Croatia 1-1 Denmark (3-2 pens): Error 404 – Eriksen not found

In a match which finished 1-1 and had plenty of drama, Croatia held off both it’s nerve and Denmark 3-2 in penalty kicks with the veteran shot-stopper Danijel Subasic stepping up at the right time. After Russia’s goalkeeper made two big penalty saves to help the hosts shock Spain in the round of 16, Croatia’s goalkeeper put on his own world-class display, saving three penalty kicks to guide Croatia past the Scandinavians.

The second-smallest nation left in the competition squandered a chance to win the match with 116 played after Kasper Schmeichel superbly kept out Luka Modric’s penalty and saved two more later in the shootout. Croatia will now return to the quarterfinals for just the second time in history, and the first time since the 1998 tournament in France.

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Spain 1-1 Russia (3-4 pens): Form Loses to Essence as Hosts Shock La Roja

If football is more than merely a sport – art or even a way of life – then a philosophical description of the match at Luzhniki between Spain and Russia is befitting.  

Aristotle and Plato were the first ones to touch on the subject of essence, which in philosophical terms is the property that makes substance what it is in it’s fundamental core, compared to form which in the simplest of terms is a reflection of essence.

Apply it to the match in which the host nation of the World Cup successfully eliminated one of the remaining favourites to lift the title and you’ll see a victory of essence over form in a dramatic penalty shootout. Read More

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Sweden vs. Switzerland: make sure Durmaz plays

Despite the prospect of their first playoff-stage match at a big international tournament since 2002, many of headlines in Sweden continue to revolve around Jimmy Durmaz and the tackle that led to a free kick and goal for Germany in the final minutes of Sweden’s second match.

Racism has changed a lot over the last decades. It used to be simple and blatant. It came in the form of simple name calling and stereotypes of players being lazy or not committed to ‘their’ country. And alot of the racism seen on Durmaz Instagram account after the Germany match has been of this old-fashioned form: calling him a terrorist because he has a beard. Ridiculous stuff like that.

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Uruguay 2-1 Portugal: Duos are making the difference.

On the same day Messi was sent home by France in Argentina’s loss, the other “GOAT” at this tournament was also eliminated. And it was only two weeks ago that Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat trick in the same stadium against Spain, stroking his chin after the first goal to imply he was the “greatest of all time.”

This time it was Cavani who instead took the spotlight. He combined with Luis Suarez to complete a series of precision passes to give Uruguay the early advantage with a header in the seventh minute.

In this map from OPTA, we can see how Cavani starts the build-up play from his own half, and attacked the space on Portugal’s six yard box to receive the assist from Suarez. Great goal. In fact, the ball hit his face and bounced in but the combination play was still something to savour.

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Portugal exit the World Cup with a strange feeling of being better

Two goals from Edinson Cavani lead Uruguay to the World Cup quarter-finals, and sent Portugal home with a strange feeling of being better.

Better than in the previous games, first of all, but the bar was so low that playing more effectively than in the group stage was insufficient to continue in the tournament. And Portugal may have left with the feeling that it was better than Uruguay, that they deserved another outcome, but that was the bitter conclusion reached by many of their opponents in Euro 2016 or this World Cup.

The truth is that Cavani’s first goal, with just seven minutes played, made Uruguay extremely comfortable. Sitting in the armchair, with a beer can in the hand, watching a World Cup match. Óscar Tabárez’s side retreated for the last 30 meters with a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the edge of the area. And Portugal respected this request in the first half: they settled there, in the offensive midfield, but practically did nothing to bother goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.

Even with constant exchanges of positions between João Mário, Bernardo Silva and Gonçalo Guedes, the European champions were attracted to the outside and restricted to crosses, which was to Diego Godín and Jose Maria Giménez’s immense satisfaction.

Curiously, it was from a set-piece that Portugal scored the equalizer, at minute 55, with Pepe taking advantage of the fact the Uruguayan duo were more worried about Cristiano Ronaldo.


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France 4-3 Argentina: Messi’s World Cup dream is over

Despite scoring three goals in a knockout stage match, the World Cup dream has ended for Lionel Messi and his country. Angel Di Maria, Gabriel Mercado and Sergio Aguero all found the back of the net but a powerful France side were too much for the Albiceleste.

For the fourth time at the FIFA World Cup, Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli set out a different eleven with a different formation altogether. This time, he benched both Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, robbing the team of any real threat in and around the penalty area as Lionel Messi was supposed to play the false number nine role. While hindsight may be 20/20, it ended up failing.

Starting the match without a real out-and-out striker may have cost Argentina, especially when combined with the defensive fragility of the team. Lionel Messi played in the false number nine role yet despite coming on as a second half substitute, Sergio Aguero measured higher than him on the Twelve leaderboard. The Manchester City man finished second overall in Argentinean players behind Gabriel Mercado.

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Croatia vs. Denmark Preview: Danes not just about Eriksen

After my debut article for Twelve where I explained why Croatia can no longer be considered a darkhorse at the World Cup, I am now looking towards the Vatreni’s decisive match of the tournament against Denmark in which we’ll see a great battle for the quarter-finals spot.

Croatia were one of just three sides to claim maximum points from the group phase, while their opponent did just about enough to finish second in Group C. All three group matches gave Zlatko Dalic a chance to show a different style of play. Against Nigeria they’ve shown a sheer routine with a 2-0 win in their opener, before they trashed Argentina with a stunning 3-0 win in their second game. Croatia then battled to a 2-1 triumph over Iceland with a mixed squad in their closing match of Group D.

Croatia’s top performers in the group stage.

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Colombia Analysis: What Lies In Wait For England?

Passing through Group H with good football moments and some really not good looking situations, Colombia face England as a very irregular team with some important flaws that can be explored by Southgate’s Three Lions.

Juan Quintero has been Colombia’s best player at the tournament so far, with bright performances in the first two games against Japan and Poland. He is a good creator and also a good ball carrier. His decision making can be questionable at times, but nevertheless he tries to make something happen and pulls it off more often than not.

These attributes have been moderated and put to incomplete use with James’ inclusion in the side. Quintero dropped himself deeper, allowing James to be incisive in attack.

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What next for the young Super Eagles?

Now the dust has settled and the pang of Marcos Rojo 86th minute volley is less harrowing, there remains the question what next for the young Super Eagles side.

It was instructive to see the vortex of opinions and hot-takes for the reason the Super Eagles were ousted from the World Cup. The Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, blamed it on Gernot Rohr’s inability to manage the game.

“We lost the match due to poor technical judgment which failed to inject necessary changes to compliment (sic) the effort of the team that was under last minute pressure,” the Minister tweeted.

However, coach Rohr said the team lost because of its inexperience. “We were very fantastic and just within a few minutes of going through, we lost because we lacked the big match experience. Most of the Argentines are Champions League stars, who know how to exert pressure to get a desired result.”

Most would disagree, preferring to hang Odion Ighalo to the blame-shaped pike. The striker missed two gilt-edged chances in the match against Argentina. He was one-on-one against Franco Armani from an acute angle in the 83rd minute but hit couldn’t bury the chance.

The shot on target earned Ighalo 163 points on Twelve but most would have preferred he got the 1000 points from scoring a goal. His execution of the second chance was even poorer, rushing to hit a volley wide after Rojo got a touch on Ahmed Musa’s deflected cross. The more superstitious cursed the ill-luck of the dark green jersey.

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