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#WorldCup: Round of 16 preview

The 2018 World Cup Round of 16 starts on Saturday following Friday’s rest day. Croatia and Uruguay are the only teams to go into the knockout stages with a 100% record.

Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal takes on Uruguay in the Round of 16 Match on Saturday. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - The 2018 World Cup Round of 16 starts on Saturday following Friday’s rest day. Croatia and Uruguay are the only teams to go into the knockout stages with a 100% record.

SATURDAY

France v Argentina
France finished top of group C - drawing 1-1 with Denmark and earning two victories over Peru and Australia respectively. Argentina were underwhelming in the group stages; being held to a draw by Iceland in the first game and then beaten convincingly by Croatia 3-0.

Jorge Sampaoli’s men needed a victory over Nigeria in the last game to qualify. Marcos Rojo stole the three points just four minutes from time.

Lionel Messi will be a key figure in the match with Argentina often only performing when he does.

Uruguay v Portugal
Uruguay go into the game feeling confident having won all three of their group games. The three victories included a 3-0 victory over hosts Russia.

Portugal showed a few cracks in their last group game. The 1-1 draw against Iran involved a saved penalty from Cristiano Ronaldo. The Seleccao will feel confident heading into the game with the added experience of Ricardo Quaresma in the team.

Luis Suarez has been impressive since the opening game against Egypt and will be a threat to Pepe and co.

SUNDAY

Spain v Russia
Russia were brilliant in their first two games – beating Saudi Arabia 5-0 and Egypt 3-1 – but they were brought down to earth after a 3-0 loss to Uruguay.

Spain were lucky to get all three points against Iran, with Diego Costa finding the back of the net. He was just as feisty against Portugal when he found the back of the net twice.

With Isco and Iniesta in midfield, Spain go into the game as favourites.

Croatia v Denmark

Croatia is the only other team to go into the round of 16 with a 100% record, with victories over Nigeria, Argentina and Iceland respectively.

Denmark finished behind France in Group C, however, the Danes will have to improve their goal scoring record having only scored two goals thus far – five less than Croatia. Luka Modric’s performance will play a vital role in the outcome of this match.

MONDAY

Brazil v Mexico

Brazil have been underwhelming thus far being held to a 1-1 draw by Switzerland in the first game leaving the likes of Neymar and Phillipe Coutinho frustrated. Neymar needs to be stronger on his feet to positively impact games.

Mexico’s counter-attacks have been brilliant against Germany and South Korea. Brazil will need to be wary of that as they have a tendency to push their fullbacks up the field.

Belgium v Japan

Belgium have been brilliant so far this tournament; scoring nine goals in the group stages and conceding just two. They may be slightly peeved considering the two goals that were conceded could have been avoided.

Japan were lucky to reach this stage of the tournament after qualifying ahead of Senegal on the fair play rule, with both sides having identical record goal-scoring image.
If Japan defend as good as Michy Batshuayi celebrates, Belgium should progress comfortably.

TUESDAY

Sweden v Switzerland

Sweden topped Group F which, of course, included defending champions Germany. Sweden beat South Korea and Mexico – in the final game – to seal their place in the knockout stage.
Switzerland scraped through as runners-up in Group E winning just once, against Serbia, to sneak into the Round of 16.

Emil Forsberg was in good form in the group stage and will have to outshine Xherdan Shaqiri to guide the Swedes to the quarterfinals.

Colombia v England

Despite showing mixed form in the group stage, Colombia finished at the summit of Group H after their 1-0 win over Senegal.

England are coming off the back of a loss to Belgium in which both sides rang the changes in the starting lineups.
James Rodriguez limped off the field in the first half of the Senegal game and looks like he could miss the clash, which will give England the edge in this one.