What a day that was yesterday in Russia. Brazil beat Mexico 2-0 behind a goal and an assist from Neymar. It was Mexico’s 7th consecutive World Cup making the round of 16 and losing their first knockout match and the 7th consecutive quarterfinals or better appearance for Brazil.
Then Japan and Belgium took center stage. The game went to halftime tied 0-0 before Japan stunned the viewing public scoring two quick goals to open up the second half in the 48th and 52nd minute. Belgium’s Roberto Martinez makes a double substitution and brings in Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli and the game changes. Belgium scores a fortuitous header from Jan Vertonghen in the 69th minute followed up by a Fellaini header in the 74th and it looks like we are going to extra time. But Japan continues to attack as they have admirably done all game. Looking for a winner in the 94th minute Japan have a corner kick that is caught by the Belgian keeper who starts a counter attack and three passes later Nacer Chadli makes it 3-2 on the last kick of the game. It was the biggest comeback in this World Cup and gives us Brazil versus Belgium in a Quarterfinal matchup on Friday.
Sweden vs. Switzerland
Time: 7:00 AM
Location: Saint Petersburg Stadium, St. Petersburg
TV: Fox Sports 1 (English) and Telemundo (Spanish)
Announcing team: John Strong and Stu Holden (English)
With the bottom half of the draw wide open, one of these teams has a chance to be a shock semi-finalist. In fact, with Spain losing to Russia, now only Sweden (1958) and England (1966) have made a World Cup final from that half of the bracket.
The Seattle Sounders Gustav Svensson is the lone MLS player still in the World Cup. Svensson was a 57 minute substitute in Sweden’s 3-0 group finale win over Mexico that secured them first place in Group F avoiding Brazil in the Round of 16.
Sweden will be without Sebastian Larsson through suspension, meaning a possible start for Gustav Svensson in midfield, while Switzerland are without defenders Stephan Lichtsteiner and Fabian Schar after they each received two yellow cards apiece in the group stage.
Colombia vs. England
Time: 11:00 AM
Location: Spartak Stadium, Moscow
TV: FOX (English) and Telemundo (Spanish)
Announcing team: Derek Rae and Aly Wagner (English)
With England somewhat intentionally trying to finish second in their group to get put in the lower half of the bracket, they now have to back it up. And they get another break as the 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner, James Rodriguez, is still struggling for fitness and likely will be out for this game. Colombia will have to rely on Radamel Falcao to lead the attack.
Harry Kane is the leading goal scorer in this World Cup with five despite not playing in the group finale against Belgium. Romelu Lukaku is one back with four goals but was unable to add to his tally yesterday against Japan.
England has a regrettable record when it comes to knockout stages in major tournaments, but this is an almost entirely new team that entered the tournament as the second youngest squad in Russia with only eight players carrying over from Brazil 2014. With the draw breaking their way, this group of players could go a long way to erasing that history.