This World Cup continues to confound.
Just when you think you’ve got your head around it, something happens that leaves you reeling in utter shock.
Spain passed. Passed. Passed themselves out of the tournament with a lackluster display against the host nation, Russia.
Brazil who are surely now the favorites expertly took Mexico apart with an accomplished second half display that had us neturals in awe.
A baleful Neymar assisting & scoring to set up a quarter final tie against Belgium.
The Red Devils themselves stunned, Japan & will be all the stronger for it.
Pulse looks at the last sixteen action from our unique perspective.
Best Games of The Round
France 4 Argentina 3
Not just the greatest match of the round but perhaps arguably the best in the entire competition.
Neither team had really caught fire in the group stages.
France stuttered to first place.
Argentina were extremely fortunate to see off Nigeria.
This match however was incredible.
Kylian Mbappé. Wow.
We Celtic fans knew how good this boy is by seeing him up close in the Champions league last season.
His trenchant bursts from deep are astonishing.
One such run lead to the opening goal. Galloping forward from his own half, Mbappé is felled by the hapless Marcos Rojo in the box.
Antonie Griezmann scores the resultant spot kick.
Just when it looks like the game is going to slip away from the Argentines, Angel Di Maria produces an extraordinary swerving shot that dumbfounds Courtois & brings the match level.
Argentina then take a shock lead as Messi’s cross cum shot is deflected into the net by Mercado.
This only angers Les Blues & Pavdar’s outrageous volley (more on that later) makes it two all.
Two quick fire goals by Mbappe later & the game looks to be over.
Sergio Aguero who was only introduced in the 82nd minute by the Argentine coach Lionel Messi, heads his second goal of the tournament to set up a frantic final few minutes.
The French held on.
We could all then stop holding our collective breath.
Belgium 3 Japan 2
If you remember our last World Cup piece, Pulse foolishly predecited that Belgium would win their first World Cup in 2018.
Man. They were close to blowing in it in the first knock out game.
Make no mistake.
For seventy minutes of this one, Belgian were woeful.
Reinstating a clearly unfit Vincent Kompany into the heart of their defence did not help matters but it was Jan Vertonghen whose gaffe led to Japan racing ahead.
The Spurs man allowed the ball to run under his foot & into the path of Genki Haraguchi.
Vertonghen still could’ve recovered instead he stuttered & Haraguchi found the far corner with a fine finish.
Four minutes later, Japan doubled their lead.
No one got close to the brilliant Takashi Inui & his fierce drive had his country roaring in surprise & delight.
At this point, the Belgian manager Roberto Martinez seemed to realize that his sides superior height advantage might come in handy.
He threw on Mauro Fellaini & instructed the red devils to load the Japanese box with high crosses.
Vertonghen reduced the deficit with an perfectly place header, before Fellani soared above his marker to crash a munificent Eden Hazard cross home.
A shell shocked, Japan froze.
Then in perhaps the strangest decision in a World Cup filled with them, they went in search of a winner from a last minute corner.
Belgian duly broke up the field & broke Japan hearts with a winner of their own.
The Best Goals
Nadir Chadli v Japan
A breathtaking break away goal that was as beautiful as it was devestating. Kevin De Bryune exploxision of pace took him deep into Japanese territory. Rolling the ball to his right, first time delicate cross was exquisitely dummied by Romelu Lukaku & the unlikely hero, Chadli tapped in the winner.
Edinson Cavani v Portugal
The PSG striker has his critics. There are those who say he does not produce in big games. Wrong. Wrong. A double in this one but paid to his critics. Both strikes were superb but let’s focus on the second one shall we? Receiving a pass on the edge of the area, Cavani’s outstanding side footed effort soared into the net. Can he repeat this trick v France?
Benjamin Pavard v Argentina
Speaking of the French how about this sumptuous implausible dipping volley from the Stuttgart fullback? Don’t forget. France were chasing the game at this point. Pavard made it all square before Mbappe took over.
C— of the round
Wilmar Barrios (Colombia)
Neymar did his best to win this award after his prosperous antics v Mexico. How can a player of his ability simultaneously light up & ruin a game? Anyway let’s ignore him for a second.
The real villain of the round belonged to the brutal Colombian side that faced England. . Lucky to escape a red card after nutting Jordan Henderson, Barrios went on to commit what seemed like countless fouls. The worst of which came in extra time when he tried to break The Auld Enemy’s left back Ashley Young’s leg.
It will forever remain a mystery how the Colombian defender stayed on the pitch for a painstaking 120 minutes.
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