The knockout stages of the 2018 World Cup start with the round of last-16, with the eight matches taking place between Saturday 30 June and Tuesday 3 July. There’s no more trying to work out whether it’s best to finish first or second in your group, or whether it’s best to be in the top-half or the bottom-half of the draw. From now on in, it’s also not possible for any team to be eliminated by the number of yellow cards it’s been shown. It’s a straight knockout – and may the best team win.
However, there’s no doubt the top-half of the draw does look the toughest on paper. It contains five of the top-seven ranked teams in the world in Brazil (two), Belgium (three), Portugal (four), Argentina (five), and France (seven), as well as Uruguay (14), Mexico (15), and Japan (61).
Meanwhile, the bottom-half only contains two top-10 teams in Switzerland (six) and Spain (10). There’s then Denmark and England (joint-twelfth), Colombia (16), Croatia (20), Sweden (24) and Russia (70).
Apart from Brazil though, the bookies don’t care much for the FIFA World Rankings – and the betting for the 2018 World Cup certainly doesn’t reflect them.
World Cup 2018 Betting
Brazil 7/2, Spain 4/1, Belgium 7/1, England 8/1, France 9/1, Croatia 12/1, Argentina 14/1, Colombia 18/1, Uruguay 25/1, Portugal 28/1, Switzerland 40/1, Russia 66/1, Sweden 66/1, Mexico 80/1, Japan 200/1
World Cup Last-16 Matches
France vs Argentina (Sat 30 June, 3.00)
Uruguay vs Portugal (Saturday 30 June, 7.00)
Spain vs Russia (Sunday 1 July, 3.00)
Croatia vs Denmark (Sun 1 July, 7.00)
Brazil vs Mexico (Mon 2 June, 3.00)
Belgium vs Japan (Mon 2 June, 7.00)
Sweden vs Switzerland (Tues 3 July, 3.00)
Colombia vs England (Tues 3 July, 7.00)
France vs Argentina
If there’s one team in the last-16 who don’t deserve to be there it’s Argentina. They were dreadful in their defeat against Croatia and not much better in their draw against Iceland. They didn’t even impress in their win over Nigeria, though that victory could have had something to do with Lionel Messi’s team talk that he held as the Argentinean players exited the tunnel after half-time.
Meanwhile France, who went quietly about their business to win their group, have definitely got a better team ethos that their opponents. Therefore, though that may count for nothing at the knockout stages, I’ll be cheering on France in the hope the crowd can turn to Maradona and give him the finger afterwards.
France to win @ 2.40 with Royal Panda
Uruguay vs Portugal
The Uruguayans were talking themselves down before the start of the World Cup, saying that 2022 may be the year their bunch of exciting bunch of young players were ready to take on the world. However, three clean-sheets so far shows they won’t be easy to knockout, even for a team that has Ronaldo in it. The bookies are struggling to find a favourite for the match, and this is one you can definitely see going all the way to penalties.
Spain vs Russia
Spain and Russia probably impressed the most in their opening matches. Russia delighted the home fans with a stunning 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia and followed that up by scoring three more goals in beating Egypt. However, they struggled against Uruguay, a team who dominated possession for much of the game. Therefore, as Spain are masters of the possession game, it may be more disappointment for the host nation.
Spain to win @ 1.60 with Royal Panda
Croatia vs Denmark
An opening 3-0 win against an, admittedly, out of sorts Argentina quickly saw the opening 33/1 quotes disappear about Croatia. They also dominated the game against Nigeria and looked well in command against Iceland for most of the game, despite having already qualified. Meanwhile, Denmark have proved hard to beat so far after conceding just one goal, whilst they’ve also only scored two goals. They were also, possibly, flattered by their 0-0 draw with France, with the French Team happy to coast through the game. Therefore, Croatia are fancied to have enough good players to unpick the Danish defence, whilst Denmark may fail to score.
Croatia to win @ 1.88 with Royal Panda
Brazil vs Mexico
You get the feeling we haven’t seen the best of Brazil yet, but they won their group. Meanwhile, Mexico have a reputation for starting well and fizzling out. That certainly looks the case so far as, after beating Germany and South Korea, they folded tamely against Sweden. However, they were unlucky to go out in the round of last-16 at the 2014 World Cup, as they led the Netherlands 1-0 until the 88th minute until succumbing to two late goals. They also drew 0-0 with Brazil in the group stages that year and could be worth a bet to take the match to at least extra-time.
Belgium vs Japan
Japan are perhaps one of the luckiest qualifiers as, though they beat Colombia, they were the second-best team for much of that match, despite Colombia having a player sent-off early on. However, they also battled out a draw with Senegal and that suggests they won’t be worried about taking on a some of the big Belgian players. However, Belgium beat Japan 1-0 in a friendly in 2017, and are ranked 58 places about their opponents.
Sweden vs Switzerland
The Swedes were only third favourites to top their group but an unlucky defeat by Germany was flanked either side by wins over South Korea and Mexico. It’s another match the bookies are finding it hard to find a favourite for, but that might be an injustice to a Swiss side who are ranked sixth in the world. Good enough to get a draw against Brazil, they were perhaps lucky to beat Serbia after getting away with some penalty-box wrestling, but they have the size and strength to compete with Sweden’s players, and have more potential match winners. A match that could go either way, but I’ll be backing Switzerland.
Switzerland to win @ 2.62 with Royal Panda
Colombia vs England
Gareth Southgate talked like a man in the build-up to the match with Belgium but, whilst England lost, he actually went up in my opinion as he rested key players in the knowledge that defeat probably gave England the best chance to progress to at least the semi-finals. A win here is certainly no forgone conclusion though against a Colombian side that was unlucky to have to play Brazil in the quarter-finals in the 2014 World Cup.
However, whilst England’s talisman Harry Kane should be fresh and hungry after being asked to sit on the bench against Belgium, Colombia’s 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez still looks nowhere near his best after warming the bench for much of the domestic season. That may just give England the edge, but they’ll still probably need the luck to go their way against a talented Colombian team.