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World Cup, day 17: the things you might have missed

1. France and Argentina deliver thriller

Kylian Mbappe

There has been much talk that the start of the knockout stage would bring tighter, tenser matches, but France and Argentina did their best to disprove that notion in the first game of the day. The two teams shared seven goals in a thrilling encounter, with man-of-the-match Kylian Mbappe helping Les Bleus to a 4-3 victory.

Both sides scored some fantastic goals in Kazan. Angel Di Maria levelled the scores at 1-1 shortly before half-time with a left-footed piledriver from 30 yards, before Benjamin Pavard equalised at 2-2 with a stunning, swerving drive in the 57th minute. Mbappe's brace - the second to round off a wonderful team move - seemed to have put France out of sight, but Argentina ensured a nervy finish as Sergio Aguero headed home a sublime Lionel Messi cross.

2. Cavani sends Uruguay through

Edinson Cavani

Edinson Cavani was the hero as Uruguay beat Portugal 2-1 in Saturday's second knockout tie, the PSG striker scoring either side of half-time to send the two-time world champions through to the last eight. Cavani latched onto a tremendous Luis Suarez cross to break the dealock in the seventh minute, but Portugal restored parity via a Pepe header after the interval.

The European champions weren't level for long, however, Cavani curling a shot into the corner to put La Celeste back in front shortly after the hour mark. The 31-year-old limped off with an injury around 10 minutes later, but by then he had already done enough to book Uruguay's place in the quarter-finals.

3. Have Ronaldo and Messi played their last World Cup games?

Lionel Messi

Messi was deployed as a false nine against France, but he struggled to influence the game in the first period as Didier Deschamps' side continually crowded him out. There were still several flashes of brilliance from the Barcelona man, including a wonderful assist for Aguero in second-half stoppage time, but he was ultimately unable to carry this Argentina team any further than the last 16.

His international future will naturally be a topic of debate in the coming days, with some expecting the Barcelona forward to follow in the footsteps of Javier Mascherano by calling time on his Argentina career. Given that he will be 35 by the time of Qatar 2022, it's probable that this was Messi's last ever appearance at a World Cup.

Ronaldo will probably carry on with Portugal, but their loss to Uruguay means we may also have seen the last of the 33-year-old on the biggest stage of all. The Real Madrid man has previously said he wants to continue playing until he's 41, but Qatar may prove to be out of reach for him too.

4. Russia ready for date with destiny

Stanislav Cherchesov

Russia have already exceeded many people's expectations by getting out of the group, but the host nation aren't ready to give up their World Cup dream just yet. Spain will provide the opposition at the Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday, and manager Stanislav Cherchesov is ready for what he calls a "life or death game".

"To use a Russian expression, 'anyone can be God if he tries to,'" the 54-year-old told reporters. "It's clear that this is a play-off, a life or death game; only one team can go through. It's not a pressure but there is a responsibility, Spain feels it and Russia feels it. If you lose you're out."

5. Will James be fit to face England?

James Rodriguez

England have to wait until Tuesday night for their return to action, and much of the pre-match focus looks set to be centred on the fitness of Colombia's star man, James Rodriguez. The playmaker didn't start Los Cafeteros' first game against Japan and was then withdrawn in the first half of the win against Senegal, in between which he was outstanding in the 3-0 victory over Poland. Manager Jose Pekerman will be crossing his fingers and hoping the 26-year-old will be able to face Gareth Southgate's side.

"What I can say is I'm extremely concerned, it's a very tough situation for my team," Pekerman said. "I didn't want to address this in comments because it seems one of these topics [that] can overshadow everything else. In the last Poland match James felt fatigue, but it was only fatigue and that was due to him not being present in the previous match."

6. Mexican mind games target Neymar


Mexico's last-16 meeting with Brazil doesn't take place until Monday, but El Tri's players have already turned up the temperature by suggesting the Selecao's star man has a propensity to go down easily.

"We all know who Neymar is, but it isn't up to me or my team to judge him, but the referees and FIFA," said captain Andres Guardado. "Now there's VAR they need to watch his style and know how to manage it. We know he likes to exaggerate fouls, throw himself on the ground a lot, but that's his style of play and the person who needs to stop that is the referee, not us."