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After a genuinely epic World Cup group stage, now for knockout drama | Barney Ronay

A brilliantly entertaining group stage produced 116 goals and a plethora of stories – this already feels like a tournament with is own distinctive character

And breathe. After 48 matches, 116 goals and a thrillingly varied swag-bag of drama, big-name angst and rolling VAR-palaver, Russia 2018 has now reached its midpoint.

These things invariably alter from week to week, the tone and texture of a tournament defined by a few key games. But as the World Cup takes a breath, hitches its shorts up and contemplates a final punt through the laces at the knockout stage, it already feels like a tournament with its own distinctive character.

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