We're approaching the end of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and what a tournament it's been. We've had goals, shocks, early exits and plenty of entertainment which has led to many claiming it's been the best ever, which is some statement. With just 8 games to go we're dreading it finally finishing but we have plenty of reasons to stick with it, with England's involvement still going strong.
Tuesday nights dramatic victory over Colombia via a penalty shootout booked their place in the quarter-finals and in turn continued the fantastic form that they've produced under Gareth Southgate. The Three Lions are now as short as 4/1 to go all the way which is simply incredible.
Away from England we also saw Croatia, Sweden, Russia, France, Uruguay, Brazil and Belgium all book their spot in quarter-finals, with some fantastic performances from their star men playing a big part in their progression. We've taken a look at some of the winners and losers from the last stage of fixtures and put together what we believe is our team of the round - so read below and tweet your thoughts into us @FootyAccums!
There's been plenty of heroic goalkeeping performances during the round of 16, with the likes of Kasper Schmeichel, Danijel Subasic and of course Jordan Pickford really impressing. But we couldn't look past Russian no.1 Igor Akinfeev who played a crucial role in the hosts' stunning victory over Spain. The CSKA Moscow man was a busy man at the Luzhniki with Spain having 9 shots on target and he was able to deal with pretty much anything that came his way. But he really grabbed the headlines with his performance in the penalty shootout, twice saving from Koke and Iago Aspas to seal a famous 4-2 victory on penalties and write himself into Russian folklore.
At right back we've gone for another star from the host nation, with Brazilian born Mario Fernandes putting in a real shift at right back. The 27 year-old had the huge job of containing Isco, Jordi Alba and Marco Asensio and he passed that test with flying colours. Defensively he was excellent, forming an important part of the Russian backline which frustrated a star studded Spanish forward line for 120 minutes and going forward he was also a threat.
In the heart of the defence we've opted for someone who made our team of the group stage, Diego Godin. This man is an absolute warrior of a defender and undoubtedly one of the best in the world. He may be the other side of 30 now but he still hasn't lost his ability to command and lead his backline, really dragging his teammates across the line. Uruguay really epitomise everything that their skipper stands for and with this potentially being his last World Cup, he'll be desperate to go out with a bang.
Joining Godin at centre back is England man Harry Maguire who's shone for the Three Lions in Russia. The Leicester City man is a vital cog in Gareth Southgate's 5-3-2 system which has seen him forge an excellent relationship with Kyle Walker and John Stones as part of a back three. Maguire has developed into a fantastically well rounded defender over the last couple of years and his ability both to bring the ball out from the back and dominate from set pieces makes him a huge threat. He played a massive part in the Three Lions' win over Colombia and he's going to be important going into the quarter-finals.
The final member of our defence is another Uruguay, Diego Laxalt. The 25 year-old is usually a midfielder by trade but he's been doing a job at left back for the South Americans & the way he's slotted in there like he's played there all his career. His work rate, pace and determination make him a huge asset down the left for Oscar Tabarez's side and he did a real job against Portugal to help Uruguay book their date with France. He managed to subdue the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Bernardo Silva & he'll need to produce something similar against a very strong French side - but his performances so far prove that he's capable.
The first part of midfield comes in the form of France forward Kylian Mbappe who's really announced himself on the global stage this summer. The 19 year-old has been a revelation at club level for the last couple of seasons but he's now bringing it through to the international stage - with the consequences devastating for their opposition. Against Argentina the PSG youngster displayed everything what he's about - blistering pace, close control and clinical finishing to inspire his nation to the quarter-finals and a 4-3 win over Lionel Messi & co. He has 3 goals in Russia this summer and his performances have made him the favourite for the Golden Ball Award, with his performances drawing comparisons to that of a young Pele - HUGE praise.
Next up we have another member of that France team that impressed so much last Friday, Paul Pogba, who silenced his critics to deliver a dominant performance in the centre of midfield. The £89m man receives a fair bit of criticism but he put it all to one side to run the show against the Argentines, playing a hugely important role in their counter attacks with his ability to find his teammates from distance - something which really brought the best out of Mbappe. When he performs like this he's such a huge weapon in Didier Deschamps' armoury and Manchester United fans will be praying that he can replicate this level of performance back at Old Trafford.
The French theme continues across the midfield, with Chelsea man N'Golo Kante also breaking into our XI. Another extremely important cog of the France machine, the 27 year-old is undoubtedly one of the best midfielders in world football with his all action approach seeing him dominate the middle of the park. He may be small in stature at 5ft 6in, but his presence on a football pitch is colossal and he hasn't maybe got the credit that he deserves this summer, mainly due to the performances of Mbappe. Against Argentina he was a vital link between defence and attack with his ability to both win possession and drive with the ball terrorising the South Americans. This guy is absolutely unbelievable and with him performing how he is France fans will fancy their chances of going all the way.
The final part of our midfield four and first Sweden representative in our side is RB Leipzig man Emil Forsberg. He's the star man for his nation and he's responded well to the pressure of it, playing a crucial role on their way to winning Group F and making it into the quarter-finals. His deflected strike against Switzerland on Tuesday was enough for the Scandinavians to progress through and set up a huge clash with England on Saturday in Samara. Forsberg occupies a wide left position for Sweden and despite not possessing bags of pace, his skill on the ball and ability to find space makes him a real threat and he'll be relishing the challenge of facing Gareth Southgate's men.
There's been some big performances in the round of 16, but there was only two real candidates to lead the line. First up we've gone for Golden Boot favourite and England skipper Harry Kane who's been a revelation in Russia this summer. The 24 year-old has scored a huge 6 goals in just 3 games at the World Cup to make him one of the most talked about players and he's really inspiring this England side. Against Colombia he had a tough evening after getting battered and bruised by their unforgiving centre-backs but he still managed to get on the scoresheet and deliver a huge performance. Renowned for scoring goals, Kane is the complete striker and his ability to hold up the ball and bring others into play was key on Tuesday night and he could realistically go on to hit 10 goals - which would be a massive achievement.
Joining the England international in attack is Uruguay man Edinson Cavani who was absolutely superb during his sides 2-1 win over Portugal last Saturday. The PSG man has formed an absolutely lethal partnership with Luis Suarez and when the two are at it they really are unstoppable, as their opponents found out. They played out a superb one-two which Cavani ruthlessly dispatched in the first half before slotting home a lovely finish from just inside the area to win the game. That ensured Cristiano Ronaldo made an early exit from the competition and Uruguay will take some stopping at the tournament progresses.
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