messi
USA TODAY

World Cup Group Stage Wraps Up in Climactic Fashion

The final match days of the first round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup certainly lived up to their billing. The daily suspense saw teams clinch their place in the Round of 16 in dramatic fashion and left some sides agonizingly on the outside of the knockout stage looking in.

Match day three’s biggest drama came in Group F, where Wednesday’s stunning results left reigning champion Germany out of the Round of 16 after a 2-0 loss to South Korea. The loss marked the first time in 80 years that the Germans were eliminated in the World Cup’s first round and the first time ever in a group stage format. It was also the fourth time in the last five tournaments that the World Cup titleholder did not advance out of group play.

South Korea’s upset also rescued Mexico, which was beaten, 3-0, by group-topping Sweden. That loss would have knocked them out of the tournament on goal differential if Germany had defeated South Korea, but instead Mexican fans ended up celebrating their new South Korean friends all over the globe.

In Group D, Lionel Messi and Marcus Rojo helped Argentina escape the group in a 2-1 win over Nigeria. Victor Moses’ PK in the 51st minute drew Nigeria level at 1-1 and would have eliminated the Argentines had Rojo not rescued them with an 86th minute match-winner.

The chaos in Group H resulted in a tie between Japan and Senegal in second place at four points, a zero goal differential and four goals scored. The two teams tied in their head-to-head meeting, so Senegal became the first team in World Cup history to be eliminated in the harshest way possible — the fair play rule. Senegal had six players booked for yellow cards compared to Japan’s four.

Only three teams made it through the group stage unscathed: Belgium, Croatia and Uruguay. Not only is Uruguay undefeated at the World Cup, but also its stout backline has yet to concede a goal in three matches after rounding out group play with a 3-0 win over Russia. Luis Suarez and company’s reward is a Round of 16 match-up with Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal, which escaped the group stage after sweating out a 1-1 draw with an upset-minded Iran that nearly found a last-second winner.

The Round of 16 kicks off on Saturday, June 30 at 9:00 a.m. CT with Group C winner France taking on Group D runner-up Argentina, followed by Group A topper Uruguay against Group B’s second place finisher Portugal at 1:00 p.m. Both matches will be broadcast nationally on FOX.

World Cup Results: Group Stage Matchday 3 of 3 (June 25-28)

Group A
Saudi Arabia 2 – 1 Egypt
Uruguay 3 – 0 Russia

Group B
Iran 1 – 1 Portugal
Spain 2 – 2 Morocco

Group C
Australia 0 – 2 Peru
Denmark 0 – 0 France

Group D
Nigeria 1 – 2 Argentina
Iceland 1 – 2 Croatia

Group E
Switzerland 2 – 2 Costa Rica
Serbia 0 – 2 Brazil

Group F
Mexico 0 – 3 Sweden
South Korea 2 – 0 Germany

Group G
England 0 – 1 Belgium
Panama 1 – 2 Tunisia

Group H
Senegal 0 – 1 Colombia
Japan 0 – 1 Poland

Round of 16 Match-ups

Saturday, June 30
1C France vs. 2D Argentina, 9:00 a.m.
1A Uruguay vs. 2B Portugal, 1:00 p.m.

Sunday, July 1
1B Spain vs. 2A Russia, 9:00 a.m.
1D Croatia vs. 2C Denmark, 1:00 p.m.

Monday, July 2
1E Brazil vs. 2F Mexico, 9:00 a.m.
1G Belgium vs. 2H Japan, 1:00 p.m.

Tuesday, July 3
1F Sweden vs. 2E Switzerland, 9:00 a.m.
1H Colombia vs. 2G England, 1:00 p.m.