Friday, 20 July 2018
BREAKING NEWS

Today at the World Cup: Saturday, June 30

Today at the World Cup: Saturday, June 30
29 Jun
12:03

France v Argentina, Uruguay v Portugal in last 16 kick-off

Last Updated: 01/07/18 7:20am

Will Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi fire their nations to the quarter-finals? Will Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi fire their nations to the quarter-finals?

Will Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi fire their nations to the quarter-finals?

The knockout stages of the World Cup get underway on Saturday with two crunch last-16 encounters.

Each morning during the tournament we will bring you an overview of what is coming up…

World Cup fixtures
World Cup venues

Who’s playing today?

France v Argentina (Last 16) – Kazan, 3pm

Uruguay v Portugal (Last 16) – Sochi, 7pm

What’s the deal?

Forget cagey tactics and talk of permutations, with the group stage over, the road to Moscow stretches clearer ahead and the competition gets serious.

Lionel Messi's Argentina were reprieved in the group stages Lionel Messi's Argentina were reprieved in the group stages

Lionel Messi’s Argentina were reprieved in the group stages

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 must improve on their group-stage performances to show they are ready to emulate the class of 1998.

The winners of that first game will face the victors of an evening encounter in Sochi. Portugal, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, will be seeking to prove their European Championships win of two years ago was a stepping stone to a global superiority but a Uruguay side yet to concede a goal and featuring Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Godin will provide a stern test of Portuguese credentials.

Luis Suarez scored a brilliant free-kick against Russia Luis Suarez scored a brilliant free-kick against Russia

Luis Suarez scored a brilliant free-kick against Russia

Ones to watch…

Paul Pogba: The Manchester United midfielder was given a rest in France’s forgettable and goalless final group game against Denmark but is set to return to the starting line-up and has taken aim at boo-boys. “I don’t know if the boos only came from the French fans,” he said. “People wanted more spectacle. But our objective was to finish top of the group. I don’t know what people expect. We need everyone with us. Our fans are the 12th man. We need fans, not spectators.” Eyes will be on Didier Deschamps’ formation; Pogba was more influential in the 4-4-2 deployed against Peru.

Christian Cueva and Paul Pogba in action at the Ekaterinburg Arena Christian Cueva and Paul Pogba in action at the Ekaterinburg Arena

Christian Cueva and Paul Pogba in action at the Ekaterinburg Arena

Lionel Messi: Messi has never scored in the knockout stage of a World Cup but after he and Marcos Rojo hauled Argentina back from the brink – and with a lucky red ribbon stuffed into his sock – the Barcelona forward will be hoping to break that duck. Messi is the last Argentina player to score against France – back in a 2009 friendly – but he has still looked a world-weary figure in a ragged side. Defensive frailties, fragile confidence and tensions between Jorge Sampaoli and his squad remain but so does Messi’s majesty – as that technically stunning solo goal against Nigeria proved.

1:28
South American football expert Tim Vickery understands Argentina’s senior players are leading the team rather than coach Jorge Sampaoli

South American football expert Tim Vickery understands Argentina’s senior players are leading the team rather than coach Jorge Sampaoli

Cristiano Ronaldo: Like his great La Liga rival, Ronaldo has also failed to find the net in a World Cup knockout stage but the familiar man for the big stage will be gunning for fire Portugal to the last eight – and boost his Golden Boot chances in the process. He remains one goal behind England’s Harry Kane but is never shy of trying his luck, with 15 efforts at goal just one behind tournament leader Neymar’s 16. Uruguay will be wary of set-piece threat, too – Ronaldo has drawn 13 fouls so far.

Ricardo Quaresma's sublime effort before half-time put Portugal in front Ricardo Quaresma's sublime effort before half-time put Portugal in front

Ricardo Quaresma’s sublime effort before half-time put Portugal in front

Also look out for…

Suspension watch

Messi and Ronaldo have both picked up cautions during the group stage; another before the semi-final stage and they could miss a crucial knockout tie.

Bookings are scrubbed from players’ records after the quarter-finals, though, meaning no one will go into the semi-final fearing a yellow could end their hopes of appearing in a World Cup showpiece.

England prepare, Delph absent

After a rest day on Friday, England will return to training in Repino ahead of Tuesday’s last-16 tie with Colombia. Fabian Delph has left the camp temporarily, though, with his wife due to give birth to their third child.

Fabian Delph has been granted leave from the England camp Fabian Delph has been granted leave from the England camp

Fabian Delph has been granted leave from the England camp

Facing the media

Spain, Russia, Croatia and Denmark will hold news conferences ahead of their last-16 games on Sunday. Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea’s form could be on the agenda again after stinging criticism back home. Midfielder Thiago Alcantara has already defended De Gea, insisting he is working “like an animal”.

David de Gea made a high-profile blunder against Portugal David de Gea made a high-profile blunder against Portugal

David de Gea made a high-profile blunder against Portugal

Stat of the day

Since the introduction of the round of 16 in 1986, France have always made it past that stage whenever they have reached it (1986, 1998, 2006, 2014).

On this day

Football came home for Euro ’96 but the trophy went to England’s old rivals Germany, who beat the Czech Republic with a golden goal in the Wembley final. It was the first major tournament to be decided that way and was the first major competition won by the unified Germany team.

Oliver Bierhoff celebrates after scoring a golden goal for Germany at Euro '96 Oliver Bierhoff celebrates after scoring a golden goal for Germany at Euro '96

Oliver Bierhoff celebrates after scoring a golden goal for Germany at Euro ’96

World Cup Super 6

The jackpot was won again on Tuesday night. Will you be the next winner? Enter your predictions here.

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