The World On Arirang


The group stages are over and we are now at the last 16 stages.

Defending champion Germany was knocked out of the World Cup in shocking fashion.

France roared back against Argentina to reach the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday as wonderkid Kylian Mbappe sent Lionel Messi home from Russian Federation empty-handed following a seven-goal thriller.

But what can we expect from the rest of the tournament? Who are the favorites and what have we learned from the last fortnight?

"Regardless of what happens, we need to keep fighting".

As sarcastic as it may seem, that is the reality of the extent of burden Lionel Messi has been made to bare by their heavily tattooed coach.

While Portugal and Argentina could potentially clash in the World Cup quarter-final, the battle between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo is already underway in Kazan, where images of the stars have emerged next to a local hotel.

While politics has been largely kept in its place, Federation Internationale de Football Association did not over-react when it did appear in the form of two Swiss-Albanian players, Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri celebrating their goals against Serbia with provocative nationalist gestures.

For the victor, a place in the semifinals, putting him two matches from a victory which would be the crowning glory of a celebrated career.

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On Saturday, a so-far unimpressive Argentina must overcome a France team that has also underperformed. The expectation was high and so far Messi was on the low, possibly immersed in dancing to Flowking Stone's song, "Go Low".

Playing in a "false nine" role, Messi capped a disappointing tournament with another subdued display at Kazan Arena as Argentina bowed out of the last 16 with a 4-3 defeat.

Sampaoli was unstinting in his praise of Messi, describing him as "the best player in the world" and a "genius", but preferred to focus more on the display he expected from his whole team on Saturday.

Portugal is up against the mighty Uruguay who has yet to concede a goal with their captain Diego Godin taking the reigns of the defense and their strikers; Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, reviving their form in the group matches, whereas Portugal's defense has not looked so strong of late, only one player giving everything in the game in the form of Pepe and strikers have struggled to create opportunities at the front.

No Arab sides in the last 16 and Tunisia manager Nahib Maaloul is not convinced things will improve easily.

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That opens up the possibility of a surprise finalist from the bottom half of the draw - England, Croatia and Spain will all fancy their chances.

From Portugal there was Ricardo Quaresma's cheeky outside of his foot "trivela" against Iran and Cristiano Ronaldo's free kick against Spain in the thrilling 3-3 draw which set the tone for the group stage.

Indeed, the Croats are one of three teams, along with Belgium and Uruguay, to have won all three of their group games. One of those was a penalty and another an own goal.

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Host nation Russian Federation made a statement in the tournament's first match, trouncing Saudi Arabia.

He praised the Barcelona star's abilities, and called on his other players to try and match the forward.

He also, however, thought that it was more than just five-times World Player of the Year on the Argentina side who could punish the French.

Man-of-the-match Mbappe brushed off comparisons with Brazil great Pele.

The mural, meanwhile, was painted on a building right next to Argentina's hotel for the Confederations Cup past year as welcome for Portugal. We'll find out in a few hours.

Time to say a sad farewell.

"I don't think we have high-quality performance, we need to change our lifestyle because it is not in line with high-level football, we need to change the way we train".

It was a cruel way to depart the tournament, though Senegal's coach Aliou Cissee, the youngest and only black coach at the tournament, said his team must "respect" FIFA's rules.

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