World Cup 2018: Breaking down the Germany-less knockout stage

KAZAN, RUSSIA - JUNE 27: Hyeonwoo Jo of Korea safes the ball during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Korea Republic and Germany at Kazan Arena on June 27, 2018 in Kazan, Russia. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images, )
KAZAN, RUSSIA - JUNE 27: Hyeonwoo Jo of Korea safes the ball during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Korea Republic and Germany at Kazan Arena on June 27, 2018 in Kazan, Russia. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images, ) /

With 16 of the 32 teams in the original field eliminated, the final 16 teams in the 2018 FIFA World Cup will now face off in the knockout stage.

Germany’s surprising exit from the group stage has opened up even further a FIFA World Cup that was already full of contenders. Favorites Portugal and Argentina qualified by the skin of their teeth while host Russia (Russia?) surprised everyone by winning two games and making it out of their group.

With only 16 teams left, the tournament becomes a single-elimination knockout tournament. Four wins and you win the Cup. Here are all eight round of 16 matchups.

France vs. Argentina | Saturday, 10 a.m. | FOX

The first matchup of the knockout stage features two teams that were favorites to win the competition a month ago. France didn’t dominate their group the way they were expected to, but turned their three goals into seven points nonetheless. Argentina, on the other hand, needed late heroics against Nigeria to squeak through the group stage.

Both of these teams are talented, but France have put together some consistency, especially in defense, while Argentina look completely lost at times. Lionel Messi might be the best player in the world, but he’s not going to be able to carry the entire team against a solid French team without some help, especially from Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Javier Mascherano, who have all disappointed in their own ways this tournament.

Uruguay vs. Portugal | Saturday, 2 p.m. | FOX

Portugal nearly didn’t make it this far after bumbling into a draw against Iran, but five points were enough to see them through. Uruguay, on the other hand, rolled to three wins in the Cup’s easiest group.

Portugal have shown they can score goals, especially considering that they may have the best goalscorer in the world on their side, but Uruguay’s dynamic strike partnership of Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani can score as well. There will probably be plenty of scoring opportunities to go around in this matchup, and it might come down to which of the goalkeepers makes a mistake.

Spain vs. Russia | Sunday, 10 a.m. | FOX

Russia stunned everyone with definitive wins over Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but a 3-0 loss to Uruguay appears to have brought them back to Earth. Spain had a tougher time getting through than expected but won their group without a loss.

Spain are the heavy favorites, as they should be. They have too much quality, especially in the attacking third, and should be able to hold possession and play the match the way they want to. Should.

Croatia vs. Denmark | Sunday, 2 p.m. | FOX

Croatia quietly filled the void left by Argentina’s struggles at the top of Group D, scoring seven goals and picking up all nine points. Denmark played out a draw with France to secure a qualifying spot, but only scored two goals despite finishing the group stage undefeated.

Croatia are favored to win this game, likely simply because they have demonstrated that they can score. Luka Modric leads the attack, but Croatia’s diverse boasts five different goalscorers. Denmark’s penchant all campaign long has been not giving up goals, but they will also likely need a goal from Christian Eriksen if they’re going to advance in regular time.

Brazil vs. Mexico | Monday, 10 a.m. | FS1

Brazil’s stars shone in the group stage and they wrapped up first place with a confident 2-0 result over Serbia. Mexico stunned returning Cup-winners Germany 1-0 in the first round—which helped to send the Germans home early—but were thumped 3-0 by Sweden in their last game.

Despite the win, Mexico struggled to hold possession against Germany and they will face another possession-oriented side in Brazil on Monday. Unless Guillermo Ochoa has another all-world performance in him, a Brazilian attack featuring Neymar and Coutinho might prove too much.

Belgium vs. Japan | Monday, 2 p.m. | FOX

Japan surprised a lot of people by escaping their group; Belguim surprised no one by sweeping theirs. Japan went through on four points, beating Senegal only on Fair Play points. Belgium, on the other hand, scored nine goals for nine points, crushing both Panama and Tunisia by three before a 1-0 walkthrough with England in which most of their attackers were on the bench.

Romelu Lukaku, who scored four goals in Belgium’s first two games, missed the England match with injury but is expected back, as are Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens and Kevin De Bruyne. Those four players combined for seven goals and three assists in just two games for the Red Devils. Japan have found the goals they’ve needed when they’ve needed them, but stopping Belgium from simply outscoring them is going to be a challenge.

Sweden vs. Switzerland | Tuesday, 10 a.m. | FS1

Sweden looked a bit flat through their first two matches, but a convincing 3-0 win over Mexico in their final match of the group stage put them atop Group F. Switzerland drew Brazil in their first game before beating Serbia and drawing Costa Rica to clinch a spot in the round of 16.

Xherdan Shaqiri will be the center of attack for a Switzerland team that will try to establish possession and control the pace of the match. Sweden lack prolific goalscorers, so many of their opportunities will likely come from the counter. This match could likely end in a 1-0 result and come down to whoever can score off of the slim available opportunities.

Colombia vs. England | Tuesday, 2 p.m. | FOX

Colombia advanced to the round of 16 by winning Group H but all eyes are on James Rodriguez, who left their 1-0 win over Senegal with a calf injury in the first half and did not appear in their last game against Japan. England lost to Belgium 1-0 in their last group stage match, but had already qualified with two wins.

Harry Kane might be the most opportunistic goalscorer in the tournament, with five so far for England. Colombia will have to rely on Radamel Falcao to pick up the slack if Rodriguez can’t go, as well as Juan Cuadrado. Both teams like to play a more aggressive style, so expect plenty of chances for both sides.

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Catch all of the World Cup round of 16 action on FOX and FS1 from Friday to Tuesday.