This year’s World Cup knockout matches are the most diverse in the competition’s history, with three teams from Asia qualifying for the round of 16 for the first time.
The first knockout stage of the World Cup has traditionally been dominated by teams from Europe and South America but this year there are multiple representatives from North America, Asia and Africa.
It marks only the second time since 1986, when the round of 16 format was first introduced, that two African nations have made it beyond the group, and the first time that a combined six teams from North America, Asia and Africa have reached the knockout stages.
South America only has two representatives (Argentina and Brazil) in the round of 16 in Qatar, their joint-lowest total since 1986.
And only twice before has Europe had fewer than its current eight representatives in the round of 16.
European nations have found it more difficult to progress when the tournament has been held outside of their own continent. Only six European teams reached the knockout stages of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Asia’s numbers were boosted by the surprise progression of Australia from a group containing France, Denmark and Tunisia. Australia have been affiliated with the Asian Football Confederation since 2006.
In this year’s round of 16 they are joined by Asian nations Japan and South Korea, who both advanced from the group stages in dramatic fashion.
Didier Deschamps, the France manager, said the greater diversity in the knockout stages will help to “showcase” world football.
“I always support diversity,” said Deschamps. “Those teams deserve to be there and if the five continents are represented, that is great. I think it shows and showcases world football.”
What is the World Cup schedule for the knockout stage?
Saturday, December 3
Match 49 – Netherlands 3 USA 1
Match 50 – Argentina 2 Australia 1
Sunday, December 4
Match 52 – France 3 Poland 1
Match 51 – England 3 Senegal 0
Monday, December 5
Match 53 – Japan vs Croatia, 3pm
Match 54 – Brazil vs South Korea, 7pm
Tuesday, December 6
Match 55 – Morocco vs Spain, 3pm
Match 56 – Portugal vs Switzerland, 7pm
Friday, December 9
QF1 – Winner of Match 53 vs Winner Match 54, 3pm
QF2 – Netherlands vs Argentina, 7pm
Saturday, December 10
QF3 – Winner Match 55 vs Winner Match 56, 3pm
QF4 – England vs France, 7pm
Tuesday, December 13
SF1 – Winner of QF1 vs Winner QF2, 7pm
Wednesday, December 14
SF2 – Winner QF3 vs Winner QF4, 7pm
Saturday, December 17
Loser of SF1 vs Loser of SF2, 3pm
Sunday, December 18
Lusail Stadium, 3pm
Who’s leading the race for the Golden Boot?
At the end of the group stages, Marcus Rashford was among the front-runners. For a guide to all the latest stats from the World Cup, see our at-a-glance guide.
What are the group standings?
How did each team progress to the last 16?
In Group A
Netherlands topped the group after beating Qatar in their final match. Senegal edged out Ecuador 2-1 to progress as runners-up. Qatar were the first team knocked out of the World Cup and lost all three of their matches, scoring only one goal.
In Group B
England progressed as group winners after cruising past Wales in their final game. Their 3-0 win means Wales finished bottom, while the USA made it through as runners-up after squeezing past Iran in their crunch decider.
In Group C
After losing their opening game to Saudi Arabia, Argentina completed their turnaround in fortunes by beating Poland to top the group. Poland, despite losing to the South Americans, snuck through to the knockouts in second place on goal difference. That came after Mexico could only beat Saudi Arabia 2-1, therefore having to settle for third place, with Saudi Arabia finishing bottom.
In Group D
France are through, and still top the group despite their surprise defeat to Tunisia in their final group game. Australia stunned Denmark 1-0 in their own final group game to qualify as runners-up, level on points with France but second on goal difference. Tunisia finished third on four points while Denmark, many people’s dark horse pre-tournament, picked up a single point in fourth.
In Group E
Japan win the group after their shock victory over Spain in the final round, a win that came as a result of a goal that caused a huge controversy because the ball appeared to be out of play in the build-up. Spain took second place despite their defeat. Germany are out of the World Cup despite beating Costa Rica in the final round. Costa Rica finished bottom.
In Group F
Morocco went through as surprise group winners on seven points after their 2-1 win over Canada. Croatia managed to hold on to second place after a 0-0 draw with Belgium in a match that will be remembered for the hat-trick of golden opportunities missed late on by Romelu Lukaku.
In Group G
Brazil top the group despite losing to Cameroon on the final evening of group-stage action. Switzerland finished second thanks to their ill-tempered victory over Serbia. Cameroon and Serbia both go out.
In Group H
After a dramatic final two games Portugal qualified as group winners despite losing 2-1 to South Korea. The late winner for the Koreans carried them through as runner-up on goals scored over Uruguay, whose 2-0 win over Ghana proved not enough to carry them through.