Wednesday 18 July 2018

5 things to look out for at the World Cup on Saturday

The last-16 stage gets under way with a mouth-watering clash between France and Argentina.

Lionel Messi will hope to help Argentina beat France in the World Cup (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Lionel Messi will hope to help Argentina beat France in the World Cup (Owen Humphreys/PA)

By Press Association Sport staff

The World Cup match action resumes on Saturday with the first knockout bouts: France v Argentina and Uruguay v Portugal.

Here, Press Association Sport ponders what to look out for.

Phoney war over

With the group stage finished and a rest day completed, the real World Cup action can begin in earnest. No longer will losses or draws be tolerated – only winners will prevail. Football connoisseurs will be salivating at the prospect of a last 16 which features some compelling ties and will see some big names go home.

Les Bleus for Lionel?

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Didier Deschamps won the 1998 World Cup with France and is manager 20 years on (Tim Goode/EMPICS)

Saturday could be the final time we see Lionel Messi on the World Cup stage, unless the maestro can mastermind a win for Argentina against France, one of the pre-tournament favourites. Les Bleus, for their part, must improve on their group-stage performances to show they are ready to emulate the class of 1998.

Euro champs or chumps?

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Ronaldo will bid to lead Portugal past Uruguay (Tim Goode/EMPICS)

Portugal, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, will be seeking to show their European Championships win of two years ago was a stepping stone to a global challenge. A Uruguay side featuring Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Godin will provide a stern test of Portuguese credentials.

Colombia countdown

The debate will continue over whether Gareth Southgate was right to make wholesale changes for England’s loss to Belgium on Thursday night. The answer will only be provided on Tuesday against Colombia, but questions will be asked of the policy and England will be working to justify the call.

Russia readying for Spanish onslaught

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Spain’s team of stars will be preparing to face Russia on Sunday (Adam Davy/EMPICS)

The final countdown to Sunday’s second set of last-16 games will take place, with 2010 world champions Spain gearing up to face hosts Russia, who have already defied expectations and their lowly world ranking. Sunday’s other tie, between Croatia and Denmark, may offer less glamour, but it appears to be an evenly-matched contest which could be settled by Luka Modric, or his successor as Tottenham playmaker, Christian Eriksen.

Press Association

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