The World Cup’s Round of 16 has started to take shape following the second round of group stage matches. With the knockout round on their minds, some of soccer’s brightest stars stepped up and delivered memorable performances over the last few days.
Six teams — Belgium, Croatia, England, France, Russia and Uruguay — have already clinched their spots in the Round of 16 with only the final group order left to be sorted out. With 10 more spots up for grabs, there’s plenty of intrigue heading into match day three with some of the early favorites in danger of making an early exit.
No team is facing more of an uphill climb than Lionel Messi’s Argentina in Group D. After being decisively beaten by Croatia, 3-0, the Argentines have just one point through their first two matches and must beat Nigeria and hope Iceland do not beat Croatia in order to advance. Nigeria beat Iceland, 2-0, and would guarantee themselves a spot in the next round with a win over Argentina.
There are rumblings that the Argentina team has lost faith in head coach Jorge Sampaoli and will decide the starting lineup for its pivotal clash with Nigeria.
Though Argentina continued to struggle in Russia, some of the tournament’s other most prominent teams got back on track in the second round of group play after inauspicious starts. Spain edged Iran, 1-0; Brazil set back Costa Rica, 2-0, to eliminate MNUFC defender Francisco Calvo and the Ticos; 2014 World Cup darling James Rodriguez provided two assists as Colombia rolled over Poland, 3-0; and, staring at a potential elimination, Toni Kroos served up a last-second goal to give reigning champion Germany a thrilling 2-1 win over Sweden.
In order to guarantee qualification, Spain and Brazil both need at least a point from their next matches and Colombia needs to win to leapfrog Senegal. Germany has to win by two or more goals or best Sweden’s result.
Led by a Harry Kane hat trick and a Romelu Lukaku brace, England and Belgium continued their impressive showings in Group G with 6-1 and 5-2 wins over Panama and Tunisia, respectively. The two sides will meet later this week to determine who tops the group. Uruguay also remained undefeated and unscored upon with a 1-0 win over Egypt.
Mexico looks likely to be the only CONCACAF side to advance after staying perfect with a 2-1 win over South Korea. It can guarantee qualification, and top the group, with a point against Sweden this week. Panama and Costa Rica were both defeated in the second round and eliminated.
Denmark and Switzerland are also in good shape to advance from Group C and E, respectively, but have Australia and Serbia lurking just beneath them. Japan is in the driver’s seat in Group H, needing only a win or draw against Poland in the third round to move on.
Match day three got underway on Monday with Uruguay’s 3-0 win over Russia and Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 triumph over Egypt. Coverage continues on FOX and FOX Sports One through the end of the group stage on Thursday, June 28.
World Cup Results: Group Stage Matchday of 3 (June 19-24)
<p><strong>Group A</strong><br> Russia 3 – 1 Egypt<br> Uruguay 1 – 0 Saudi Arabia</p><p><strong>Group B </strong><br> Portugal 1 – 0 Morocco<br> Iran 0 – 1 Spain</p><p><strong>Group C </strong><br> Denmark 1 – 1 Australia<br> Franca 1 – 0 Peru</p><p><strong>Group D </strong><br> Argentina 0 – 3 Croatia<br> Nigeria 2 – 0 Iceland</p>
<p><strong>Group E </strong><br> Serbia 1 – 2 Switzerland<br> Brazil 2 – 0 Costa Rica</p><p><strong>Group F</strong><br> South Korea 1 – 2 Mexico<br> Germany 2 – 1 Sweden</p><p><strong>Group G </strong><br> Belgium 5 – 2 Tunisia<br> England 6 – 1 Panama</p><p><strong>Group H </strong><br> Japan 2 – 2 Senegal<br> Poland 0 – 3 Colombia</p>