By Leo Bennett

As the ref’s whistle sounded to end Tunisia’s 2-1 victory over Panama so too ended the Pool stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.  The Pool stage was full of upsets and surprises, so we could only expect the best from the Round of 16. Maverick LEO BENNETT brings you more action from the knockout stages of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Day 1 of the Round of 16 matches was a goal fest! Frances 4-3 victory over Messi’s Argentina provided us with not only some world class goals, but also some records. France’s 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe scored 2 goals and, in doing so, became the first teenager since Pele in 1958 to score 2 goals in a World Cup match. Frances victory meant they were moving on to the quarter-finals. The second match that day was also world class, with Uruguay beating out Portugal 2-1. Uruguay’s Edison Cavani scored in the 7thminute which gave his team somewhat of a safety net up until Portugal’s defender Pepe equalised in the 55thminute. Cavani scored once again 7 minutes later which would be the decisive goal.

Two penalty shootouts would decide the next two knockout games with hosts Russia beating out Spain 4-3 in penalties to keep their World Cup hopes alive. This result was more than any Russian fan could have hoped for and was a disappointing end for the Spanish team, for many of whom it was to be their last game. Croatia would also beat Denmark 3-2 in a penalty shootout of their own, after Croatia’s Luka Modric missed a penalty in the final minutes of extra-time.

Once again Brazil showed their dominance in their 2-0 victory over Mexico. A 51stminute goal from golden-boy Neymar gave the Brazilians the lead and a goal from Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino in the 88thminute solidified their victory. Japan’s tournament came to a heart-breaking end when they lost 3-2 to Belgium after having a 2-0 lead in the 52ndminute. A Belgium goal in the 94thminute after a Japanese corner broke the hearts of the Japanese players and fans alike, 2018 would not be Japan’s year.

The last day of the Round of 16 matches consisted of two games; Sweden and Switzerland matched up as well as Colombia and England 4 hours later.  Despite only having 32% possession, Sweden managed a goal in the 66thminute, this would be the match’s only goal. Sweden would progress to their first quarter-final since 1994. England was faced with a penalty shootout in their match against Colombia, England had previously never won a penalty shootout at a World Cup. Despite this unfortunate statistic England managed to break their streak and win their first ever World Cup penalty shootout after a miss from Colombian striker Bacca. Could the Cup be coming home?

Football fans from across the globe watched the quarter-finals, with the first being between France and Uruguay. A goal in the 40thminute came from a header from Frances defender Raphaël Varane after a precise freekick from Antoine Griezmann, giving France a 1-0 lead at half-time. A nightmare mistake from Uruguayan Goalkeeper Fernando Muslera gifted Griezmann a second goal and handed France a ticket to the semi-finals. Could France’s Les Bleus win it all?

Belgium and Brazil’s match was much anticipated, Brazil hoped to continue their World Cup dream and go on to win their 6thWorld Cup while Belgium hoped to reach their second ever World Cup semi-final. An own goal from Brazilian Fernandinho in the 13thminute gave Belgium the lead and with Kevin De Bruyne scoring in the 31stminute, it seemed that Brazil’s world cup dream once again finished early. Renato Augusto scored in the 76thminute giving Brazil hope of a comeback but a masterclass effort from Belgium’s goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, denied Brazil a chance to get back into the match. Belgium would progress to their second semi-final ever and first since 1986. Can Belgium’s “Golden Generation” win it for the first time?

England and Sweden’s match was a standout performance for Jordan Pickford, the English goalkeeper. Pickford managed to keep a clean sheet and helped England to progress to the semi-finals. A headed goal from defender Harry Maguire gave England a 1-0 lead at half-time. A second headed goal from 22-year-old Dele Alli allowed England to hold on to their lead and eventually win 2-0. Now that England is in the semi-final, is football coming home?

Host nation Russia hoped that they could defeat Croatia and progress to the semi-final and eventually win it all. This looked a likely result when, in the 31stminute, Deni Cheryshev scored from 23 metres out. However, Croatia levelled the score in the 39thminute off of an Andrej Kramarić header, the game would eventually go into extra time. In the 100thminute, a header from Domagoj Vida put Croatia in front, but Russia equalised in the 115thminute. Meaning penalties would decide this game. Mário Figueira Fernandes’ goal pushed the game into penalties, but he missed the target in his own penalty meaning that Ivan Rakitić could win the game for Croatia, and that he did. With the host nation defeated, Croatia now has a chance to take the cup home for themselves.

Now that we know who will be facing up in the semi-finals, which begin on Wednesday, we are down to 4 potential winners. Could we see a new victor in either Belgium or Croatia? Or will France or England win their second ever title? Stay tuned into TEARAWAY for all your World Cup action.

Leo loves politics and whitewater kayaking. Don’t get him started on football, you won’t get a word in edgeways. Wants to be Harry Potter. You can check out more of his work below:

FIFA World Cup: What You Need To Know