A closer look at the World Cup round of 16

The World Cup enters its knockout phase from today after a group stage defined by shock results.

Here, the PA news agency uses FIFA’s official statistics to preview each match in the round of 16.

Netherlands v United States, Saturday 3pm

Cody Gakpo of the Netherlands celebrates
Cody Gakpo is the tournament’s joint-top scorer with three goals (Moises Castillo/AP)

Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands side qualified comfortably from Group A but are likely to face their stiffest challenge yet against the United States.

The USA outshot the Netherlands by 28 to 24 in the group stage, but the Dutch converted 21 per cent of their efforts for a total of five goals compared with two. Promising forward Cody Gakpo has netted from three of his five attempts and is tied at the top of the Golden Boot standings.

The USA, known for their athleticism with all but three of their squad aged under 30, have covered more distance in sprints than any side remaining in the World Cup (33.0 kilometres). Meanwhile, the Dutch are third-bottom for distance run at full tilt (24.6 km).

Argentina v Australia, Saturday 7pm

Argentina managed to avoid Group D winners France by beating Poland on Wednesday and will fancy their chances against Australia – the lowest-ranked side left in the competition.

Lionel Messi has had more shots on target so far, with eight, than the entire Australia squad combined (seven).

That said, Mitchell Duke – the Socceroos’ lone striker – offers a threat in the air and ranks joint-top with France’s Olivier Giroud and South Korea’s Cho Gue-sung for headed attempts at goal (four).

France v Poland, Sunday 3pm

(PA graphic)
(PA graphic)

France-Poland looks like a mismatch on paper, with France joint-top for shots among teams left in the tournament and Poland joint-bottom.

The Poles have played very conservatively so far, completing fewer passes (738) than any side to make it through to the last 16.

Robert Lewandowski has been starved of service up front. Remarkably, neither he or any of his team-mates have been flagged offside, which is reflected by Poland’s tally of 14 successful balls in behind their opponents’ defensive line (the lowest at the tournament).

Despite suffering a surprise defeat to Tunisia, France go into the knockout rounds well-rested, with 24 of their 25-man squad having played some minutes. Third-choice goalkeeper Alphonse Areola is the only player yet to receive any game time.

England v Senegal, Sunday 7pm

England are tied with Spain for most goals (nine) and different scorers (six) at the tournament so far. Their opponents Senegal have spread the goals around too, with five players having found the net.

Senegal’s main threat is likely to be out wide. Almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of their final third entries have come down the flanks, the highest percentage among teams left in the competition. Watford’s Ismaila Sarr – who has recorded the fourth-fastest top speed of any player – is a familiar threat in the absence of the injured Sadio Mane.

Defensively, Everton’s holding midfielder Idrissa Gueye has been ever present but is suspended after receiving two bookings. There are no such worries for Gareth Southgate, whose side are the only team in the tournament to avoid picking up a single yellow card.

Japan v Croatia, Monday 3pm

(PA graphic)
(PA graphic)

Japan topped Group E against the odds by defeating Germany and Spain either side of losing to Costa Rica.

The Japanese pressing style appears to suit playing opposition that keep the ball. They are miles clear of anyone else in the tournament on FIFA’s defensive pressures applied metric (1,424), while their 2-1 victories over Germany and Spain came despite having 22 and 14 per cent of possession respectively. When that figure rose to 48 per cent against Costa Rica, they suffered a 1-0 defeat.

Croatia do not dominate the ball in the same way as Germany or Spain but possible fatigue could make them vulnerable to Japan’s high-energy approach. They used just 16 players in the group phase, with their first 11 accounting for 92 per cent of playing time – the highest of any team.

Brazil v South Korea, Monday 7pm

Brazil and South Korea meet in the round of 16 having taken very different paths through Groups G and H respectively. While Brazil had qualification sewn up with a match to spare, South Korea were heading out until scoring an added-time winner against Portugal, which was also the first time they led in a game.

Both teams have shown attacking intent so far, ranking in the top five for shots on goal, but neither has taken advantage of their opportunities. Brazil have converted just three of 52 efforts (6 per cent), while South Korea have scored four from 39 attempts (10 per cent).

Expect plenty of crosses in this game, with South Korea (78) racking up more than anyone else in the group stage and Brazil (73) not far behind.

Morocco v Spain, Tuesday 3pm

Spain’s Rodri
Spain’s Rodri has completed 430 passes at the World Cup, 155 more than anyone else (Nick Potts/PA)

Spain’s shock defeat to Japan has pitted them against surprise Group F winners Morocco, who are playing in the round of 16 for the first time since 1986.

The Spanish will rightly expect to dominate possession, having completed the most passes at the tournament (2,560). In fact, they made more passes in both the 7-0 rout of Costa Rica (1,003) and the 2-1 loss to Japan (992) than Morocco managed across their three group games (873).

The contrast in styles is further epitomised by the number of times each team received the ball between their opponents’ midfield and defensive lines, with Spain (440) top on this measure and Morocco bottom (167).

Portugal v Switzerland, Tuesday 7pm

Portugal and Switzerland are looking to make their first World Cup quarter-final since 2006 and 1954 respectively, having developed a habit of being knocked out in the last 16.

The Swiss produced their best attacking performance of the tournament in Friday’s 3-2 win over Serbia, with 14 of their 26 shots in the group stage coming in that game. Former Liverpool midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri scored the opener to join Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as the only three players to have scored in each of the past three World Cups.

Switzerland’s upturn coincided with a first defeat for Portugal against South Korea, but manager Fernando Santos took the opportunity to rest players with qualification already secure. His most-used 11 have played just 71 per cent of minutes in the group phase, the third-fewest after Brazil and France.