The 2018 World Cup’s group stage concluded Thursday, ending a two-week whirlwind of goals, VAR and dashed dreams..Belgium defeated England 1-0 to win Group G, but both sides sent out their B-squads with an eye already on the Round of 16. While the Red Devils won the group, they may have the more difficult road moving forward.
With usual contending nations such as the Netherlands, USA, Chile and Italy at home watching, the group stage lacked intrigue at times as smaller nations didn’t always seem up to the challenge.
However, the tournament should regain some drama in the Round of 16, as a couple of the matchups look like potential finals.
1. Side-by-side breakdown
The left side of the bracket
- Participants: Uruguay, Portugal, France, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Belgium, Japan
- Cumulative World Cup titles: 10 (Brazil 5, Argentina 2, Uruguay 2, France 1)
- FIFA World Rankings average: 13.8 (five teams in the top 10)
- Group stage record (W-L-D): 15-3-6 (51 cumulative points)
Right Side of the bracket
- Participants: Spain, Russia, Croatia, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Colombia, England
- Cumulative World Cup titles: 2 (England, Spain)
- FIFA World Rankings average: 21.2 (two teams in the top 10)
- Group stage record (W-L-D): 14-4-6 (48 cumulative points)
The left side — in the purposes of the bracket image above — is the side of the powerhouses. There’s the classic favorite in Brazil, a Uruguay side that has yet to concede, a French team full of up-and-coming stars and the team with the two best players in the world in Argentina and Portugal. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo make those teams particularly nerve-wracking to face off against.