World Cup weekend recap: Round of 16 underway as England reach last eight

Four teams booked their slots in the quarterfinals of the 2022 World Cup on the weekend as the round of 16 kicked off with a bang.

After an exhilarating group stage, the knockout phase had a lot of hype to live up to. But despite the lack of matches, compared to the four-a-day schedule, the round of 16 made up for its reduced quantity with quality.

Arguably, though, the weekend’s results did not deliver any surprises – unlike the previous round.

Netherlands 3-1 USA

The Oranje asserted their tactical dominance over the USA to claim an assured victory in Al Rayyan.

America started the game aggressively, nearly seeing a reward for their effort when Christian Pulisic had a chance one-on-one. However, Andries Noppert was equal to the USA captain’s low-driven effort.

Louis van Gaal’s side stuck resolutely to their manager’s game plan throughout the first half. They frustrated their opponents, slowing down the energetic US team with a resolute defence. But the Netherlands could attack devastatingly, as they showed just ten minutes in.

A series of clinical passes allowed the Netherlands to carve through the USA’s press from the edge of their own box. Eventually, the Dutch played the ball out to Denzel Dumfries, who then supplied a perfect cut-back for Memphis Depay.

The forward seized the chance, sweeping the ball home with aplomb to finish off a wonderful team move.

The Netherlands then doubled their advantage just before the interval. Dumfries was again instrumental in the goal, as a quick one-two gave him space to cross. His low-driven pass found fellow wing-back Daley Blind, who guided the ball past Matt Turner to make it 2-0 at half time.

After 75 minutes, America finally got their breakthrough. Regaining possession quickly, DeAndre Yedlin fed the ball wide to Christian Pulisic. The Chelsea star slid a pass across the busy six-yard box, where Haji Wright somehow managed to loop the ball into the far side netting.

Just minutes later, the Netherlands restored their two-goal lead. A lapse in concentration led to Denzel Dumfries being wide open in the box. Daley Blind duly found his teammate via a delicious cross, which the Inter Milan player volleyed home.

Argentina 2-1 Australia

A brave Australia performance could not stop some vintage Lionel Messi in a cracking World Cup round of 16 encounter.

During a tense first half of few chances, one piece of quality gave Argentina the lead.

The ball came to Lionel Messi on the right-hand side, and he passed back to Alexis Mac Allister before darting into the box. Mac Allister’s pass found Otamendi, who laid the ball off for Messi to curl home under Harry Souttar’s leg.

Messi’s goal gave the Albiceleste a much-needed boost heading into halftime. They then started the second half with vigour, pressuring their inexperienced opponents.

From this, Julian Alvarez capitalised on Mat Ryan’s error, passing the ball into an unguarded net. Argentina now had breathing space.

However, Australia refused to give in, despite the deficit. A series of attacking subs forced them forwards, and the Socceroos found a goal just past 75 minutes.

Craig Goodwin had the shot, but it was Enzo Fernandez’s deflection that carried the ball past Emi Martinez. Not that Australia were bothered with the how’s and why’s; they were back in the game. This set up a nervy last ten minutes for Lionel Scaloni’s side.

As Australia applied pressure, Argentina’s defence needed to produce heroics on numerous occasions. Lisandro Martinez made a fantastic block following a brilliant run from Aziz Behich. During injury time, Emi Martinez followed suit with a vital save from Garang Kuol to prevent extra time.

The win means that Argentina will play the Netherlands in the first quarterfinal – a rematch of one of the 2014 semis.

France 3-1 Poland

Two goals from Kylian Mbappe and a historic strike from Olivier Giroud earned France a round-of-16 win at the Qatar World Cup.

Les Bleus had arguably the better start to a frenetic first half, with Ousmane Dembele and Aurelien Tchouameni having efforts saved. However, Robert Lewandowski highlighted Poland’s attacking threat when he sent a speculative shot just wide.

Poland could also have gone ahead, but a series of goal-line blocks somehow kept France from conceding. Instead, the French took the lead just before the break.

A clever pass from Mbappe fed Giroud, who found the far bottom corner with a bouncing strike. This goal, his 52nd for his country, makes him France’s all-time top scorer.

A bicycle kick in the second half nearly gave him a second, but the referee had already blown his whistle for an injury.

France looked the better side following the break and received a reward for their quality on 75 minutes. Kylian Mbappe, a constant threat on the left side, rifled a shot into the roof of Poland’s net to make it 2-0.

After this, in stoppage time, Mbappe got his second of the game. This time the PSG star curled a shot just out of the reach of Wojciech Szczesny, securing France’s place in the last eight.

But the drama was not done just yet. A late handball gave Poland a penalty, which stirred up controversy. Hugo Lloris comfortably saved Lewandowski’s first spot-kick – although he had done so improperly. The French keeper had moved off his line, so the Poland striker got a retake.

Some may consider this fortunate, as Lewandowski’s questionable stop-and-go run-up caused Lloris’ early movement in the first place. Nevertheless, the Barca forward converted the retake to give Poland a consolation goal.

England 3-0 Senegal

An accomplished Three Lions performance earned Gareth Southgate yet another knockout win as England progressed to the last eight.

Senegal provided an early threat, though, with Ismaila Sarr lifting an effort over the bar from close range. Sarr then set up a chance for Boulaye Dia, but the forward saw his shot saved by Jordan Pickford.

England picked their game up following these early warnings. Thanks to a flowing move down the left-hand side, they also took the lead towards the end of the first half.

Some great interplay between Foden and Kane sent Jude Bellingham running at the Senegal defence. His cut-back was on a plate for Jordan Henderson, who swept home his third England goal to put them 1-0 up.

Buoyed by this goal, the Three Lions added a second in first-half stoppage time. Jude Bellingham was again vital to the goal, winning the ball back and bursting through midfield. This time, he played through Phil Foden, who then found Kane with a first-time pass.

With just Edouard Mendy to beat, Kane drilled a shot home to get his first goal in Qatar. England went into the break in control as a result of this decisive second strike.

The Three Lions then had the game wrapped up within an hour. Foden’s wonderful, drilled cross went to Bukayo Saka, who deftly lifted the ball over the falling keeper to make it 3-0 to England.

Despite the African champion’s best efforts, Gareth Southgate’s side proved too strong. England must now prepare for a mouth-watering quarterfinal against France next weekend.

QF matchups after this weekend’s World Cup round of 16 games

Netherlands v Argentina: 9 December, 7pm kick-off

England v France: 10 December, 7pm kick-off

Featured image credit: Getty