It’s been nothing short of an unexpected ride at the World Cup so far.
If you have been following all the kicks and goals in Russia over the past few weeks, we’re quite sure you’d feel it’s been a roller coaster ride. At the qualifying stage, Italy and the Netherlands failed to make the cut. Then in the group stages, several heavyweights bowed out in surprise losses.
Needless to say, it’s been heartbreak and disbelief on one end and ecstatic joy on the other. With the last Round of 16 match complete, we are now down to the final eight from 32 qualifying countries.
Host country Russia is the lowest-ranking team in the World Cup. It received automatic qualification as host nation, but seems to have earned its place among the quarter-finalists for holding its own. The Russian team beat Spain on penalties (4-3) to secure a spot in the final eight.
It was Croatian goalie Danijel Subasic who put on a sublime performance during the penalty shoot-out against Denmark. The score was locked at 1-1 after extra time, and after two saves by Subasic, Croatia’s Ivan Rakitic had to send the ball home and he didn’t fail. The Danes were gracious losers and refused to play the blame game, with Kasper Schmeichel saying, “We win and lose as a team.”
Next Match: Russia vs Croatia (8 July, 2am)
One of the historically strong teams left, France edged out Argentina in the Round of 16 with a 4-3 scoreline. The man of the match was without doubt French rising star, 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe. Known for his speed and skill, the teenager scored a brace that sent Lionel Messi and his teammates home.
The South American country put on a stellar performance to knock out reigning European champions Portugal. Uruguay’s forward Edinson Cavani scored two goals in the first half, leaving the pitch later due to injury. His goals, however, were enough to leave Portugal and world player of the year Christiano Ronaldo eating the dust.
Next Match: France vs Uruguay (6 July, 10pm)
Led by one of the world’s best players, Brazil stepped into victory in the midst of Mexican tears in the Round of 16. Neymar scored one and assisted another to lead Brazil to a 2-0 victory over Mexico. Of course, this match wasn’t without its drama, with Neymar having been criticised for ‘playacting’ during the match.
For seven consecutive World Cups, Mexico has failed to make it past this round and into the quarter-finals.
The remaining Asian country in the World Cup was sent home after Belgium emerged victorious against Japan in the Round of 16. At first, it looked as though Japan would win comfortably, leading 2-0 in the first half. However, Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli’s entry in the 65th minute changed everything. The Belgians charged forward with two goals in the 69th and 74th minute, and Chadli’s extra-time shot that hit home sent Japan’s World Cup dreams crashing.
Next Match: Brazil vs Belgium (7 July, 2am)
It was a tearful time for Switzerland after the 1-0 defeat that sent them packing and paved the way for Sweden to enter the quarter-finals. It’s the first time Sweden has entered the final eight since 1994, and proves that you don’t need pomp and glamour to make the cut. The yellow jerseys’ firm resolve and quiet strength displayed a unity that carried them through.
This football heavyweight took the final spot in the final eight, with a blistering win over Colombia in penalties (4-3). England fans watched with bated breath as the country doesn’t have a great track record with penalty shoot-outs, but this new generation of footballers sprung into action and delivered. Joy for England, heartbreak for Colombia. And so we have the eight countries moving on.
Next Match: Sweden vs England (7 July, 10pm)
As of June 2018, the World Cup 2018 is running an estimated cost of USD 14.2 billion, making it the most expensive tournament ever.
A total of 12 stadiums are being used for the World Cup, with the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow having a capacity of more than 78,000.
The World Cup 2018 is running on around 35,000 volunteers both for the tournament and in host cities.
For more fun facts about the World Cup, here’s all you need to know