The last 16 of the World Cup is finally taking shape, and 14 of the 16 teams have already booked their slots in the round. These 14 teams are Uruguay, Russia, Spain, Portugal, France, Denmark, Croatia, Argentina, Mexico, Sweden, Brazil, Switzerland, England, and Belgium. After a historic night when Germany was kicked out of the world cup by South Korea, Thursday 28th June 2018 sees four teams play to close out the group stages.
Remember that if teams are tied for points, then the FIFA regulations state that if teams have the same points then their ranking will be determined as follows:
- goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned;
- greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams concerned;
- greater number of points obtained in the fair play conduct of the teams based on yellow and red cards received in all group matches as follows: – yellow card: minus 1 point – indirect red card: minus 3 points (as a result of a second yellow card) – direct red card: minus 4 points – yellow card and direct red card: minus 5 points Only one of the above deductions shall be applied to a player in a single match;
- drawing of lots by the FIFA Organizing Committee.
Group H (Games start at 5 PM East African Time)
The first two games of the day feature Senegal vs Colombia and Japan vs Poland. Senegal is the last remaining African team in the tournament, and with Egypt, Tunisia, and Nigeria all eliminated, Senegal is the last hope. The last time all African teams were eliminated from the first round of the World Cup was in 1982, and this shows how much Africa has underperformed in this tournament. Senegal has been decent in this world cup, beating fancied Poland and holding Japan to a 2-2 draw. They will need to be much better against arguably the best team in the group in Colombia. Colombia started slowly with a 2-1 draw against Japan, before turning on the style and thumping Poland 3-0. Their front four of James Rodriguez, Falcao, Cuadrado, and Quintero are brilliant and effervescent, and Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly and co will have to be brilliant to stop them.
Japan has been one of the surprises of the tournament and goes into this game knowing that a draw against Poland will be enough. Players such as Shinji Kagawa, captain Makoto Hasebe, and Yuya Osako have impressed and have a goal-scoring ability. Poland has been very poor, and after not playing FIFA friendlies in 2017 so as to maintain their ranking of 8 in the world and get a high seeding, seem to have come into this competition underprepared. Their aging core of Lewandowski, Łukasz Piszczek, Kamil Glik, Jakub Błaszczykowski and Lucas Fabianski are all on the wrong side of 30 and in the sunset of their careers. It is difficult to know when Poland will be back in the world cup, and many of these players will be playing for pride and a final hurrah and could pull a surprise against the well knitted Japanese.
Prediction: Colombia come into this match full of confidence and verve after smashing 3 past Poland, and I am afraid a fit James Rodriguez, a motivated Falcao and Quintero and a solid supporting cast could be too much for Senegal who will be playing for a draw. Japan take on Poland knowing a draw would be enough to take them through no matter what happens in the other game, and they should have too much for a disappointing Poland who exits the World Cup with a whimper. Japan and Colombia look favorites to advance, though I will be obviously rooting for Senegal.
Group G: (Games kick off at 9 PM East African time)
Group G is a bit of a dead rubber. England and Belgium have already qualified from the group with two wins out of two, and this game is only about deciding the position both finish. In the other group, Tunisia and Panama are out of the running, and both teams will probably look to win so as to exit on a high. There is a bit of “what might have been” for Tunisia, who were so close to holding England to a draw in their first match.
The England vs Belgium game has been dominated by online talk on social media on whether it is better to finish first or second. The team that finishes second might face Brazil in the quarter-finals while finishing first might lead to matches against Japan then Sweden in the quarters. Neither England nor Belgium have made the semis of a world cup since 1994, hence all this talk seems premature to me. However, it shows how much of a pointless game this is. England and Belgium have both scored and conceded the same amount of goals, and have an equal number of points, and if they draw this match then it might come down to which team has the less number of yellow cards. England is ahead here with two yellows compared to Belgium’s three. England has done well so far, they are a real danger on set pieces, and so many of the English and Belgian footballers play in the premier league that they will know each other very well. It will probably boil down to which team does the more changes to their first 11.
Prediction: Tunisia will look to beat a Panama side that scored their first goal in a World Cup against England, and they should have too much for the Central Americans. England and Belgium face off in a dead rubber, and both teams will rest their first-choice players. I expect England to put out a slightly stronger side, and if Belgium does rest as many players as their manager is saying, then I think England could sneak a 2-1 victory.