Super Saturday & GOATs heading out? All you need to know about the last 16

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2018 Fifa World Cup last 16
Venue: Russia. Dates: 30 June – 3 July
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, Red Button and iPlayer, BBC Sport website and app; listen on Radio 5 live; follow text updates online.

The knockout stage of the World Cup gets under way on Saturday, when France face Argentina in Kazan at 15:00 BST, a match you can watch live on BBC One.

The last 16 features eight matches over four days in seven cities across Russia.

Hosts Russia are through, along with former winners Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, England, France and Spain.

Defending champions Germany were among the 16 teams who did not qualify from the group stage.

The 21st edition of the World Cup has provided 122 goals, 36,349 completed passes, 158 yellow cards and lots of video assistant referee drama.

If the scores are level after 90 minutes in knockout games, 30 minutes of extra time will be played, followed by penalties if necessary.

If a match goes to extra time, each team will be allowed to make a fourth substitution, the first time this has been allowed at a World Cup.

Goodbye to the GOATs?

Two of the greatest players of all time could be on their way home from the World Cup by the end of the weekend.

Lionel Messi scored in the 2-1 group win over Nigeria on 26 June to become the third Argentine to find the net in three different World Cups, alongside Diego Maradona and Gabriel Batistuta.

However, the Argentina captain has never scored in a knockout game at the tournament – a statistic he is hoping to address against France as he carries the weight of a nation on his shoulders.

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“Fans and some parts of the media in Argentina are too much on him, so of course he feels the pressure,” Messi’s former international team-mate Pablo Zabaleta told BBC Sport.

“He is a human being and it is not easy to be the best player in the world.”

As Argentina move into new accommodation in Kazan after narrowly qualifying from the group stages, Messi will be confronted with an all too familiar face – that of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo.

A mural depicting the Portugal and Real Madrid star has been painted in a courtyard by the hotel where the Argentina team is staying.

A mural of Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo on a building in Kazan, Russia

Ronaldo is also in action on the first day of the knockout stage as he looks to propel Portugal into the quarter-finals for the first time since 2006.

The Euro 2016 winners face Luis Suarez’s Uruguay, when all eyes will be on Ronaldo, who lit up the World Cup with a hat-trick against Spain on 15 June.

Earlier this month, Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho said Messi, 31, and Ronaldo, 33, “probably have one last chance” to win the World Cup.

  • France v Argentina – live on BBC One from 14:30 BST, Saturday

Super Saturday

On Saturday, four heavyweights slug it out for a place in the quarter-finals.

The Kazan Arena was the scene of Germany’s shock exit after defeat by South Korea earlier in the week.

The venue will see the demise of another former world champion on Saturday when it hosts France against Argentina in what some pundits predict could be the tie of the round.

Argentina are two-time winners while France have reached the final of the past two World Cups staged on European soil, winning as hosts in 1998 before losing to Italy in the 2006 final in Germany.

Maradona, a World Cup winner in 1986, has been at all of Argentina’s games in Russia, and is again expected to be in Kazan despite being seen by a doctor at the final group match.

Diego Maradona

That game is followed at 19:00 by two-time winners Uruguay against Portugal.

Uruguay were one of only three teams – along with Croatia and Belgium – to emerge from the group stage with a maximum nine points.

Oscar Tabarez’s side are the only team not to concede a goal in three games in Russia – the last South American team not to concede in their first four matches of a World Cup tournament were Brazil in 1986.

“This will be a busy evening for the referee, not least with Uruguay’s Atletico Madrid centre-halves Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez up against Portugal’s Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo,” said BBC Sport football expert Mark Lawrenson.

Germany gone – but 11 of world’s top 15 left

Even with Germany out, the last 16 contains 11 teams in the top 15 of the Fifa world rankings.

Five-time winners Brazil will be hoping star forward Neymar can stay on his feet long enough to help them beat Mexico in Samara on Monday (15:00).

The world’s most expensive player has been on the ground so much in Russia that one pub in Rio gave out free shots each time Neymar was on the floor against Serbia on 27 June.

Neymar did score in his country’s second group game against Costa Rica but was denied a penalty and booked for dissent in the same match.

“It was front page on one of the papers that Neymar has been going to ground once every nine minutes at this World Cup,” said South American football expert Tim Vickery.

“There is so much that is good but there are things that are deplorable about him.”

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Spain, the 2010 winners, have been far from their best, but are unbeaten in the past 23 games before meeting hosts Russia on Sunday at 15:00.

This tournament represents a last chance for several of Belgium’s players to win a World Cup.

Defenders Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen are 32, while defender Jan Vertonghen and forward Dries Mertens are 31.

“It’s now or never for a lot of these players,” former Belgium striker Gilles de Bilde told BBC Sport.

Belgium, third in the Fifa rankings, face Japan in Rostov-on-Don on Monday at 19:00.

  • Spain v Russia – live on BBC One from 14:30 BST, Sunday

Will England overcome a 12-year itch?

With an average age of 26 years and 18 days, England arrived in Russia with the third-youngest squad in the tournament.

They overcame Tunisia and Panama to reach the knockout stage before a much-changed team lost the final group game 1-0 to Belgium.

England must now beat Colombia, quarter-finalists in 2014, in Moscow on Tuesday at 19:00 if they are to repeat their feats of 2002 and 2006 by reaching the quarter-finals.

“Our objective was to qualify from the group and we have done that,” said boss Gareth Southgate. “We are still a work in progress but that’s not a bad thing at this stage.”

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England must do something they have not managed since 2006 if they are to reach the last eight – win a knockout match at a major tournament.

Under Roy Hodgson in 2014, they failed to get out of their World Cup group, while in 2010 Fabio Capello’s team lost 4-1 to Germany in the last 16.

Indeed, England have won only two of their past eight knockout games at the World Cup – against Denmark in 2002 and Ecuador in 2006.

They also went out on penalties to Italy in the quarter-finals at the 16-team Euro 2012 and lost to Iceland in their first knockout game at Euro 2016.

Southgate describes the Colombia match as England’s “biggest game for a decade”.

History in the making for Japan?

With a population of 144 million willing them on, Russia have turned on the style to emerge from the group stage at their own World Cup – despite being the lowest ranked team in the tournament.

The team sitting 70th in the Fifa rankings can expect more feverish support when they face Spain in Moscow’s 81,000-capacity Luzhniki Stadium at 15:00 on Sunday.

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Japan, who face Belgium, are one win away from reaching the quarter-finals for the first time, while Switzerland’s most recent appearance in the last eight came in 1954.

Switzerland play Sweden, who came third in 1994, in St Petersburg at 15:00 on Tuesday, while Mexico must beat Brazil to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since hosting the World Cup in 1986.

Croatia meet Denmark in Nizhny Novgorod at 19:00 on Sunday. Whoever wins will be make the last eight for the first time since 1998.

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