Just as the crowd is thinning out so is the number of teams. The field of 32 has now waned.
Now there are eight! The remaineder of the over 200 that started the preliminary competition leading to the finals. Games have lived up to expectations so also were teams. There have been upsets here and there, but some big ones recover early enough to remain in the race while others are left wondering what had gone amiss.
In the flurry of upsets, characteristics of competitions of this nature, Aregentina were shocked with a 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia. But they recovered to still remain in contention.
So also were their regional rivals, Brazil who lost 1-0 to Cameroon, their first to an African side. Their recovery is underscored with the relative ease they scaled the Round of 16 hurdles against South Korea.
For a second consecutive editions, powerhouse, Germany failed to cross the group stage. But theirs is a shade better than Italy, four-time World Cup holders and current European champions who have twice in a row failed to make it to the World Cup.
A round of 16 that had the best ever continental spread has come to a close. Adios to the teams from the host continents. The defeats of Australia (Geographically in Oceania, but afflialiated to Asia Football Confederation), Japan and South Korea brought the curtain down on Asia’s participation at the Qatar 2022
The two-day break for matches ends today and gradually, the Qatar 2022 is inching to an end.
Here is a reflection of the Round of !6 leading to the final.
Roger Milla rivalled!
When Portugal’s centre-back, Pepe scored with a header in the 6-1 demolision of FIFA’s host country, Switzerland, he became the second-oldest person to ever score at a FIFA World Cup. His feat is achieved at age 39 years and 283 days.
He will need to be active in four years time, at age 43, to upstage Cameroon’s Roger Milla who scored his last World Cup goal at 42 years and 39 days during the 1994 edition.
Out in front
Olivier Giroud’s goal in France’s 3-1 win over Poland saw the striker overtake the legendary Thierry Henry as his country’s all-time top scorer with 52 goals, with his latest strike being his third of the campaign.
Elsewhere for the defending champions, Kylian Mbappe is the tournament’s leading marksman with five goals and Antoine Griezmann has set an incredible record of appearing in 71 consecutive games for Les Bleus.
African and Arabian joy
Like Nigeria did at France ‘98, Morocco delivered killer punch on one of the pretournament favourites, Spain. With the elimination of Spain, Morocco became the fourth African country to get to the quarter finals after Cameroon (Italia ‘90), Senegal (Korea/Japan 2002) and Ghana (South Africa 2010). They are also the first team in the Arab World to get to the quarter-finals.
Will they raise the bar by getting to the semi-final? They are already used to record setting. When Morocco played 1-1 with Bulgaria on 11 June 1970, it was the first time an African team was not beaten at the World Cup.
Eaxactly 16 years later on 11 June 1986, Morocco beat Portugal 3-1 to become the first African team to top a World Cup group and qualify for the next round.
They are most likely to gathered all the local support here in Qatar as they face Portugal in the quarter-finals on Saturday.
Australia may have reached home now after their Round of 16 loss to Argentina. But they left a mark in the record books.
Garang Kuol, at 18 years and 79 days, became the youngest player to appear in a FIFA World Cup knockout round game since a 17-year-old Pele starred at the 1958 edition in Sweden.
And the Central Coast Mariners forward came so close to taking the game to extra-time when his last-minute effort was expertly saved by Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez to deny the teenager a headline moment.
Round of 16 misery
Japan thrilled at the FIFA World Cup with stunning come-from-behind victories over former champions Germany and Spain before ultimately falling just short against the 2018 runners-up Croatia in the first knockout round.
The defeat on penalties was the fourth time the Samurai Blue had lost at this stage after Turkey (2002), Paraguay (2010) and Belgium (2018) eliminated the East Asians in the last 16.
With 12 goals apiece, England and Portugal are the top scorers so far in Qatar and each side has had eight different scorers over their four games, more than any other team at the tournament.
The English and the Portuguese have each netted six in a single game – against the Islamic Republic of Iran and Switzerland respectively – while Portugal’s Goncalo Ramos became the first player to score a hat-trick in Qatar when he did so against the Swiss on Tuesday.
Perisic set to overtake Suker
When Ivan Perisic scored against Japan, he equalled the number of goals scored by Croatian legend Davor Suker’. Both are now on six goals to become Croatia’s joint-top scorer at the FIFA World Cup.
Perisic has netted goals at the 2014, 2018 and 2022 editions, while Suker scored all six of his goals – including one against Japan – in 1998 in France when he finished as top scorer, firing his nation to a third-place finish at their first-ever World Cup.