Thursday, December 8, 2022

World Cup News: Quarterfinal Matchups Set; US Exits As Dutch Advance; Giroud Milestone in French Win; Foden Happy to Assist England; Ronaldo Benched As Portugal Romps; Morrocco Shocks Spain in Penalty Kicks; Brazil Steamrolls South Korea; Injury Blow for Arsenal

Quarterfinal matchups are set after a revealing round of 16. The US was eliminated by the Netherlands 3-1. Christian Pulisic missed on an early opportunity for the US and the Netherlands quickly settled into the game and clinically punished defensive mistakes by the young US squad. Denzel Dumfries had two assists and a goal for a Netherlands side which moves on to meet Argentina in the quarterfinals.

The Argentines defeated surprise Round of 16 participant Australia as Lionel Messi scored his 789th goal in his 1,000th career match.

Manchester City’s Julian Alvarez scored the winner as he took advantage of a gaffe by former Brighton and Hove Albion goalkeeper Matt Ryan. Current Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez made a key save for the Argentines in the 97th minute to preserve the victory.

Former Arsenal and Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud broke his tie with Thierry Henri to become France’s all-time leading scorer in a 3-1 France victory over Poland. Kylian Mbappe scored his fourth and fifth goals of the tournament for a French side which now moves on to a headline match against England on Saturday.

England received a burst of creativity and energy as Manager Gareth Southgate finally unleashed Manchester City star Phil Foden. Starting on the left wing for the first time this tournament, Foden responded with two assists and combined with 19-year-old Jude Bellingham to put Senegal on its heels for much of the match.

Foden became the first Englishman to post two assists in a World Cup knockout contest since David Beckham last accomplished the feat twenty years ago. Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson, Spurs’ Harry Kane and Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka were the goal scorers for a suddenly dangerous England attack under the normally conservative Southgate.

It was Portugal, however, which put on the most impressive performance of the Round of 16 with a dominant 6-1 win over Switzerland. Cristiano Ronaldo was controversially benched and his replacement, 21-year-old Benfica striker Goncarlo Ramos, struck for a hat trick in Portugal’s win. Rumors, of course, swirled after the match that Ronaldo would leave the Portugal squad as family members again launched to his defense on social media, decrying the injustice of his changed playing status. Rumors at the same time are circulating regarding Saudi Arabia being the next stop in Ronaldo’s club career. Switzerland’s shell-shocked goalkeeper Jan Sommer, meanwhile, has been linked to Ronaldo’s former club, Manchester United. Tuesday’s result could require a rethink on Sommer as the potential successor to current United keeper David De Gea.

Former Barcelona Manager Luis Enrique is out as Spanish national team manager after his squad exited the tournament in penalty kicks versus Morocco. Following a goalless regulation and extra time, La Roja failed to score with their first three penalty tries. PSG’s Achraf Hakimi, born and raised in Madrid, registered the winning penalty kick, “Panenka” style, for Morocco. Spain’s futility in penalties echoed the frustration suffered during play as the Spanish made over 1,000 passes but only directed one shot on goal. Enrique raised eyebrows by bring only one striker to the World Cup in former Chelsea man Alvaro Morata. Surprising Morocco moves on to face Portugal on Saturday.

Neymar returned from an ankle injury and contributed a penalty score in an easy 4-1 Brazil victory over South Korea. Tottenham Hotspur’s Richarlison and West Ham’s Lucas Paqueta also scored for the Brazilian as did Real Madrid forward Vinicius Jr. While his Brazilian teammates were having fun at one end of the pitch, Liverpool goalkeeper Allison protected their back with numerous key saves, including a stop of Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min on a breakaway opportunity. Brazil faces Croatia in the opening quarterfinal match on Friday.

Croatia got a tying goal in regulation from Tottenham Hotspur’s Ivan Perisic, assisted by a cross form former Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren, to ultimately force penalties against Japan. Perisic’s 10th goal in major tournaments established a new mark for his country. Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic then thwarted the Blue Samurai with three penalty kick saves to put Croatia through. Croatia moves on to face high flying Brazil which will be looking to defeat a European squad in the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time in 20 years. Arsenal star Gabriel Jesus, however, will not be participating in the balance of Brazil’s World Cup run. The forward for the Premier League leaders underwent knee injury for an injury suffered in Brazil’s final group stage match versus Cameroon and could be sidelined for as long as three months. Acquiring another striker in the January transfer window could prove critical to the Gunners’ title chances.

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