Following a sensational end to the group games of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup on Friday, the round of 16 games will immediately follow up on Saturday (today).
The group climaxed with Group H games that saw Ghana and Uruguay bow out even though the South Americans won 2-0. South Korea also joined Portugal in the next round courtesy of a late winner by Hwang Hee-chan.
While highly rated teams like Germany, Belgium, and Uruguay failed to make it out of the group stage, Japan, South Korea, and Morocco pulled surprises to top their respective groups.
As there is no break after the group stage games, the second round gets underway on Saturday with games between Netherlands and USA as well as between Argentina and Australia.
Full Last 16 Fixtures For Qatar 2022 World Cup +Plus Time
See the complete second-round FIFA World Cup 2022 fixtures below:
Match 49 – Saturday, 3 December Netherlands-USA, Time: 16:00
Match 50 – Saturday, 3 December Argentina-Australia, Time: 20:00
Match 51 – Sunday, 4 December England-Senegal, Time: 20:00
Match 52 – Sunday, 4 December France-Poland, Time: 16:00
Match 53 – Monday, 5 December Japan-Croatia, Time: 16:00
Match 54 – Monday, 5 December Brazil-Korea Republic, Time: 20:00
Match 55 – Tuesday, 6 December Morocco-Spain, Time: 16:00
Match 56 – Tuesday, 6 December Portugal – Switzerland, Time: 20:00
This time it is Uruguay who are up against it — a Ghana win would put them into the last 16 and send Uruguay home, but a draw for Ghana could also be enough.
Current Ghana skipper Andre Ayew, the only player left from the 2010 squad, attempted to play down talk of revenge.
“Everyone felt bad (in 2010) but for me I just want to get to the next stage,” he told reporters in Qatar.
“Revenge or not, we would go with the same determination and desire to win because we want to get to the next stage.”
“I am not looking back, I don’t want to focus on the past,” added the softly spoken 32-year-old forward.
But try telling that to people in Ghana who are not willing to forgive or forget Uruguay and especially Suarez, the feisty 35-year-old striker who has been banned from football in the past for biting opponents.
“Luis Suarez, Luis Suarez, we all remember, so it is revenge on Friday,” said Philip Sheshe, 32, outside a market store selling Ghana jerseys.
“On that day the ball was meant to enter the net but he used his hand.”
That sentiment was echoed by ruling-party lawmaker Collins Adomako-Mensah.
“They gave us a very powerful defeat. We have never forgiven Suarez,” he told AFP.
“He should expect fireworks from our boys.
“Just as we cried 12 years ago, he will cry on Friday.”
Lionel Messi helped keep Argentina’s World Cup bid alive with the first goal in a 2-0 victory over Mexico on Saturday.
Defeat to outsiders Saudi Arabia in their opening Group G match in Qatar had left Argentina on the brink, knowing another loss would spell the end of their tournament chances.
But the Albiceleste just edged a disjointed and tetchy affair against their fellow Latin Americans at the Lusail stadium in Doha.
And who else but the mercurial Messi should be the hero, firing home a low shot from 20 yards on 64 minutes, before Enzo Fernandez added a thunderbolt second goal for Argentina three minutes from time.
“The first game cost us,” said Messi. “We knew that we had to win today, that another World Cup was starting for us and we knew how to do it.
“It was a tough game to pick ourselves up for because Mexico play well.
“The played the first half with intensity but the second half we relaxed and became ourselves again.”
Messi’s goal meant he tied the late Diego Maradona on eight goals and 21 appearances at the World Cup for Argentina.
Kylian Mbappe scored twice, including a late winner, as holders France edged Denmark 2-1 on Saturday to become the first team to reach the last 16 of the World Cup.
A potent French side knew a second victory in as many Group D outings would take them through to the knockout phase and they were well worth the lead that Mbappe gave them when he opened the scoring at Stadium 974 just after the hour mark.
However, Andreas Christensen soon equalised for the Danes and Les Bleus needed Mbappe to deliver again in the 86th minute as he turned in Antoine Griezmann’s cross to puncture the Danish resistance once and for all.
Having scored four during France’s victorious 2018 campaign and one against Australia, Mbappe now has seven goals in nine World Cup appearances.
Didier Deschamps’s side now have the luxury of going into their final group game against Tunisia knowing a draw will guarantee them top spot, and even a defeat may not prevent them finishing first.
Having come roaring back to batter Australia 4-1 in their opening match in Qatar, France were more wasteful in front of goal on this occasion but at least they did not come unstuck against opponents who have caused them problems before.
They were reigning champions when a defeat to the Danes knocked them out of the 2002 World Cup, while the sides played out the only goalless draw in 2018.
Robert Lewandowski scored the first World Cup goal of his prolific career on Saturday when he netted in Poland’s 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia, bursting their bubble following the team’s giant-killing act against Argentina.
Barcelona forward Lewandowski made sure Poland took a big step towards the last 16 in Qatar when he rolled home in the 82nd minute after being gifted the ball by Abdulelah Al-Malki.
However it was a battle for Czeslaw Michniewicz’s side, who were leading at that point thanks to Piotr Zielinski’s roofed finish and an incredible double save from Wojciech Szczesny after Salem Al-Dawsari’s penalty late in the first half.
Poland leapfrogged the Saudis into first place in Group C, with Lionel Messi’s Argentina facing Mexico later on Saturday.
Egged on by a vocal crowd, Herve Renard’s Saudi team came out with the bit between their teeth and the Poles frequently struggled to handle their aggressive press.
Poland were shown three early yellow cards.
Mohamed Kanno had the game’s first decent effort on goal, tipped over by Szczesny in the 13th minute.
Lewandowski initially found it hard to get into the game as he was immediately surrounded by a gang of defenders led by Ali Al-Bulayhi, who at one point looked to be heading out of the game after being accidentally studded by the Barca star.
Thousands of empty seats told the sad story as Qatar’s long-awaited World Cup debut ended in a bad case of stage fright on Sunday.
Long before the final whistle at the spectacular Bedouin tent-inspired Al Bayt Stadium, the host nation’s fans among the 67,372 crowd had started heading for the exits.
The exodus began soon after Ecuador striker Enner Valencia headed his second goal shortly after the half-hour mark against the outclassed World Cup hosts.
As the second half wore on, swathes of unfilled seats could be seen throughout the arena as an evening that began with joyous celebrations and heady optimism ended with a whimper.
The downbeat finale was in stark contrast to the mood in the hours before kick-off at the stadium in Al Khor, 50 kilometres (31 miles) north of Qatar’s capital Doha.
Thousands of people arrived at the vast Lusail train station where the subway line built especially for this tournament at a cost of $36 billion ends and spectators boarded a fleet of buses for the final leg of their journey.
The security forces appeared tense, aware that the eyes of the world are on this Gulf state, which many critics say should never have been awarded the World Cup.
Once the spectators arrived at the spectacular venue, camels and horses lined the road to the turnstiles.
Carlos Alvear, an Ecuadoran who lives in Ecuador, said: “It’s really special to be here. It’s the first World Cup in the Middle East, it’s historic and Ecuador is here for the opening match.
“To be honest, it’s all a bit bizarre. It’s pretty quiet, even if there are more Ecuadorans than I thought there would be. But all these buildings look pretty empty.”
– ‘Trust in our team’ –
For a Qatari supporter who gave his name only as Abdallah, it was an exciting moment.
“We have been waiting for this moment for 12 years,” he said. “We have every confidence for this festival…. We trust in our team. We have ambition but are realistic.”
He was confident of victory against the South Americans and predicted his team would be runners-up in their group and go through to the next round — where England could await.
“Today we will win, but we will be second behind the Netherlands. Then against England, we will win,” he said with a smile.
Danny, a supporter from the English city of Norwich, said he planned to “jump on the bandwagon today” and support Qatar.
His friend who gave his name only as Abdul, from Sheffield in northern England, had brought a Qatari flag and was wearing a red top under his England shirt in case Qatar scored.
Danny was staying in the shipping container accommodation set up for visiting supporters for two weeks and said it “isn’t quite what he was expecting”.
Away from the opening match, thousands of Mexican and Argentine fans thronged the Corniche seafront promenade in the centre of Doha.
Leopold Fes, a 65-year-old Belgian, said he was finding it difficult to accept the last-minute decision to ban the sale of alcohol at stadiums in the strict Islamic state.
“I don’t think it will be like other World Cups,” he said. “No alcohol makes it strange. Football and alcohol go together for a lot of people.”
African Player of the Year Sadio Mane was ruled out of the World Cup through injury on Thursday while Iran’s captain urged his team to focus on football rather than anti-government protests that have rocked his country.
Mane’s omission is a cruel blow for Senegal, who had high hopes of making a long run in the tournament in Qatar thanks to their star forward.
Mane suffered a shin injury playing for Bayern Munich earlier this month but was named in the World Cup squad in the hope he could regain fitness, but on Thursday Senegal conceded that the former Liverpool player would not make it.
“Unfortunately, today’s MRI shows us that the improvement is not as favourable as we imagined and unfortunately we have to withdraw Sadio from the World Cup,” team doctor Manuel Afonso said in a video on the official Senegal team Twitter account.
With Sunday’s kick-off looming, teams are still arriving in Qatar after completing last-minute preparations.
Germany touched down in Doha on Thursday, fresh from a 1-0 friendly victory over Oman.
The 2014 champions are aiming to erase the memory of their ill-fated campaign in Russia four years ago, when they crashed out in the group stage.
Unlike most of the 32 teams who have opted to be based in and around Doha, Germany are staying in the seaside town of Al-Ruwais, 68 miles (111 kilometres) from the capital.
“We want to develop a team spirit there that will carry us through the tournament — and for as long as possible,” team official Oliver Bierhoff said.
Spain were due in Qatar in the early hours of Friday after beating Jordan 3-1 on Thursday in a friendly in Amman.
‘Iran’s minds on football’
Iran’s team are preparing with their homeland rocked by anti-government protests that have cost the lives of dozens of people and become the regime’s biggest challenge from the street in decades.
Iran captain Alireza Jahanbakhsh, asked by a British journalist if his team was able to concentrate on their first match against England on Monday, said: “We are here to play football and that’s the main thing everybody is focused on while we’re here.
“We are just four days away from playing the biggest games of our lives.”
On whether the players would join other Iranian sports figures who have refused to celebrate victories as a form of support for the protests, he said: “You talk about celebration; celebration is something very personal.
“Every single player has a different celebration and you ask about national anthem and that’s something that also has to be decided in the team which we already talked about.”
Heat is on
Other teams meanwhile were adjusting to the searing heat in Doha, where temperatures nudged 34 degrees Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit) on Thursday.
England defender Conor Coady said his team planned to adapt to the sweltering conditions after a gruelling morning workout.
“It was hard this morning,” Coady said. “Going out there and over-thinking the heat or thinking it’s too hot will get us nowhere so we’re going out there to embrace it.”
The buildup to this World Cup has been dogged by controversy, including over Qatar’s alleged human rights abuses, suppression of dissent, mistreatment of foreign workers and persecution of LGBTQ people.
Pleas from football’s world governing body FIFA for a switch of focus to football have gone unheeded by some countries.
French President Emmanuel Macron insisted it was a bad idea to politicise sport and said critics of Qatar as hosts should have spoken up when they were awarded the tournament in 2010.
“I think we must not politicise sport,” Macron told reporters in Bangkok, where he is attending a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
“These questions must be addressed when hosting the event is decided.”
FIFA on Thursday officially brought forward the opening match of this year’s World Cup by one day to November 20 in a rare change so that hosts Qatar feature in the gala game.
Football’s top officials universally approved the decision, FIFA said in a statement while Qatar said it would give unspecified help to fans affected by the change.
On the old schedule, Qatar against Ecuador was to be the official inauguration match on November 21 but Senegal against Netherlands would be the first match of the day. England against Iran would have been second.
Qatar had also been frustrated as it has invested in a huge opening ceremony show.
“Host country Qatar will now play Ecuador on Sunday 20 November as part of a stand-alone event,” said FIFA.
“The opening match and ceremony of this year’s tournament at Al Bayt Stadium have been brought forward one day following a unanimous decision taken by the bureau of the FIFA Council today.”
The bureau is made up of FIFA leader Gianni Infantino and the six heads of the contintental confederations.
‘Smooth tournament’ vow
“The change ensures the continuity of a long-standing tradition of marking the start of the World Cup with an opening ceremony on the occasion of the first match featuring either the hosts or the defending champions,” added FIFA.
Under the new plan, the Group A game between Senegal and the Netherlands has been shifted from 1:00pm (1000 GMT) on November 21 to a 7:00pm start. There is no change to England’s opening Group B clash against Iran.
Qatari organisers, who have spent billions of dollars preparing for the event, immediately welcomed FIFA’s gesture.
“Opening the first FIFA World Cup to be held in the Middle East and Arab world is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Qatar,” said the organising committee in a statement.
“The impact of this decision on fans was assessed by FIFA. We will work together to ensure a smooth tournament for the supporters affected by the change,” they added without giving details.
Some Ecuador fans may have to change flights to arrive in Qatar earlier and football sources said the date switch could force changes to some World Cup contracts.
But many companies linked to the World Cup expressed confidence that disruption would be overcome.
“It is something we will deal with,” said Jaime Byrom, chairman of Match Hospitality, which has a deal with FIFA to organise hospitality packages for World Cup matches and has locked in 450,000 tickets for the tournament.
“It is really not — compared to the other challenges that we could have faced or have faced in the past — a particularly large problem,” Byrom told AFP.
“We have to focus on those customers who are most affected and I guess in this case we will be looking at our Ecuadorian customers who are travelling from overseas, and making sure that they are on time for the match.”
Official countdown clocks for the event were quickly changed. The 100 day countdown to the opening match will now start on Friday, instead of Saturday.
The decision was also announced as Qatar staged the first official match at the Lusail stadium which will host the December 18 World Cup final.
Before more than 10,000 fans, and with players engulfed in air conditioning to ward off stifling summer heat, Al Arabi beat Al Rayyan 2-1 in the Qatar championship.
Huge online queues built up Tuesday for the latest sale of tickets for the World Cup in Qatar.
Fans around the world reported waiting more than an hour to get a place on the FIFA website to make an application for tickets which it says will be allocated in a random draw.
Football’s governing body sold more than 800,000 of the three million tickets for the tournament, which starts November 21, in a first round of the campaign.
It said that “high demand” was expected for the new sales as fans now know the groups and when individual countries will be playing after Friday’s draw.
Several fans complained on social media that they had faced a long wait to get onto the ticket site.
“I stayed up until 6am making four different World Cup accounts in order to get tickets, and had to sit in a 1+ hour queue each time,” said one fan on Twitter.
Fans can for the first time apply for tickets for two matches on the same day. FIFA said this was because of “the tournament’s uniquely compact nature and short travel times between all eight state-of-the-art stadiums”.
This round of sales will end on April 28 at 0900 GMT. FIFA said that people whose application had been selected in the computer draw would be told by May 31.
Qatari residents, including the army of migrant workers in the Gulf state, can buy tickets for as little as 40 riyals ($11).
Foreign fans will have to pay between $68 and $220 for a ticket for a first round group match. The first round has been made more attractive by a draw that pitted Germany and Spain together in Group E. The two teams will clash on November 27.
Tickets for the final on December 18 will cost up to $1,600.
Qatar, the United States, England, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Germany, India, Brazil, Argentina and Saudi Arabia were the top 10 markets in the first round of sales.
Tickets for the first World Cup in an Arab nation are on average 30 percent more expensive than for the last tournament in Russia.
Germany and Spain will clash at this year’s World Cup after Friday’s draw in Doha placed the two former winners in the same group, while geopolitical rivals the United States and Iran were also drawn together.
Four-time World Cup winners Germany were in Pot Two, making them the obvious team to avoid for the top seeds in the draw in the Qatari capital. They were knocked out of the 2018 tournament in Russia in the group stage.
Germany and Spain are joined by Japan in Group E, which will be completed by the winner of an intercontinental play-off in June between Costa Rica and New Zealand.
Iran and the United States last met at the 1998 World Cup in France when the Iranians won the politically-charged game 2-1 in Lyon.
England also found themselves in Group B and will face Iran in their opening game on the tournament’s first day, on November 21.
Gareth Southgate’s side, semi-finalists four years ago in Russia and runners-up at Euro 2020, might also come up against neighbours Wales or Scotland, although Ukraine could also take the last spot in the European play-offs, to be decided in June.
Hosts Qatar, who will be appearing at their first World Cup, will face Ecuador in the World Cup’s opening game at the 60,000-seat Al Bayt stadium in Al Khor, 35 kilometres north-east of Doha.
Qatar will also take on African champions Senegal as well as the Netherlands, who return to the World Cup after missing out in 2018, in Group A.
Reigning champions France will likely be pleased at finding themselves alongside familiar foes Denmark as well as Tunisia in Group D, which will be completed by the winners of the other intercontinental play-off, Australia, Peru or the United Arab Emirates.
Record five-time winners Brazil will play Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon in Group G, while two-time champions Argentina drew Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Robert Lewandowski’s Poland in Group C.
Last chance for Messi and Ronaldo?
It might be Lionel Messi’s last chance to win a World Cup as he will turn 35 before the tournament.
The same goes for Cristiano Ronaldo, who will be nearly 38 when Portugal come up against Ghana, Uruguay and South Korea in Group H.
Croatia, runners-up in 2018, were drawn with Belgium and Morocco in Group F, which is completed by a Canada side returning to the World Cup for the first time in 26 years.
Thursday’s event in Doha was attended by 2,000 guests, and featured former World Cup winners Cafu and Lothar Matthaeus among the draw assistants.
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, was among those in attendance.
‘We will see Qatar as promised’
“I feel proud and happy that the world will see Qatar as we promised. We will provide an exceptional World Cup in our Arab world,” he said during a short speech.
The build-up to Qatar 2022 has been dominated by the off-field issues surrounding the awarding of the tournament.
It is the most controversial World Cup in history, with Qatar dogged ever since it was named host in 2010 by accusations of vote-buying –- which were hotly denied –- and questions over the country’s suitability.
It will be the first World Cup held in November and December, the move from the usual June and July slot necessary because of the extreme heat in the Gulf region at that time of year.
Concerns remain over the treatment of gay and transgender supporters coming to a country where homosexuality is illegal, as well as over the working conditions of hundreds of thousands of migrant labourers in the country, including those who built stadiums.
At Thursday’s FIFA Congress in Doha, Lise Klaveness, head of the Norwegian Football Federation, spoke out to say that the 2018 and 2022 World Cups had been awarded “in unacceptable ways with unacceptable consequences”.
“Human rights, equality, democracy, the core interests of football were not in the starting XI until many years later,” she said.