Qatar is down to just two final eight spots after five-time winners Brazil crushed South Korea 4-1 and 2018 runners-up Croatia overtook Japan via a qualifying session. shoot to the net.
Ronaldo was making headlines at the tournament even before kicking a ball after launching a tirade against Manchester United and their manager Erik ten Hag.
After exiting “by mutual agreement”, he is now looking for a new team, with sources saying he is in talks over a blockbuster deal with Saudi club Al-Nassr.
The 37-year-old superstar striker, competing in what is almost certainly his last World Cup, has been a shadow of his former self in Qatar despite all the hype.
🇵🇹 Cristiano Ronaldo after 1000 games;⚽️ 725 goals 🎯 216 assists 🏆 31 trophies 🇦🇷 Lionel Messi after 1000 games… https://t.co/gQrbGwREYD
— FIFA World Cup Stats (@alimo_philip) 1670100025000
After scoring a penalty in his team’s first clash against Ghana to become the first player to score in five World Cups, he huffed and puffed but failed to find his way back into the net.
Ronaldo’s starting role in the team remains a hot topic among Portuguese fans, but coach Fernando Santos has said he pays no attention to the raging debate.
“I don’t read that kind of material,” he said. “It’s not a lack of respect, it’s just that we have three days to train for a game and I don’t watch other types of news. We focus on the game ahead.”
Santos said he expected a close game against Switzerland. Portugal beat Switzerland 4-0 in the UEFA Nations League in June before losing 1-0 in the second leg.
Morocco are the only remaining African team and the only remaining Arab team in Qatar.
Coach Walid Regragui has urged his men to believe they can overcome mighty Spain as they bid to reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in their history.
Morocco would become only the fourth African team to reach the last eight – after Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010 – if they beat the 2010 champions.
Is Morocco a legitimate contender tomorrow against Spain? @stuholden thinks so 🇲🇦 https://t.co/nvv2RmDm17
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) 1670298554000
“We will come out strong,” Regragui said. “We want to hoist the Moroccan flag high. Above all, we play for ourselves and our country.
“All Arabs and Africans, we want to make them happy. We want their prayers and we want their support so that he can give us that extra ingredient to win. Before, only Moroccans supported us.”
Spain started the tournament with a bang, going seven goals ahead of Costa Rica before a draw with Germany and a loss to South Korea.
Coach Luis Enrique said he gave each of his players a ‘duty’ to practice 1,000 penalties ahead of the World Cup, saying he was confident it was not a lottery .
Brazil, with Neymar back in the squad after injury, staged a first-half masterclass on Monday against South Korea, taking a 4-0 lead in the 36th minute, including a goal for their talisman from the penalty spot.
Paik Seung-ho pulled one back with a late thunderbolt, but his side were outclassed on a disappointing night for Asian football.
Earlier, Luka Modric’s Croatia did it the hard way against Japan, coming from one goal down to equalize before winning 3-1 on penalties.
Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic was Croatia’s hero, saving three penalties in the shootout.
Seven of Croatia’s last eight knockout ties at major tournaments have ended in extra time, the only exception being their final loss to France in Russia four years ago.
Brazil will face Croatia in the quarter-finals on Friday, with the Netherlands taking on Argentina on the same day. England face France on Saturday.