By Antony Jordan
The easy part of the World Cup is over as the knockout stages of the competition begin this Saturday – and what a match we have to kick off the last 16 round of the tournament! The opening clash from this round of the competition sees France take on Argentina, while the day’s second game throws Luis Suarez and Cristiano Ronaldo on-field together in Uruguay v Portugal.
How will these two matches play out and who’ll progress? We preview both games with online sportsbook Intertops.eu to bring you our best World Cup Picks.
Even though this opening match from the knockout stage of the World Cup throws together two massive names from world football, these two sides have not performed that well in Russia this summer. Despite this, the South American side have history against the 1998 World Champions as they recorded one goal victories at the 1930 and 1978 World Cups as well as winning the last two meetings in friendly matches in 2007 and 2009 but after subpar performances against Iceland and being well beaten by Croatia before edging a tight match against Nigeria with a late goal will this be the time that the European side secures a victory?
The French may not have set the world alight in Group C but they did defeat Australia and Peru to move into this stage of the World Cup after two games. They rested players in their final group game as they drew 0-0 with Denmark to secure top spot and will be refreshed for this clash, and this will be vital as Argentina showed against Croatia the South American side struggle against teams with good midfields. With Kante, Pogba, Mbappe and Griezmann all occupying starting places in the middle of the park we feel that France have one of the best midfields in the entire tournament and even though Argentina will be boosted by the way that they moved into the knockout stages of this competition we cannot see them progressing past this round against a far superior opponent.
Sochi hosts the first meeting of Uruguay and Portugal as they look to move into the Quarter Finals of this World Cup for the first time since 2010 when the South Americans reached the Semi Finals and Portugal reached the last eight stage. One of them will be falling at the first knockout round this time, but will it be the Luis Suarez powered Uruguay or will the Cristiano Ronaldo led Portuguese be the victors?
Uruguay started their tournament slowly as they needed an 89th minute winner to defeat Egypt and their 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia did not inspire too much confidence in the side. However, their 3-0 victory over the host nation in their final group game was impressive as the South Americans opened up finally. The fact that they have not conceded a goal and put in their best performance in the final group game will see them believe that they can win this match.
In addition to this, Portugal have not looked like they are the current European Champions as they had been carried into the knockout stages by the boot and head of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid star has four goals to his name – and it would have been five if not for a poor penalty against Iran – but the rest of the side has let them down. They have drawn 3-3 with Spain and 1-1 with Iran in the group stage while their only victory so far came against a poor Morocco. However, this is very similar to their European Championship winning campaign where they won just a single match in 90 minutes and we expect to see them try to shut down Suarez and the rest of the South Americans in this game before allowing Cristiano Ronaldo to fire them into the last eight.
However, as the Spanish and Iranians have shown, there are goals to be scored against this Portugal side and with the boost from the 3-0 win over Russia we can see goals being scored by Uruguay. Even though the South Americans are yet to concede in Russia we feel that Portugal are much better than any other side they have faced so far and they will pose more trouble to their defence.
Who’ll progress? Either of these teams could win this match, but we feel that goals offer the best value at the Olimpiyskiy Stadion Fisht.