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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 October 2018

World Cup 2018 second round guide and predictions: France end Argentina and Lionel Messi's hopes

Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal to edge out Uruguay, while Brazil, Spain, Belgium, Croatia, Sweden and England also backed to reach quarter-finals

The National are predicting Lionel Messi and Argentina will be knocked out of the World Cup by France. Juan Mabromata / AFP
The National are predicting Lionel Messi and Argentina will be knocked out of the World Cup by France. Juan Mabromata / AFP

The group stages to World Cup 2018 are now over and we are now at the knockout stages.

Here is a look at the eight second round games and what to watch for.

Remember, every game must have a winner. If it is a draw at 90 minutes it then goes to extra time and then penalties, if the sides are still level.

Saturday June 30

France v Argentina, 6pm

How they got there France had a fairly smooth run, despite never hitting top gear as they topped Group C with seven points to their name.

Argentina got through by the skin of their teeth from Group D as Marcos Rojo's late winner against Nigeria got them through as runner-up in Group D.

Previous meetings You have to go back to 1978 for the last time that the two sides met at the World Cup. History favours Argentina as they have won all four of their past clashes, dating back to the very first World Cup in 1930.

Prediction France have not been at their best yet, but Argentina, despite Lionel Messi's presence, have horribly underwhelmed. France to triumph 3-0 and end Argentina's sorry campaign.

Didier Deschamps is yet to see the best of his French side. Franck Fife / AFP
Didier Deschamps is yet to see the best of his French side. Franck Fife / AFP

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Read more

World Cup 2018: Day 16 updates - Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo prepare for second round action

John McAuley's World Cup diary: Fans in Russia have been amazing - and so has Google Translate

Extra Time podcast: Messi finally comes through as World Cup knockout stages take shape

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Uruguay v Portugal, 10pm

How they got there Uruguay are one of only three sides to have a 100 per cent record after the group stages as they won Group A. The South Americans are the only team yet to have conceded a goal at the tournament.

Portugal played their part in the World Cup's best game so far, the 3-3 draw with Spain, but they failed to convince in beating Morocco and were lucky to avoid defeat against Iran as they finished second in Group B. Cristiano Ronaldo's four goals were crucial to them getting this far.

Previous meetings This is a first meeting at a World Cup between the sides.

Prediction Portugal have been in this position before. At Euro 2016 they were poor in the group stages but proved difficult to beat in the knockout stages as they went on to win. Uruguay have looked solid, but Portugal's fighting spirit, and the quality of Ronaldo, sees them through 2-1 after extra time.

Cristiano Ronaldo, centre, has scored four goals for Portugal in Russia. Paulo Novais / EPA
Cristiano Ronaldo, centre, has scored four goals for Portugal in Russia. Paulo Novais / EPA

Sunday July 1

Spain v Russia, 6pm

How they got there Spain topped Group B despite only getting five points, with their lone victory being against Iran.

Russia actually got more points than Spain, six in total, in finishing second in Group A as they won against Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Previous meetings Russia can take heart from drawing 3-3 with Spain last November in a friendly to give them some hope. But, the last time they met at a major international tournament, at Euro 2008, Spain beat them twice.

Prediction Spain have looked excellent at times, but soft at the back at other times. The fact they almost lost to Morocco will certainly give their other rivals hope. But, they should be too much for the hosts and this is the end of the line for them. Spain win 3-0.

Diego Costa has scored three goals for Spain.  Francois Nel / Getty Images
Diego Costa has scored three goals for Spain.  Francois Nel / Getty Images

Croatia v Denmark, 10pm

How they got there Croatia caused one of the biggest shocks of the tournament when they hammered Argentina 3-0, though in hindsight it should not have been that much of an upset given how well set-up Zlatko Dalic's side is.

Denmark took runners-up in Group C on the back of beating Peru, with draws with Australia and France sealing the deal.

Previous meetings The teams have never met at the World Cup. Their last meeting at a major tournament was at Euro 96 when Croatia prevailed 3-0 in a group-stage encounter with Davor Suker scoring twice.

Prediction Denmark have been well organised but Croatia have that little more quality, and in Luka Modric have one of the tournament's outstanding players. Croatia to reach the last eight with a 2-0 win.

Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic. Dmitri Lovetsky / AP Photo
Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic. Dmitri Lovetsky / AP Photo

Sunday July 2

Brazil v Mexico, 6pm

How they got there Brazil got off to a slow start as they drew with Switzerland, but Tite's men won Group D thanks to wins over Costa Rica and Serbia.

Mexico had only needed a point to win Group F, but a hefty loss to Sweden meant they finished runners-up and ended up with this tie.

Previous meetings The teams met in the group stages four years ago at the World Cup and played out a goalless draw. Mexico have never beaten Brazil at the World Cup in four previous meetings.

Prediction If the Mexico that beat Germany turns up in Samara this could be interesting. But Brazil, even though like so many sides they have yet to hit top gear in Russia, should have too much for them. Brazil have not lost a second-round match since 1990 at the World Cup and that does not change here. Brazil to win 2-0.

Brazil forward Neymar. Abedin Taherenareh / EPA
Brazil forward Neymar. Abedin Taherenareh / EPA

Belgium v Japan, 10pm

How they got there Belgium were the top scorers of the group stages, scoring nine goals as they topped Group G.

Japan got through as runners-up in Group H by the method of having received less yellow cards than Senegal - not the most convincing route through it has to be said, but it all counts.

Previous meetings A Romelu Lukaku goal gave Belgium a 1-0 win when the sides met in a friendly in November. The only previous World Cup meeting between the teams, in 2002, ended in a 2-2 draw.

Prediction Japan were fortunate to get through but this is as far as they go. Belgium march on and triumph 3-0.

Belgium manager Roberto Martinez. Alastair Grant / AP Photo
Belgium manager Roberto Martinez. Alastair Grant / AP Photo

Monday July 3

Sweden v Switzerland, 6pm

How they got there Sweden bounced back from the despair of a last-gasp loss to Germany to win Group F with an impressive 3-0 victory over Mexico.

Switzerland came from behind to draw with Brazil and beat Serbia and take the runners-up spot in Group E as they showed their own strong spirit.

Previous meetings The pair have only played in qualifying matches and never at a World Cup itself. Switzerland have not beaten them since 1994.

Prediction Very hard to call as both sides have shown tremendous fight already to make it this far. Sweden have the edge in quality and that could be the difference here. A 1-0 victory for the Swedes.

Al Ain striker Marcus Berg is part of the Sweden side that has reached the last 16. Hector Vivas / Getty Images
Al Ain striker Marcus Berg is part of the Sweden side that has reached the last 16. Hector Vivas / Getty Images

Colombia v England, 10pm

How they got there Colombia are the only side to have qualified having lost their opening game. Wins over Poland and Senegal put them through.

England beat Tunisia and put six past Panama in a 6-1 win before losing to Belgium in the Group G decider.

Previous meetings Goals from Darren Anderton and David Beckham gave England a 2-0 triumph in France in 1998 when the sides met in the group stages.

Prediction Colombia have found their form after a slow start, but if England can maintain their attacking quality when Gareth Southgate as his first choice XI out on the field then they should just edge this. A nervy 2-1 win for Southgate's England.

Harry Kane has scored five goals thus far at the World Cup for England. Alex Morton / Getty Images
Harry Kane has scored five goals thus far at the World Cup for England. Alex Morton / Getty Images