England, Japan, Kylian Mbappe: Five days at the World Cup

The 2018 World Cup moved into the knockout rounds with plenty of draws and penalty shootouts. Russia proudly warned competing teams that this might well be the ‘underdog cup’ after sending Spain home, while England progressed on penalties. Casey Baughan wraps up the surprising matches from the third week of the tournament.

Notable mentions:

– Uruguay v Portugal: Edinson Cavani sealed the victory and halted Cristiano Ronaldo’s World Cup.

– Spain v Russia: The Spaniards lost out on penalties to the host nation, and there was a fair few of them.

– Croatia v Denmark: The second match of the day to result in a penalty shootout, with a mistake and a magical comeback from Luka Modric.

– Brazil v Mexico: Neymar was up to his theatrical tricks again, securing a 2-0 victory.

– Sweden v Switzerland: A late red card for Switzerland was a blow to their end to the World Cup.

France 4-3 Argentina

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The Kylian Mbappe show

The Euro 2016 winners and their teenage talent Kylian Mbappe soared their way to victory and to a match against Uruguay after a scintillating 95 minutes. The PSG star thrived in his forward role, running riot with his rapid speed and control, causing problems for Argentina’s defense. After crashing down in the penalty box by a mistake from Marcos Rojo, Mbappe’s two goals came firing in during the second half.

Blaise Matuidi may have helped bring Lionel Messi’s World Cup to an end, but also picked up a yellow card to rule him out of the quarter-finals. Argentina’s lack of motivation needs Sergio Aguero to start in the future and Messi to lead his team if they want a chance of victory.

Belgium 3-2 Japan

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Heartbreak for Japan

Japan took fans and Belgium by surprise with their high pressing and hard-working team. After playing at 110 per cent, a sheer moment of brilliance landed at Nacer Chadli’s feet for the winning goal. This exciting match was one of the standouts for the last 16 with end-to-end play, showcasing Japan’s desire and Belgium’s international experience. Japan just got pipped at the post to end their journey, leaving Shinji Kagawa and his men to spotlessly cleaning their dressing room.

England 1-1 Colombia (England win 4-3 on penalties)

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They’re not coming home

Another game lengthened by a penalty shootout, another heroic England player rises – Jordan Pickford. After a nerve-wracking and fairly disappointing 90 minutes plus extra-time, the young England squad ended their penalty curse with Eric Dier scoring the winning goal.

Pickford’s world-class saves are unforgettable, including that incredible save against Carlos Bacca, pushing the ball away with his trailing left hand. It seems that Southgate’s side are bringing back the love affair with England and their fans, with penalty specialist and leader of the Golden Boot, Harry Kane helping the cause. Colombia exited the World Cup gracefully, with fight without their injured star James Rodriguez.

You can follow Casey on Twitter @casey_baughan

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