World Cup diary 2018 – Saturday 30 June
And now the real drama begins, as the knockout phase starts today, and that can mean the joys of extra-time and penalties. It will also see the use of a different ball as the Adidas Telstar 18 will be replaced with the Telstar Mechta which has a different design. The 18 had black flashes which on the Mechta will be red, apparently to reflect of the colour of the host country, Russia. FIFA added in a press release that the red is also to signify the “rising heat of knockout-stage football”. It’s obviously not a marketing ploy at all…
France v Argentina
These two have met in World Cup Finals, the first occasion came in the inaugural competition in 1930 when Uruguay were the hosts. It was a Group 1 encounter that took place at the Parque Central in Montevideo, with Argentina winning 1-0 with a goal from Luis Felipe Monti nine minutes from time in front of a crowd of 23,409. Argentina topped the group and made it to the Final only to lose to hosts Uruguay 4-2. The second meeting came when Argentina hosted the event in 1978, with the game against France once again in Group 1. As in 1930, the South American side came out on top winning 2-1 at the Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires, where a crowd of 71,666 saw a Passarella penalty on the stroke of half-time give the hosts the advantage only for Platini on the hour mark to level. However, Argentina weren’t to be denied and a Luque effort on seventy-three minutes secured the win. Argentina went on to progress to the Final beating the Netherlands 3-1 (AET).
My head says that Argentina will make it through and Messi will come to the rescue of his country, but my heart wants the French to get to the Quarter-Finals. Both teams have line-ups littered with big names, and whilst France came through their group comfortably, Argentina left it very late to seal their place. Could this be a cagey encounter and end up going to penalties?
Uruguay v Portugal
No previous World Cup encounters, but two International meetings between the teams. The first in 1966, when a Jose Torres hat-trick saw Portugal beat Uruguay 3-0 in Oeiras, in a friendly ahead of the World Cup that year. A second encounter took place six years later in the tournament to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Brazilian Declaration of Independence in the second group phase of the competition. The game ended 1-1 with Ricardo Pavoni (20’) putting Uruguay ahead and Portugal levelling through Jaime Graca a minute before the break. Portugal went on to the Final, only to lose 1-0 to Brazil.
Another difficult game to call. Ronaldo has that determined look about him and he’ll need to be at his inspirational best to see his side through against a Uruguay side that won all three of its group games. Portugal had a tougher group to negotiate, so with that in mind, I’m going for the current European Champions to make it through.