After the completion of the group stages of the FIFA World Cup 2018, two of the four West Ham United stars competing at the tournament are out and two are still standing in Russia, today, we answer the question, which Hammers have made the round of 16 with their respective nations and who will they face?
Joao Mario (Portugal)
West Ham loanee Mario, currently at the London Stadium until the end of June from Italians giants Inter Milan, and his Portugal team, were one of the first countries to book their place in the round of 16.
The reigning UEFA European Championships were pitted alongside arch-rivals Spain, Morocco and Iran in what looked to be a relatively simple group, Group B, to progress from.
But, this proved to be far from the case for Fernando Santos’ men and would, in fact, go right down to the wire on a dramatic Matchday Three, on Monday evening.
Mario, having featured in all of his side’s games so far, starting in two and making a substitute appearance in one, and his countrymen could only manage a draw against Iran at the Mordovia Arena, after defeating the Moroccans and playing out an entertaining 3-3 stalemate with the Spaniards.
The point was all they needed to qualify and their opponents only drew level with a late penalty, but in the final few seconds, missed a golden opportunity to clinch a winner, progressing themselves and sending the Portuguese home.
Although there was to be no shock with the European nation holding out for the draw, unable to top the group, however, despite Spain only getting a draw on the same evening against Morocco.
Both nations finished with five points and went unbeaten in the groups and ended up with the same goal difference, Fernando Hierro’s men edging it on goals scored, topping Group B.
Finishing second has made for the harder draw for the team whose best World Cup finish came in 1966, third place, and they will face off with two-time champions Uruguay in their bid to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in 12 years.
The game will be played at the Luzhniki Stadium in the capital of Moscow, host of the final, tomorrow evening (Saturday 30 June 2018) with kick-off at 7 PM BST and live television coverage in the United Kingdom on ITV1.
Javier Hernandez (Mexico)
Things were also tense on the final Matchday of the group stages for our second and final Iron in the knockout rounds of the 21st World Cup finals, Mexico’s all-time leading goalscorer, Chicharito.
The forward, fresh from finding the net eight times in Claret & Blue in the Premier League last season, has played every minute of this tournament so far from Juan Carlos Osorio’s men, claiming his 103rd, 104th, and 105th caps in the process.
Hernandez had the chance to break another record of his national team on Wednesday afternoon in Yekaterinburg, when the Tricolours went head-to-head with Sweden, needing only a point to qualify from the notorious difficult Group F, which also contains Germany and South Korea.
“The Little Pea” could have become the Central Americans’ highest goalscorer in World Cup football in what could be his last time to shine at the greatest footballing show on Earth.
However, neither he, nor any of his teammates had their shooting boots on and they paid the full price, losing out 0-3 in the end as the Swedes topped the group.
Pre-match, it had seemed like an inevitability that if Mexico lost, off the back of victories over the Germans and the South Koreans, the latter of which Hernandez scored the second goal in, his 50th in International football, they would be eliminated.
This was because no one expected the Germans to slip up against Asian opposition over in Kazan, but they did, losing by two goals to a pair of stoppage-time strikes, sending the Mexicans through in the most dramatic of circumstances.
The defending champions finished fourth, in the end, two places behind their victors on Matchday One, and while the green, white and reds would have hoped to top the group and had the easier round of 16 match, Chicharito and his comrades will just be happy to be there after that performance.
The Tri have been sent home in the round of 16 for the last six competitions in succession and clash with FIFA’s number-one-ranked nation and the tournament favourites Brazil next, that first knockout round encounter is scheduled for next Monday (2 July 2018), afternoon at 3 PM BST at the Samara Arena, live on ITV1 in the UK.
Well, Mario and Hernandez could well have been joined in the last-16 by Cheikhou Kouyate and Senegal yesterday afternoon, a draw against Colombia would have been enough to send them through in Samara.
The Irons’ No8 started and captained the African nation to a narrow defeat to England’s round of 16 opponents, which could have been enough to progress, if the Japanese lost by two goals or more.
The Asians went toe-to-toe with Poland at the Volgograd Arena, Manuel Pellegrini’s newest signing Lukasz Fabianski getting his first start of the tournament in goal for the already-eliminated Poles.
Agonisingly, the Europeans could only defeat Japan 0-1, locking the 2002 joint-hosts with South Korea and the Senegalese level on points, goal difference, goals scored and goals conceded, they also drew when they faced each other on Matchday Two.
It had to go down to the disciplinary record of the two countries at the 2018 World Cup and this is where the Japanese had the upper hand, having two fewer yellow cards than the Africans.
This meant that Kouyate’s and the Lions of Teranga’s competition was over, waving goodbye to the World Cup in the group stages in their first appearance since 2002 when they reached the last-eight, bitter disappointment for one Hammer but elation for two others, whose own World Cup dreams are very much still alive.
Keep across all our platforms in the next few weeks, including our website and Twitter @WestHamMatters_, to find out how all of West Ham United’s FIFA World Cup 2018 representatives are getting on in Russia, don’t miss a tick, with us.