The 2018 edition of the FIFA World Cup is turning out to be as unpredictable as ever, with some of the top sides in the competition either getting knocked out even before the quarter-finals, or being dealt with an almighty scare.
Following Germany's shock first-round ouster in the group stage, the Round of 16 matches that have taken place so far have witnessed the exits of former champions Argentina and Spain, as well as heavyweights and reigning European champions Portugal. Lionel Messi's World Cup hopes were dashed yet again as Kylian Mbappe took centre stage with a stunning brace in the first match of the stage, resulting in a 4-3 defeat to 1998 winners France. Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal were knocked out in the very next game, losing 2-1 to Uruguay.
An under-fire Spain failed to make it past the Round of 16 after falling short to hosts Russia on penalties following a 1-1 stalemate on Sunday. The day witnessed another penalty shootout right after, with Croatia knocking Denmark out after a 1-1 draw by winning the shootout by winning 3-2 on penalties.
Monday will witness five-time winners Brazil take on German conquerors Mexico, while a supremely-talented Belgium take on Japan in the second game of the day. Here's what you can expect from the two upcoming games:
Round of 16: Brazil vs Mexico (7.30 pm)
Brazil face Mexico in the Round of 16 Monday at Samara Arena, and with Germany, Argentina and Portugal already eliminated, a victory would make the five-time World Cup champions one of the top bets to take the title. Brazil were in a similar position four years ago when they hosted the World Cup but were humiliated 7-1 by eventual winners Germany in the semifinals.
Danilo is available to play for Brazil after missing the team's last two matches with a right hip injury, but Marcelo, who left early in the group stage finale against Serbia with back spasms, is out. So is winger Douglas Costa with a thigh injury.
Mexico, meanwhile, are seeking the elusive "quinto partido" — fifth game, a trip to the quarterfinals — for the first time since 1986. El Tri have made it to the Round of 16 for the past six tournaments, only to stall out at that stage.
Mexico pulled off an upset by beating Germany 1-0 in the group opener for their first victory over the four-time champions in a competitive match.
Round of 16: Belgium vs Japan (11.30 pm)
Belgium are the leading scorer of the World Cup and face Asia's last remaining representative at the final match hosted at Rostov Arena.
Belgium have been led by Romelu Lukaku, who has four goals in the tournament and trails only the five scored by England striker Harry Kane. While chasing the Golden Boot, Lukaku will also be trying to help Belgium equal their World Cup record of four consecutive wins set four years ago in Brazil.
A victory over Japan would put the Red Devils in the quarterfinals for only the third time.
With inputs from AP
Updated Date: Jul 02, 2018 09:45 AM