If you thought there would be one day where you could be sure of a result in a match from quite some time before the final whistle, have you even been paying attention in this World Cup?
In this article, I review the matches played last night in the Round of 16, which wraps up this round of the Knockouts.
Match 7: Sweden vs Switzerland
Switzerland started the game in near calamitous fashion, with a clearance from goalkeeper Sommer finding a Swedish player in the Swiss third who passed it forward to Berg. The Swedish forward, was free on goal but had his shot blocked at the last minute by Akanji. Ekdal ran onto a bouncing ball on the follow-up, but could only blast his shot well over. Sweden continued to put pressure on their opponents all through the half and should have taken the lead. Sommer made a good diving save from Berg’s shot to keep the scores level. In the 41st minute, Ekdal skied another volley into the stands, despite not having any defender near him at the far post while shooting. Sweden continued to have the upper hand in the second half, with Switzerland not able to mount anything significant. In the 66th minute, after another Sweden attack down the left, Toivonen squared the ball to Forsberg who made space and shot on goal. The ball took a deflection off the unfortunate Akanji and left Sommer with no chance of stopping it. Switzerland finally had an attempt on target in the 79th minute, with a header from a corner blocked almost on the line by Forsberg and then cleared. Switzerland had Lang sent off in injury time after a push on Olsson, who was through on goal. The referee had no choice but to send the Swiss defender off for a professional foul. The resulting free-kick from the edge off the area was straight at Sommer and thus came to nothing. But that was the last kick of the game and Sweden ran out deserving winners.
Final Score: Sweden 1 – 0 Switzerland
Match 8: Colombia vs England
The game got off to a slow start with both teams taking their time in settling down. England did so earlier and Trippier put in a fine cross for Kane, who strained his neck at the far post but couldn’t hit the target from an acute angle. The first half saw England slightly edging the game but it wasn’t really 45 minutes of football to remember. Colombia were visibly missing a spark in midfield, and Falcao was isolated up front with barely any service. The absence of James Rodriguez was evident for all to see. The second half sprang to life in the 54th minute after a clumsy challenge on Kane after a corner by Carlos Sanchez brought him down and the referee rightfully awarded a penalty. The Colombians tried every trick in the book to slow the game down, arguing with the referee, scuffing up the penalty spot, etc. to throw the English captain off his game as he stepped up to take the spot-kick. Kane made no mistake with the penalty, hitting it straight down the middle as the ‘keeper dived to his right. The England captain is now almost a sure bet to win the Golden Boot, reaching six goals in the tournament with this strike. As the game went on, Colombia started having more possession as England sat back deeper. Kyle Walker gave away the ball with a weak back-pass which led to a swift counter-attack. The ball made its way to the feet of Cuadrado, who hit a wild drive well over from the edge of the penalty box. This was a golden opportunity wasted. In injury time, after a long clearance from Ospina, Stones won the header but the ball dropped kindly for Uribe, who hit a magnificent shot from 35 yards, which made Pickford scramble and he saved barely with his finger-tips. The ball was going in and this would’ve been a goal of the tournament candidate for sure if it had done so. Cuadrado’s follow-up corner was met by Yerry Mina at the far post, who, for a third game running, scored with a header at a crucial juncture for his team. The Colombians had just drawn level and the English angst at the game not being over yet was clear for all to see. Extra time saw two sets of tired players try their best at getting a goal, but not much materialized in terms of chances. Substitute Danny Rose got closest as he broke through on the left and fired a low drive across the face of goal. No one was present for a tap in and Rose couldn’t keep the ball on target. And so we were heading to penalties, the arch nemesis for England in tournaments past. For Colombia, this would be their first ever shootout at the World Cup. Both teams converted their first two kicks. Henderson stepped up for England on the third shot, and his well-placed shot was brilliantly saved by Ospina. Uribe also hit the bar with his powerful effort and we were still tied. Trippier did score for England next. Carlos Bacca took the fourth kick for Colombia and saw his shot saved by Pickford. Up stepped Dier and by scoring his penalty confirmed his team’s qualification to the Quarter Final. England had finally won a penalty shoot-out in the World Cup, at the fourth time of asking.
Final Score: Colombia 1 – 1 England (England won 4 – 2 on penalties)