France vs Argentina (30 June, 2018 3:00pm)
What a time to be alive, France against Argentina as early as the second round, what a fixture this is. Both didn’t have it very straightforward as predicted before the start of the tournament in Russia, but France would still stand taller when compared; it’s been long coming for Argentina, they struggled through qualifications and left it till the last day to make it through and even had to make it to the second round on four points having lost one and ended one with a stalemate against Iceland, truth be said, there is nothing worthy of eulogizing about this current Argentina side. France beat Australia on day 1, Paul Pogba diverted home a trademark Olivier Giroud flick and beat Peru with a Kylian Mbappe tap in before settling for a goalless draw against Denmark on a day they had nothing much to lose; at this round in 2014, France beat Nigeria to advance to the quarter finals where they lost to eventual champions Germany, they hardly lose second round fixtures, one stat that Argentina must be wary of, Argentina made it all the way to the finals in Rio before also losing to Germany at the death, do you need to be reminded how Germany ended their story here in Russia? Man for man this would be hard to tell because you don’t know the stuff Argentina will produce, they were piss poor against Croatia and had to labour very hard against a spirited Nigerian side, Marcos Rojo stepped up to grab the winner with four minutes of normal time to play, they were on the brink of crashing out.
Lionel Messi showed glimpses of his awesome talents in the control and finish for his curtain raiser against Nigeria but that performance by his standards is very much below par, one of the best ever player to play the game now needs to step up and be counted. France have problems to give to Argentina in every department, from Griezzman who isn’t a stranger to Lionel Messi, to Paul Pogba who knows how to choose his days as well as the teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe, this would be a cracker.
Verdict: France to advance
Uruguay vs Portugal (30 June, 2018 7:00pm)
This is one game that will confuse bookmakers, there are so many stats in this that negates common sense, Cristiano Ronaldo up against the stingiest defense in the world, need you be told Uruguay haven’t conceded in this calendar year? The Atletico Madrid pair of Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez have brought their club’s tight back policy to the national spheres and are keeping it locked down, shutting out attackers, how will it go against the world best attacker? Cristiano Ronaldo lit up the World Cup at his first time of asking in Russia, beating everyone else on the pitch to the glory of the day, he made David De Gea look ordinary, beating him with every shot on target and ended the game with a deserved hatrick, he has four now and only behind Harry Kane. This fixture promises to be entertaining, with three of the most prolific goal scorers around on parade, in Ronaldo, Suarez and Edison Cavani, you can be sure it will be all shades of quality entertainment. This ground isn’t new to Ronaldo, he scored his hatrick against Spain on this ground, he will look to do it again.
Uruguay haven’t won the world cup since 1950, Oscar Tabarez, their manager of 12 years and three world cups know this terrain quite well, he led them to the semis and third place finish in 2010 on African soil, the game against Ghana remains fresh in everyone’s memory, now they have to do it against a team that has nail biting history with knockout rounds. Outside penalties, Portugal haven’t lost in seventeen matches, a record they will look to extend in Russia, the yellow card infested second round clash against Netherlands in 2006 stands out as the most frenetic world cup game for Portugal since the days of Eusebio, Cristiano Ronaldo wants to be regarded as the best ever player to play the game, he must win the world cup to stand a chance of being awarded that title, his place in the history of football is forever secured, but he wants more than a place among the greats, he wants to be on top of the list, it’s a bit of a head to head thing against his closest rival, Lionel Messi who also takes on France on same day albeit earlier, but one thing is key, one game at a time.
Verdict: Uruguay to advance