Germany is gone. For the fourth time in the last five World Cups, the event’s defending champion was bounced from the tournament after the group stage, as South Korea’s stunning 2-0 victory on Wednesday sent the 2014 winners home.
The result inspired a few incredible scenes — for example, South Korea’s victory enabled Mexico to advance to the round of 16 knockout stage. So people in Mexico City did what any sane soccer fans would do: they went berserk outside the South Korean embassy while urging the consul general, Han Byoung-jin, to down tequila shots (he complied). In Brazil — which still hasn’t quite gotten over Germany’s 7-1 humiliation of the home team during the 2014 World Cup semifinals — several maniacs staged a mock funeral for Germany, parading down a street with caskets draped in the German flag.
Sometimes, sports fans are the best.
Senegal is gone, too. But how can one not feel sympathy, given the way they were eliminated? The Lions of Teranga lost their final game to Colombia, 1-0, meaning that both Senegal and Japan finished with four points in the Group stage. Only one of the teams could advance — Colombia topped the group — putting FIFA’s byzantine tiebreaker rules into play. First up: goal differential. But both Senegal and Japan scored and gave up four goals in the group stage. Next: most goals stored. That metric left them tied, too. The most logical first tie-breaker — head-to-head results between the two teams — is lower on FIFA’s list, for some reason, not that it mattered here: Japan and Senegal played to a 2-2 draw on June 24. So for the first time in World Cup history, the “fair play” tiebreaker came into play. Japan advanced because the referees issues six yellow cards to Senegal, but only four to Japan.
Sure, this World Cup has taught us an important lesson: Behave on the field, or it can cost you. Still, FIFA needs to create better tie-breakers. (Here are some worthy ideas, like results against a group’s top team, or flying both teams to a pre-game penalty shootout before the knockout stage.) Leave the cards to poker.
The group stage offered its share of excitement to be sure. But now the World Cup moves to the knockout round. Sixteen teams remain, and it’s win or go home. No more ties mean penalty shootouts — flawed but exciting — are sure to determine some winners.
Here’s TIME’s handy guide for 2018 FIFA World Cup knockout round.
You can still binge watch
American audiences will undoubtedly miss the daily group stage triple headers, which aired at convenient though perhaps productivity-stifling hours (so what?). This past week was even better: four games a day. The knockout stage is bittersweet in this regard. The stakes are higher, but there are fewer games from this point out.
Still, the round of 16 will give viewers plenty of sports-watching distraction. Enjoy the four straight days of doubleheaders in the schedule below, all times ET.
Saturday, June 30
France vs. Argentina, 10 a.m. on Fox
Uruguay vs. Portugal, 2 p.m. on Fox
Sunday, July 1
Spain vs. Russia, 10 a.m. on Fox
Croatia vs. Denmark, 2 p.m. on Fox
Monday, July 2
Brazil vs. Mexico, 10 a.m. on FS1
Belgium vs. Japan, 2 p.m. on Fox
Tuesday, July 3
Sweden vs. Switzerland 10 a.m. on FS1
Colombia vs. England, 2 p.m. on Fox
The knockout stage brackets aren’t loaded with geopolitical sizzle (thanks to American soccer incompetence, Russia and the U.S. won’t be facing each other on the field, for instance). Still, there’s plenty of intrigue on the board. Brazil and Argentina are blood rivals, and they could meet in the semifinals. How about a Denmark-Sweden semi, in a battle for Scandinavian supremacy? An England-France final would settle some scores. A Spain-Portugal rematch is worth cheering for, too — the teams played to a 3-3 tie in the group stage, with Cristiano Ronaldo putting up a hat trick for Portugal. That match was one of the finest in World Cup history. Just picture them meeting up for the championship (and fine, go ahead and picture Ronaldo ripping off his shirt after winning his first World Cup, too).
In 1966, England defeated West Germany, 4-2, in the final to win the country’s first, and still only, World Cup. England hasn’t been to the semis since 1990. This underachievement — relatively speaking — doesn’t sit too well in London and Liverpool. But England has looked impressive in Russia. The Three Lions won their first two games, trouncing Panama 6-1 in the process. Even Thursday’s loss to Belgium was fortuitous: by finishing second in its group behind Belgium, England avoided Brazil, five-time World Cup champ and home to superstar Neymar Jr., in its quadrant.
An extended World Cup run for England, however, could trigger a national emergency. A carbon dioxide shortage has forced some beer rationing in the U.K.; pubs without pints for a World Cup final are like humans without hearts.
This World Cup has introduced VAR — Video-Assisted Referees — into the global vernacular, which has been a positive development. Because for all the handwringing about delays as officials review the replays, and the intrusion of technology into what will always be a sweat-and-tears athletic endeavor, the bottom line is this: so far, VAR has helped get several important calls correct. Which is always worth it. Here’s a safe bet: a knockout stage game will come down to a controversial decision. And video review will offer a just result.
And Speaking of Betting…
Who, you may ask, is going to win this World Cup? Brazil is the favorite, according to Oddschecker.com, at 15/4, followed by Spain at 19/4 and Belgium at 15/2. A Brazil-Belgium quarterfinal would be a potential championship-level match in an earlier round: with Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany returning from an injury, don’t be shocked to see Belgium survive its challenging draw — and hoisting the country’s first-ever World Cup trophy on July 15 in Moscow.