What a spectacular final round of group matches we just witnessed. Glory and heartbreak seemed to hold hands in this rollercoaster. Tears rolled, fans went wild and a dugout was smashed. The tournament keeps on entertaining.
Belgian Lukaku had more than enough chances to eliminate Croatia and bring Belgium’s golden generation into the last 16. Unfortunately he failed. Four-time champions Germany beat Costa Rica but the win was not enough and for the second World Cup in a row they crashed out of tournament in the group stage. South Korea’s goal in extra time sent the emotional East Asians into the next round and the, equally emotional, Uruguayans home. Even Spain was eliminated for a few minutes and had to give up the group win to an ecstatic Japan. Brazil and Portugal, both already qualified, lost their final matches to Cameroon and South Korea respectively.
Now that the dust has settled, five teams from FIFA’s Top 16 ranking are going home: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Mexico and Uruguay. The positive surprises so far? Morocco, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Poland, if you consider their ranking.
For the first time in the tournament’s history, countries from 6 continents reach the knockout stage, making this World Cup in Qatar truly a global and competitive one. Perhaps a little win both FIFA and Qatar needed.
The knockout stage starts today with clashes between the underwhelming Dutch versus a youthful Team USA and Messi’s Argentina versus the lowest ranking team left in the tournament, Australia.
Netherlands – USA (6PM Doha Time), Khalifa International Stadium
Argentina – Australia (10PM Doha Time), Ahmad bin Ali Stadium
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