European pair are very hard to separate on paper and judged on what we have watched so far in the tournament. As such, this might be a dour battle.

They have both delivered useful classes in frustration so far, Sweden when going down so late to Germany in an agonising 2-1 defeat and the Swiss as they held Brazil 1-1 in their opening game.

Vladimir Petkovic has been rocked with the loss of key defenders Stephan Lichtsteiner and Fabian Schar to suspension for his game.

Sweden meanwhile, emphatically overcame Mexico to take spot off the South Americans and avoid meeting Brazil in this round.

This is a big chance for both nations to book a quarter-final place and it is liable to be cagey. We know that penalty shootouts are inevitable from here on in and this game looks about as likely as any of the eight in round two to go the distance.

England v Colombia Tuesday 7pm

Best Bet: Harry Kane to score first @ 4.00

Another really tough game to call as both teams have already been up and down in this tournament.

England inched past Tunisia before blitzing Panama 6-1. The Three Lions then made a raft of changes and went down by a single goal to Belgium, in what amounted to 90 minutes of shadow boxing.

Colombia were impressive in their 3-0 win over Poland and did enough to overcome Senegal after a shaky start in the final group game.

Like England, they’ve found plenty joy in set pieces to this point and that could prove the key in Moscow in the concluding last-16 tie.

Gareth Southgate will restore Harry Kane to the starting line-up and the Spurs frontman is sure to be buzzing with confidence after netting five times in two games so far in Russia. Colombia meanwhile have major concerns over the fitness of their main attacking threat, James Rodriguez.

A tough game to call but Kane has already showcased that he’ll plant the ball in the net given any chance and he’s worth chancing to break the deadlock.