After nearly two wild and dramatic weeks at the World Cup, we have the reached the win-or-go-home portion of the tourney. Sixteen teams remain, 16 others have been eliminated and the fun continues Saturday.
Be sure to check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from Qatar. Here’s what you might have missed from Friday’s World Cup happenings, and a look ahead to what’s next Saturday.
– World Cup news, features, previews and more
– Stream FC Daily and Futbol Americas on ESPN+
Round of 16: Brazil, Portugal, South Korea in; Uruguay out
Here we go! The bracket for the knockout stages of the World Cup is set. Two daily games over the next four days, with the winners then setting up the quarterfinal matches. Here’s what we have:
Saturday, Dec. 3 (winners play each other in quarterfinal)
Netherlands vs. United States
Argentina vs. Australia
Sunday, Dec. 4 (winners play each other in quarterfinal)
France vs. Poland
England vs. Senegal
Monday, Dec. 5 (winners play each other in quarterfinal)
Japan vs. Croatia
Brazil vs. South Korea
Tuesday, Dec. 6 (winners play each other in quarterfinal)
Morocco vs. Spain
Portugal vs. Switzerland
Wild group stage finish: Suarez’s tears, Son’s joy
In keeping with the drama we’ve seen the last couple of days, Friday’s slate brought plenty of big moments as well.
Just as it looked as if Uruguay would advance by beating Ghana, a last-gasp goal by South Korea against Portugal gave them a 2-1 win in the other Group H game — and more importantly, a spot in the knockouts.
Twelve years after Uruguay eliminated Ghana in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals thanks largely to Luis Suarez’s famous handball, Friday’s game was billed as a grudge match for the Black Stars. Up by two goals Friday, Uruguay looked poised to ruin Ghana’s party once more. But when the monitors flashed the scoreline of the South Korea-Portugal game, cameras quickly cut to Suarez sitting on the bench, looking shell-shocked.
Uruguay needed another goal to flip the tiebreaker in their favor, but it never came. So Ghana’s schadenfreude will come from lasting images of crying Suarez burying his head in his jersey, likely the last time the 35-year-old wears it at a World Cup.
And while Uruguayan fans were in the midst of misery, it was the complete opposite for South Korean supporters across town. With the game against group winners Portugal level 1-1 as it approached injury time, Hwang Hee-chan’s goal in the 91st minute ensured South Korea would finish ahead of Uruguay in the standings.
It was an especially poignant moment for captain Son Heung-min, who has sometimes been accused of trying to do too much himself when he plays for the national team. But Son’s clever play set up Hwang’s winner, and he delivered when his teammates needed him the most.
Over at Group G, Brazil had already clinched a spot in the round of 16 but were aiming to finish the only team in the entire tournament to win all three group stage games. Still playing without injured Neymar, the Brazilians couldn’t muster much against a Cameroon side looking to keep their hopes alive.
A 92nd-minute goal by Vincent Aboubakar (who was then sent off for taking his shirt off in celebration) gave the African side a small chance, but Switzerland’s 3-2 win over Serbia in the concurrent match ensured the Swiss would advance.
Brazil lost their first group stage match since 1998, and with no teams winning the maximum nine points for the first time since 1994, it’s a fitting way to end what’s been a wild start to the World Cup.
USA vs. Netherlands: Get your popcorn (and coffee) ready
USA fans, get your beauty sleep as you have an early date against the vaunted Netherlands, with the winner of Saturday morning’s matchup going on to face either Argentina or Australia.
Good news for US fans as Christian Pulisic is now cleared to play against the Dutch. As you recall, Pulisic taught us what a “pelvic contusion” is after he collided with the Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand as he scored Tuesday’s game-winning goal that sent the USMNT into the round of 16.
Whether Pulisic can go the full 90 minutes Saturday is unclear. Speaking to ESPN’s Sam Borden on Thursday, Pulisic hinted that he may be limited in how long he can play.
“I’m going to do everything in my power, with this staff and medical team, to make sure that however long I can be out on that field, I’ll be out there giving my 110% no matter what,” Pulisic said.
As for the Netherlands, manager Louis van Gaal revealed several members of his squad are battling flu symptoms, though he didn’t reveal who.
Need some reading material ahead of the game? We got you covered, and be sure to tag along with ESPN tomorrow during and after the game.
Tactical preview: Can USA’s midfield keep the momentum going? Cody Gakpo, Frenkie de Jong end the Americans’ run? READ
Captain America: How USA’s Tyler Adams showed the world his value on the pitch, inspirational leadership off it READ
Dutch date with destiny: Born in the Netherlands, Saturday’s game for USA’s Sergino Dest will be extra special READ
Today’s top reads
World Cup vibes rankings: USA, Japan feeling best going into round of 16
Attempting to rank all 32 teams both by how they played and what their results were. Welcome to the Power Rankings of just feeling it.
Germany’s second straight early World Cup exit will sting, but they’ll be fine
It surely hurts that the four-time winners were eliminated in the group stage again, but this one isn’t a disaster.
What World Cup group stage penalties tell us about shootouts and goalkeepers
You know they’re coming: The dreaded penalty shootouts. Here’s which goalkeepers could shine, their patterns and more.
Your best bets (odds via Caesars Sportsbook)
If you’re looking to bet on the World Cup, ESPN contributors Paul Carr, Dan Thomas and Dalen Cuff are here to give you key tips on odds, options and futures. Here’s what we have for the Saturday’s matches.
Round of 16: Netherlands (-110) vs. USA (+325), Draw (+235)
Paul Carr: I hope I’m not being too much of a homer here, but I like the USA double chance at -125. The Dutch weren’t impressive despite seven points in the group stage, getting outshot by 10 and accumulating only 2.4 expected goals. Having Memphis Depay back in the lineup helps, but the US outplayed a better England side, so I’ll take the US to at least get this to extra time.
Daniel Thomas: I think this could be a carbon copy of the England game — a tight, uneventful affair. I’d take 0-0 after 90 minutes.
Dalen Cuff: Unlike Paul, I am being a homer here, but I think I’m justified. This Dutch team is not a dominant squad. This US team has talent and have bossed games this tournament, most notably against England. I like the US to advance at +180. However, I do think this is going to be a tight affair especially in the first half. I like 0-0 in the 1st half (+145).
Round of 16: Argentina (-540) vs. Australia (+1600), Draw (+525)
Carr: Australia advanced to the knockout stage, but that doesn’t mean they’re a particularly good team. Argentina had the third-most expected goals (6.3) and expected goal difference (+5.5) in the group stage, and Australia was 30th with 1.7 expected goals and 31st with a -4.1 goal difference. Also, Argentina have Lionel Messi. I’ll gladly lay the 1.5 goals at -160, and I’m tempted by Argentina -2.5 at +170.
Thomas: This has to be an Argentina win. So, where can we find some value in this game? I’ll take an Angel Di Maria assist at +125.
Cuff: There is no value here. I’m not willing to lay the 2.5 in order to get into plus money, so I’m going to pass.
News and notes
France defender William Saliba has said he hopes that World Cup faves Brazil are knocked out of the tournament “as soon as possible.” The earliest the two sides could meet would be the final, but Saliba hopes that it doesn’t materialize. Good luck with that.
England defender John Stones said he must use the early exits of Germany and Belgium as a warning not to take their World Cup progress for granted. The Three Lions face Senegal in Sunday’s round-of-16 clash, with Stones saying his side won’t overlook the African side.
Cristiano Ronaldo was “insulted” by South Korea player Cho Gue-sung as he left the pitch, according to Portugal coach Fernando Santos. Ronaldo, who looked unhappy to be substituted off, appeared to have a verbal exchange with Cho and then put his finger to his mouth.
In NWSL news, Portland Thorns head coach Rhian Wilkinson resigned Friday following one season in charge. Wilkinson, who led the team to the league championship earlier this year, said the players asked her to resign following an investigation into her conduct as head coach.
What else caught our eye
A heartwarming scene during Brazil’s national anthem ahead of the team’s game Friday against Cameroon. Fans unveiled a tifo for Brazil legend Pele, who has been at a Sao Paulo hospital with a respiratory infection since Tuesday.
The 82-year-old and three-time World Cup winner thanked fans in an Instagram post late Thursday for the well wishes he’s received in a fight against cancer. He had a colon tumor removed in September 2021 and has since gone through chemotherapy.
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