- The knockout stage of the 2018 World Cup is officially set.
- One side of the bracket appears to be stacked, featuring four of the top five teams in the world.
- Regardless of which path it takes, one of these 16 teams is now just four wins away from World Cup glory.
The bracket for the knockout stage of the 2018 World Cup is officially set.
With 16 teams remaining, the tournament now moves to an elimination bracket, pitting teams against one another in decisive matches – the dramatic draws of the group stage will now give way to exhilarating extra time and the overwhelming anxiety of penalty shootouts.
As the tournament played out, the bracket proved to grow somewhat unbalanced, resulting in a “side of death” that features four of the top five teams in the FIFA rankings – Brazil, Belgium, Portugal, and Argentina – competing for one spot in the final. (The world No. 1, Germany, did not advance.) Opposite them, teams like Spain, Croatia, and England were dealt what looks like a much easier path to the final, as long as they can take care of business in their opening matches.
ESPN Stats & Info noted that the left side of the bracket shares within it 10 World Cup titles and 16 appearances in the final, compared with just two titles and three appearances among the other eight teams.
While this overloaded side of the bracket may seem a bit unfair to contenders looking to take home the World Cup, it will undoubtedly make for some amazing football.
The knockout round of the World Cup kicks off Saturday, with France battling Argentina and Uruguay taking on Portugal for spots in the quarterfinals.
You can keep up with the schedule and all of the results of the World Cup as they happen here.