By Antony Jordan
Tuesday sees the final pair of matches from the first knockout round of the World Cup in Russia with two very different games being played. The opening clash of the day pits the pairing of Switzerland and Sweden together before the meeting of Colombia and England will take the attention of everyone. Both games promise to be close and thrilling matches, but who’ll be the sides with their names in the Quarter Finals of the biggest competition in world football?
We preview both of these fixtures with online sportsbook Intertops.eu to bring you our top World Cup Picks from the last 16 stage of the 2018 World Cup.
These two sides have met on just a single occasion since goals from Darren Anderton and David Beckham gave England a 2-0 victory in the group stage of the World Cup in 1998 as the European side triumphed 3-2 in a friendly match in 2005 thanks to a Michael Owen hat-trick. The majority of these goals have been scored by England legends and with Harry Kane starting the knockout stages of this tournament with five goals to his name will we see another English legend cemented into history with the winner against the South Americans at the Otkrytiye Arena?
Both sides arrive at this Moscow stadium having won two and lost one of their three group stage games to see Colombia top Group H and England finish runners up to Belgium in Group G. The South Americans were beaten in their opening match by Japan as they saw Carlos Sanchez red carded in the third minute of the match. Although they showed plenty of promise with just ten men in that match they were defeated 2-1, but they did bounce back with a fine 3-0 win over Poland and then secured their place in the knockout stage of the competition with a narrow 1-0 victory against Senegal to see the African side eliminated on yellow cards picked up in the tournament.
England did things the other way around as they edged a narrow win over Tunisia in their opener with Harry Kane netting a late goal to see a 2-1 win for the English before they cruised past Panama 6-1 with Kane adding his third, fourth and fifth goals of the competition. Manager Gareth Southgate rested a large number of players for the Belgium match and they were beaten 1-0, but the result gives them a place in the easier side of the draw.
England will have to overcome Colombia in this match, but if they can do that they look good value to make at least the Semi Finals in Russia. The same goes for Colombia too if they win this match, but Intertops are caught up with England fever as they make the 1966 World Champions favourites to win this match and with many of their star players having rested for more than week, especially Harry Kane who did not play any part against Belgium, they will have the energy advantage in this match. The two sides will be close in every other part of the game, but we feel that Kane’s goals – he alone has scored as many goals in two matches as Colombia have in three – and the advantage gained from resting against Belgium will see England progress to the last eight stage of this competition.
The final match from the round of 16 that we’re taking a look at is the unexpected meeting of Sweden and Switzerland in St. Petersburg. The clash is the first meeting of the sides since 2002 when the teams drew 1-1 in Malmö and they have not faced each other in a competitive game since 1995 when they faced each other in the qualification group for Euro 96. It is a mission into the unknown for both sides against each other, but will it be the shock winners of Group F or the side that finished second to Brazil in Group E that will progress to the Quarter Finals?
Intertops favour the Swiss to progress in the game, although their match odds suggest that it will be a close contest between the two sides. The Swiss have shown plenty of determination so far in Russia as they came back against both Brazil and Serbia to secure four points as they drew 1-1 with the five time champions before taking all three points against Serbia thanks to an injury time winner from Xherdan Shaqiri. They drew their final game against Costa Rica despite taking an 88th minute lead and with four goals conceded as well as missing defenders Stephan Lichtsteiner and Fabian Schaar through suspension for this match will they be able to keep the Swedes out to progress?
Sweden have been impressive in Russia so far as they topped a group containing Germany, Mexico and South Korea. They edged past Korea 1-0 in their first game courtesy of a VAR issued penalty before putting in a fantastic performance against Germany that was ultimately heart breaking. The Scandinavians led 1-0 at half time but a quick fire goal and a last kick of game goal from the Germans saw zero points and a hard to take defeat. It would have been easy for Sweden to feel sorry for themselves, but their final game against Mexico saw them bounce back with a stunning 3-0 victory to take them top of the group and avoid a match with Brazil, now will they be able to channel their momentum into moving into the final eight of the tournament?
Before Sweden’s win over Mexico we’d easily have been siding with Intertops and backing the Swiss to win this match with ease, but that confident and thrilling performance has certainly made deciding the winner of this match far more difficult to predict. Both sides do have issues with keeping goals out but are capable of scoring too. There have been 16 goals in the six matches that these two sides have played so far and, while we are not confident enough to back either side to progress, we are backing goals at the Saint-Petersburg Stadium.