Qatar World Cup last-16: Knockout stages leave no more room for manoeuvre

AP - Alessandra Tarantino

"There are two World Cups in one World Cup," said Belgium boss Roberto Martinez 10 days ago just after his team had scraped past Canada 1-0 in their opening game in Group F. "The first is the group phase and that needs to get you to the best level and then from that point on, it's the second World Cup."

The 49-year-old Spaniard will not be at the latter competition which starts on Saturday evening at the Khalifa International Stadium with the match between the Netherlands and the United States.

Belgium were eliminated following a 0-0 draw with Croatia on Thursday night at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.

Martinez promptly departed. His reign as coach had lasted six years in which he had led the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Thibaut Courtois - Belgium's much vaunted "Golden Generation" - to the top of the world rankings but no international baubles.

The Dutch know of such phases. They reached consecutive World Cup finals in 1974 and 1978 but lost both. But they fulfilled their promise in 1988 with the likes of Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard.

More than three decades on from that success, the Dutch entered the last-16 after a relative breeze through Group A in which they saw off Senegal and hosts Qatar and drew with Ecuador.


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