The World Cup knockout stages begin Saturday afternoon when Antoine Griezmann and France take on Argentina in Kazan. It will be the first of five battles in the last 16 featuring at least one Atlético Madrid player. All 10 rojiblanco representatives remain alive in this competition, and their teams — France, Brazil, Croatia, Spain and Uruguay — ended up as group winners. Overall, Atlético players were responsible for five goals in the group stage and took 37 of a possible 45 points (11 wins and four draws).
Uruguay 3-0 Russia
Los Charrúas swatted aside the hosts to top Group A. Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani goals on either side of a Denis Cheryshev own goal saw Uruguay notch a third straight win and bring Russia back to earth somewhat. José Giménez did not play as he recovered from a thigh injury, but Diego Godín was just about perfect once more: five clearances, three interceptions and just a single foul.
Uruguay will play Portugal on Saturday. Godín and Giménez will take turns trying to maul Cristiano Ronaldo, and it’s gonna be great.
Spain 2-2 Morocco
Unimpressive again from the 2010 world champions, but a little help from Iago Aspas, VAR and Iran ensured they would win Group B. Diego Costa was uninvolved and left the match on 74 minutes, while Koke did not play and Saúl once again found himself stuck to the bench.
La Furia Roja must step up in general, while Fernando Hierro particularly must make changes to provide more cover for his leaky defense. One or both Atlético canteranos could help in this regard. After all, Sergio Busquets himself has said Koke is his ideal partner!
Spain will face Russia on Sunday.
Denmark 0-0 France
The only goalless match at the World Cup so far, and it wasn’t entirely unpredictable — Denmark’s ultra-negativity up against France’s tactical
cluelessness experimentation. Griezmann played 68 uninspired minutes, while Lucas departed just after halftime as a precaution (he’s good for Saturday). Thomas Lemar played all 90 minutes and completed 94 percent of his passes.
Iceland 1-2 Croatia
While all eyes were glued on Nigeria-Argentina in Saint Petersburg, Croatia quietly confirmed a perfect group stage with a late win over Iceland. Šime Vrsaljko got the night off in Rostov, but will be back in Zlatko Dalić’s XI against Denmark on Sunday.
Serbia 0-2 Brazil
Filipe Luís entered for Marcelo on 10 minutes to realize his dream: play in a World Cup. The 32-year-old passed efficiently (88 percent) and formed a good combination with Neymar as Brazil coasted after a sluggish start.
Predictions: France 0-1 Argentina a.e.t., Uruguay 1-0 Portugal, Spain 2-1 Russia, Croatia 1-0 Denmark, Brazil 3-1 Mexico.