WORLD CUP – ROUND OF 16
Saturday 30 June
France vs Argentina 5:00pm
Uruguay vs Portugal 9:00pm
France coach Didier Deschamps will be without Manchester City’s Benjamin Mendy because of a muscle injury.
Lucas Hernandez should be available and Deschamps is expected to recall the players he rested against Denmark.
Nabil Fekir is pushing for a start after impressive cameos off the bench so far, while right-back Djibril Sidibe may play instead of Benjamin Pavard.
Argentina have no new injury concerns and could stick with the same side that began the 2-1 win against Nigeria.
Midfielder Enzo Perez has a slight thigh problem but should be fit enough to start.
This will be Argentina’s 15th game under coach Jorge Sampaoli and it could be the first time he has named an unchanged side.
Two footballing heavyweights who haven’t even come close to finding their best form so far face off in Kazan knowing they are going to have to seriously up their game if they are to win one of the most open World Cups in years.
Argentina’s nerves were jangling before they somehow sneaked through a tumultuous group stage thanks to a rare and priceless goal from defender Marcos Rojo in the 86th minute against Nigeria.
“It was win or die,” said Gonzalo Higuain, while Lionel Messi admitted he “could not remember such suffering before.”
The French, on the other hand, fielded their youngest team in a World Cup game since 1930 in their opening match against Australia. But despite their youthful exuberance they have underwhelmed.
Their passage to the last 16 may have been as serene as Argentina’s was fraught, but coach Didier Deschamps still can’t seem to get the best out of the fabulous array of attacking talent at his disposal.
This will be the first time these sides have met in the knockout stage of a World Cup.
France and Argentina will be facing each other for the 12th time. The South Americans hold the upper hand with six wins to two, keeping a clean sheet in eight of their previous 11 encounters.
They have only played twice in the last 32 years, in friendlies in 2007 and 2009, which were won by Argentina (1-0 and 2-0 respectively).
The fixture is the first between two previous world champions at this World Cup.
The French haven’t lost in their last eight World Cup matches against South American opposition at the World Cup, since a 2-1 defeat to Argentina in 1978.
Didier Deschamps will take charge of his 80th game as France head coach, overtaking Raymond Domenech’s record.
Excluding penalty shoot-outs, France have lost only one of their last 11 games in the knockout stage of the World Cup (W8, D2), which was a 1-0 defeat to eventual winners Germany in 2014.
Since the introduction of the round of 16 in 1986, Les Bleus have always made it past that stage whenever they’ve reached it (1986, 1998, 2006 and 2014).
France only conceded five shots on target in their three group games. The only goal they let in was a penalty from Australia’s Mile Jedinak. It is the first time they have not conceded a goal from open play at a World Cup group stage since 1998, a tournament they went on to win.
Argentina have gone past the first round for the 12th time in their last 13 World Cup appearances, with the only exception coming in 2002.
Their last four knockout games in the tournament have produced only three goals (two goals for, one against).
They have won each of their last 27 World Cup matches in which they were leading at half-time, since a 4-2 defeat in the 1930 World Cup final against Uruguay.
Argentina have been involved in five World Cup penalty shoot-outs, more than any other nation – winning a joint record four. France have been involved in four, winning twice.
They have reached the quarter-final stage in four of their last five World Cups, only failing in 2002 when they didn’t get out of their group.
Three of Argentina’s four knock-out games at the 2014 World Cup went to extra time.
Uruguay centre-back Jose Gimenez could return to the side after missing the game with Russia with a back injury.
Portugal winger Gelson Martins and left-back Raphael Guerreiro are in contention to play after they returned to full training.
Defensive midfielder William Carvalho is a doubt after he missed a training session on Thursday.
Midfielder Joao Moutinho could come into the side after starting on the bench against Iran.
WILL A FAILURE TO WIN THE GROUP HAUNT PORTUGAL?
Will Portugal live to regret the injury-time goal they conceded against Iran? That 1-1 draw on Monday saw them finish second in Group B to set up a match against Luis Suarez and Uruguay, whereas group winners Spain face an easier-looking tie against hosts Russia.
Two-time winners Uruguay cruised through Group A, winning all three games, scoring five times and not conceding any, with a 3-0 win over Russia securing top spot.
A late goal from Jose Maria Gimenez gave them a 1-0 win over Egypt in their opener before Barcelona striker Suarez scored the only goal to see off Saudi Arabia.
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo has scored four times in the tournament, with only England’s Harry Kane having scored more (five).
Ronaldo’s hat-trick gave them a point in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Spain in their first game, before the Real Madrid forward got the only goal in a 1-0 win over Morocco.
Ricardo Quaresma’s superb strike gave them the lead against Iran in their third group game, before Ronaldo missed a penalty.
Iran then gained an injury-time penalty after a handball by Cedric Soares, with the spot-kick given via the video assistant referee, and Karim Ansarifard converted it to drop Portugal from first to second in the group.
This will be the third encounter between Uruguay and Portugal and their first at the World Cup. They have not faced each other since July 1972, when they drew 1-1 at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium. Portugal are so far unbeaten in their two previous meetings (won one, drew one).
Since the format of the World Cup changed in 1986 to include a round of 16, Uruguay have been eliminated on three of the four occasions they have reached that stage, losing in 1986, 1990 and 2014, but progressing in 2010 against South Korea.
Uruguay will be looking to win their opening four games at a World Cup for only the second time after 1930, when they won the first ever World Cup.
Uruguay are yet to concede a single goal at the 2018 World Cup, facing just six shots on target in three games – the last South American team not to concede in their first four matches of a World Cup tournament was Brazil in 1986.
All five of Uruguay’s goals at the 2018 World Cup have been scored from set-pieces (three from corners, one from a direct free-kick and one from an indirect free-kick). Meanwhile, three of Portugal’s last four goals have come from outside the box.
Luis Suarez has scored seven World Cup goals for Uruguay, second only to Oscar Miguez (eight) – Suarez scored twice against South Korea in his only previous World Cup appearance in the round of 16, in 2010.
Penalty shoot-outs excluded, Portugal have lost only one of their last 17 games at major tournaments (won eight, draw eight), a 4-0 defeat against Germany at the 2014 World Cup. However, they have lost their last three games in the World Cup knockout stages (one goal scored, five conceded).
Cristiano Ronaldo has so far failed to score a single goal for Portugal in the knockout stages of the World Cup: 424 minutes, no goals. However, he did score a hat-trick against Spain in his previous game at Sochi’s Fisht Stadium.
If he plays, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (37) will equal Bastian Schweinsteiger (38) as the player with the most appearances at World Cups and European Championships.
This is Fernando Santos’ fourth major tournament in a row as manager. He has reached the knockout stages on each previous occasion: Euro 2012 quarter-finals & World Cup 2014 round of 16 with Greece; Euro 2016 winners and at least World Cup 2018 round of 16 with Portugal.
MESSI: Suarez Was Unfairly “Forced” Out…
Argentinian star and Barcelona forward, Lionel Messi has expressed emotional grief after the departure of Uruguayan counterpart Luis Suarez to rivals Atletico Madrid for £5.5m on a two-year deal.
The 33 year old had one more year to run on the contract he signed with Barca in 2016, but was told by new head coach Ronald Koeman last month that he was not part of his plans.
Suarez and Lionel Messi struck up a strong friendship on and off the field at Barcelona.
With Messi, Suarez won La Liga titles, four Copa del Reys, the Champions League, the Club World Cup and the European Super Cup during his hugely successful time at the Nou Camp.
Suarez was filmed leaving Barcelona’s training ground in tears on Wednesday as his transfer to Atletico neared completion.
Suarez departs Barcelona as their second-highest goal-scorer of all time, having scored 198 goals since signing from Liverpool in 2014.
Lionel Messi has aimed fresh criticism at the Barcelona hierarchy, following Suarez’s departure from the club to Atletico.
Messi, who came close to leaving the Nou Camp earlier in the transfer window before reversing his threat to end his contract unilaterally, has hit out at the club’s management of Suarez’s departure from the Spanish giants.
He wrote on Instagram: “You deserved a fitting farewell for the person that you are: one of the best players in the club’s history, having achieved incredible things both individually and collectively. You didn’t deserve to be pushed out the way they did, but the truth is nothing surprises me anymore.
Kajoba Has No Excuse Of Not Retaining The League Title For Vipers – Coach Makumbi…
Former Bunamwaya FC coach, Richard Makumbi has said that Fred Kajoba will have no excuses for not winning the Uganda Premier League title next season.
Makumbi who is the current head coach, for Mbarara outfit Nyamitoobora in the FUFA Big league added that Vipers management have given Kajoba everything he needs like; signing players of his choice and recruiting experienced Paul Kiwanuka from Bright Stars as his assistant coach.
Coach Makumbi says there will therefore be no excuse if Kajoba doesn’t win the league, because he has been given what he asked for to retain the league.
“If you are given what you ask for, you have to get the job done, there’s is no excuse for that, coach Kajoba must make sure Vipers are crowned league champions,” Makumbi emphasized.
The experienced coach however also cited the need for coach Kajoba to make winning at home traditional, and register victories on the road, as part of his bargain.
Makumbi who was baptized the ‘King of promotions’ after leading various clubs to the Uganda Premier League from the FUFA Big League tipped Vipers for the title crown.
He however also noted that KCCA and URA have prepared well and are in for some stiff competition.
By Juma Ali
COVID19 Has Left Us Penniless, We Now Need Support – Boxing Council Boss Katongole Cries Out…
Uganda Professional Boxing Council (UPBC) Vice President, Simon Katongole has said that their lives have been negatively affected since the outbreak of the COVID19.
In an interview with theGrapevine, Katongole said that the cancellation of all boxing fights buried their source of income.
Katongole disclosed that before the lockdown, three international fights had been arranged, one at Hotel Africana and two at International University of East Africa (IUEA).
Frank Kiwalabye was scheduled to take on a South African opponent while heavy weight boxer Shafic Kiwanuka was set to face an Egyptian.
Katongole said that they now need support like all the other organisations that have been affected by COVID19, “We are broke, we don’t have anything in our pockets.”
Katongole further hinted that even if government opens up sporting activities including boxing, as long as fans are excluded from attending these events, they will still struggle financially.
By Juma Ali
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