The 2018 World Cup has moved to the Round of 16, which starts on Saturday, 30 June. Gustavo Páez and Hendrick Ekstein review the group stage and give their predictions about what happens next.
What country surprised you?
Gustavo Páez: Belgium. I know that they are a good team, but they still positively surprised me. They are so far one of the best performing teams at this World Cup.
Hendrick Ekstein: Argentina, because they drew in their first match against Iceland followed by a stunning 3-0 loss to Croatia. I thought they would go home. Instead, they managed to beat Nigeria 2-1 to go through to the Round of 16.
Why did no African country go past the group stage?
Gustavo Páez: It wasn’t so much the football they played, because, for example, Senegal impressed and got very close to the Group of 16, just going out on fair play rule. The one African country that really disappointed me was Egypt. I was convinced that they would easily go past the group stage.
Hendrick Ekstein: The African countries played well, but they all struggled a bit in the final third on the pitch and therefore didn’t create many goalscoring opportunities. As a result, they struggled to score goals.
Who of the players surprised you so far?
Gustavo Páez: Brazil’s Philippe Coutinho has performed excellently, scoring two crucial goals as well. Without him, Brazil probably wouldn’t have reached the Group of 16.
Hendrick Ekstein: Belgium’s Januzaj surprised me. I like his movement, his passing and his runs. I was impressed with his performance against England, scoring the winner as well.
Who are what has disappointed you?
Gustavo Páez: Argentina has disappointed me. They are playing badly, without any direction. They just play and see what will happen from there. There is no structure or idea behind what they are doing. Above all, Higuain and Di Maria’s form has been terrible.
Hendrick Ekstein: The Video Assistant Referees (VAR) system. Sometimes it works well, at other times it doesn’t. For example, Senegal got a penalty against Colombia. But it was taken to the VAR system, where it was overruled. I clearly felt that Senegal deserved a penalty though.
Which countries will reach the quarter-finals?
Gustavo Páez: Portugal, Argentina, Spain, Croatia, Brazil, Belgium, Switzerland and England.
Hendrick Ekstein: Portugal, France, Spain, Denmark, Brazil, Belgium, Sweden and England.
Who will win the World Cup?
Gustavo Páez: Brazil will win. I don’t have a particular reason, I just like them.
Hendrick Ekstein: Belgium. They have won all their games so far and I enjoy watching them play. I am a fan of Kevin de Bruyne – the way he passes the ball and organises the midfield. My teammates know how much I like him and, as a result, they even call me “De Bruyne” at training.