When you look at the two teams going to the final 16 from this group, you would think that everything went according to predictions but it definitely happened in an unexpected fashion. When Rojo was carrying Messi during the goal celebration, it was almost ironic when everyone would expect Messi to carry Rojo and the rest of the team.
Croatia truly dominated the group both in terms of the play on the field and were able to convert the on field dominance to points as one of the most efficient teams so far in this World Cup. Argentina passed across the final line in the last breath with a lineup that saw many changes from the first two games. Who made the adjustments and the roster changes is a mystery with rumors circulating that the players made their own lineup with veterans like Messi and Mascherano taking charge of team formation and lineups. Either way, the change was not drastic when it came to on field play. Nigeria had many chances to score and were even denied what I would consider a clear penalty that was not given even after the VAR review. Leaving Dybala on the bench entire game and only using Aguero in the final minutes of a game when the team needed a goal are just puzzling decisions regardless of who is making them.
Nigeria joins other teams from Africa such as Morocco and Senegal as they head home after being extremely close to going to the next round and most will argue that they deserved to go through to the next round. Iceland on the other hand seemed to have reached the final stages of their run and definitely looked outclassed in almost every game.
What is next for the teams coming out of this group.
Croatia will face Denmark in the next round and will definitely be the favorites going into the game. Croatia boasts a lot of talent throughout the field which sets them apart from most other teams. There are several average teams in the World Cup who have two to three quality players in their roster and their nations’ hopes lie in those players. If they cannot perform or are taken out of the game by the opposition, these teams do not have the quality to have a plan B and can’t get the result needed. Croatia on the other hand has this talent throughout the field with majority of their players playing in not only top leagues but in top teams within these leagues. Croatia wins this one easily with an early goal giving them a possible blowout. My prediction: Croatia 3 – Denmark 0
Argentina plays France in the round of 16. Going into the tournament, this might have been considered an early final matchup but it now feels as a matchup of two underperforming teams. France has been able to get the results needed but definitely not in the fashion most expected. France lineup including their bench bring a group of stars who have not been able to make a team yet. Will they figure it out as they go forward in this tournament or will Argentina improve their play having survived the scare? I think the answer is much simpler. Argentina is not a very good team at the moment and their defense will struggle to contain France. Only a moment of magic or two from Messi will save Argentina but I think France is so much better throughout the field and will get the result needed. My prediction
: Argentina 1 France 3