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FIFA World Cup 2022: Three talking points from the Round of 16

Reflecting on memorable matches and surprising outcomes are worth considering when making predictions

Qatar 2022 continues to make headlines as FIFA's showpiece event races towards the prize places. The group stages ended, and followers witnessed memorable matches and surprise results, including Japan winning a group that included Spain and Germany, and Saudi Arabia's stunning win over Argentina.

Germany may have started as a betting favourite with online sports betting apps, but the former winners packed for home after three games.

Japan progressed as winners ahead of Spain, with the Blue Samarai meeting Croatia in a nail-biting Round of 16 match, eventually losing after a penalty shootout. Spain was rewarded for finishing second with a match against Morocco on December 6.

Big winners and sore losers

The Round of 16 was the World Cup's first knockout stage, supplying several surprises. But which nations were the big winners, and who froze on the big stage?

Playing round-robin football proved great for teams like Australia and Japan. But battling through a straight knockout match is a skill reserved for more experienced teams and is where players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Kylian Mbappe show why they are stars.

Looking back at the best the Round of 16 had to offer, reflecting on the most entertaining games and which teams will be worth watching in the quarter-finals are worth considering when making predictions.

England dump Senegal

It was a show of quick-thinking and a clinical finish from the Three Lions, who haven't always been convincing in Qatar - losing two goals against Iran and drawing with the USA - but they were on form on December 4.

Harry Kane hadn't scored heading into that match, but he got the goal fans were hoping for against Senegal.

England didn't dominate the game, and their passing still lacks precision, but the scoreline counts the most. The three goals on December 4’s win made England the tournament's leading scorers.

The Netherlands ended the American dream

Team USA followed England as runners-up from Group B, while the Netherlands were Group A champions. American fans were optimistic, but a Dutch tactical masterclass deflated them, prompting an earlier-than-expected exit for Team USA, who are preparing for the biggest FIFA World Cup in their history.

Following Qatar 2022, the World Cup moves to the United States, Mexico and Canada, jointly hosting the games in 2026. 

Will USA fans have more to cheer when they have home-field advantage? Expectations are higher than the Round of 16 exit suffered in Qatar.

France destroys Poland

What can we say about defending world champions France? They have been simply sublime in both attack and defense.

France dealt with a dangerous Poland with style and sophistication. Didier Deschamps and his blues played with the self-belief and confidence you'd expect from a king defending his crown.

France beat Poland 3-1 on December 4 thanks to goals from Olivier Giroud and a double off the boot of golden boy Kylian Mbappe. He's now the competition's leading scorer and prepares to do battle with Harry Kane's England in the quarters. 

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