By Sportswriter Paul Giblin
MOSCOW, (Xinhua) -- The end of
the group stage of the 2018 World Cup means teams can
now see their routes towards the final on July 15.
However there is still a long way to go on the road to
Moscow and suspensions could be a major factor in the
tournament rules say that players will be suspended for
one game if they are shown two yellow cards before the
quarterfinal stages, with bookings being wiped clear
after the quarterfinals, although if a player is shown a
second booking he would be suspended for the semifinals.
that means nobody will go into the semifinal facing the
heartbreak of a booking that would deny them a final
appearance, it also means that some big-name players are
at risk of missing the quarter- or semifinals, while
some teams could find themselves without a host of stars
if they progress.
may yet come to regret that yellow card he was shown for
time-wasting in the closing minutes against Nigeria as a
yellow card against France in the last 16 would see him
miss out on a possible quarterfinal against Portugal if
both sides progress.
Ronaldo is in the same situation as Messi after being
booked for using an elbow against Iran and he isn’t the
only Portuguese player who needs to be careful against
Uruguay on Saturday. Five of his team-mates have also
Brazilian trio of Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Casemiro
are also a booking away from suspension and will have to
tread carefully when they face Mexico in Samara on July
Messi is one
of six Argentina players who have seen yellow cards so
far, but that is nothing compared to the problems that
Croatia could face. The side from the Balkans has
impressed with three wins from three games as they
topped Argentina’s group after thrashing Messi and
company 3-0. However their ‘committed’ style of play has
a price: eight Croatians, including key midfielder Ivan
Rakitic, right back Sime Vrsaljko and striker Mario
Mandzukic are one bad foul away from a suspension.
Although it’s unlikely to affect the way Mandzukic will
approach the game.
meanwhile have Kyle Walker and Ruben Loftus-Cheek on a
booking, while Belgium have Jan Vertonghen, Thomas
Meunier and Kevin De Bruyne needing to be careful.
sitting pretty with only Sergio Busquets seeing yellow
so far in Russia, although the holding midfielder is the
only player for whom the Spanish don’t have a direct
replacement. Uruguay, a team with a reputation for
expedience, only have one player on a booking.