Russia 2018: The Journey So Far, What To Expect Going Forward
The boys are out.
The men are still in the race.
As all the teams that qualified for the round of 16 gear up for their matches, it promises to produce more excitement than we witnessed in the group stage.
The men have eventuality been separated from the boys.
In the boys category, we had Germany, the defending champions, who were caught by the curse of champions dumped out with all the African representatives namely Nigeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Senegal also Costa Rica,Panama,Poland,Serbia, South Korea, Peru, Australia, Iceland, Saudi Arabia and Iran were all in the boys category.
The greatest upset of the first round was the elimination of Germany the defending Champions.
Nigeria was also a big disappointment as the hope of millions were shattered.
All the Super Eagles needed was a draw but they messed up in the last 10 minutes by losing focus and concentration.
It took Cameroon and Ghana 2 attempts, Senegal 1 attempt to reach the quarter final of the world cup.
The Super Eagles have been to 6 world cups without a last 8 appearance.
The fact is there is something we are not doing right.
ROUND OF 16 PAIRINGS
France VS Argentina
The French have been more convincing in their play compared to the Argentines.
France topped their group but for the loss of concentration of The Nigerian team, the Argentines won’t be playing at this stage now.
France goes through.
Uruguay VS Portugal
Maximum 9 points for Uruguay gives them the edge as their self confidence will be so high now but no one can rule out what Christiano Ronaldo can do on a good day. If he is at the best then Portugal will go through.
Spain VS Russia
The Spaniards with 2 draws and a win have not been as impressive and convincing as they should be. I guess the last minute change of their Coach must have affected them but they should be over that now.
Russia realized after the 3 nil bashing by Uruguay that hone support as host does not count when playing a better team. Spain is definitely better and they will surely go through.
Croatia VS Denmark
Croatia is on the roll and Denmark is not just the team to stop them now.
All they need is to step up their game just as they did against Argentina.
Maximum 9 points with a +6 goal difference, scoring 7 goals and conceding only 1.
Team Spirit is high, confidence is high so victory is assured.
Brazil VS Mexico
The Samba boys are gradually getting into their stride after a slow start.
They have a lot to offer and this game will be so different from all they have played so far.
Mexico on the other hand is descending in performance after suffering a 3 – 0 spanking against Sweden.
This is not the best time for them to meet Brazil.
Brazil wins comfortably.
Sweden VS Switzerland
Sweden deserve to play in the Round of 16 with 2wins and a loss to Germany which could have been a draw if not for the unnecessary foul which resultant free kick was scored by Toni Kroos.
Switzerland came second behind Brazil and edged out Serbia.
The two teams are balanced. Head to Head they have both won 10 games and drawn 7.
A very close call. Most likely it will end in a penalty shoot out.
Columbia VS England
Columbia rose to the occasion, defeated Senegal and topped their group. They needed a win to qualify in their last group game and they got it. This shows strength of character but against the 3
Lions it is going to be a different Bal game.
The English have a decent squad who can go further not minding the temporary blip against Belgium.
A very close call but with Harry Kane the English have an edge.
Belgium VS Japan
The Belgians have continued to impress and perform to expectations match after match.
Maximum points, +7 goal difference, 9goals scored and 2 goals conceded.
The quality and depth is the squad is evidence as they defeated England without some of their key players (Lukaku Eden Hazard and De Bruyne).
The Japanese stand no chance against the Belgians.
Belgium wins comfortably.
As the excitement of the Mundial continues we hope to see the best of football and have memories that will live with us long after Russia 2018 will be over.
The column, SoccerGist With The Billionaire, is a weekly opinion by the veteran sport reporter, Segun Onwuka, covering all professional sporting events.