On Tuesday, Cristiano Ronaldo will try to help Portugal defeat Switzerland and advance to the World Cup quarterfinals as Morocco tries to stop Spain from winning a second world championship.
Only two spots in the last eight need to be filled in Qatar after Croatia edged out Japan in a penalty shootout and five-time champions Brazil defeated South Korea 4-1.
Before he even kicked a ball during the tournament, Ronaldo launched into a tirade against Erik ten Hag, the manager of Manchester United.
After leaving by “mutual agreement,” he is currently looking for a new team. According to sources, he is in negotiations for a huge contract with Saudi club Al-Nassr.
Despite all the hype, the 37-year-old superstar forward who is participating in what is almost certainly his final World Cup has been a shell of his former self.
He became the first player to score at five World Cups when he converted a penalty in his team’s opening match against Ghana. Since then, he has tried his hardest but has been unable to score again.
Portugal supporters continue to be divided over Ronaldo’s starting position, but coach Fernando Santos claimed he was not following the heated discussion.
“I do not read this type of material,” he said. “It is not a lack of respect, it is simply that we have three days to train for a game and I am not looking at other kinds of news. We focus on the upcoming match.”
Santos predicted that the matchup with Switzerland would be competitive. In the Uefa Nations League, Portugal defeated Switzerland 4-0 in June before falling to that nation 1-0 in the rematch.
The lone team from Africa and the only Arab squad still in Qatar is Morocco.
As they attempt to advance to the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time in their history, coach Walid Regragui has urged his team to believe they can defeat powerhouse Spain.
If they defeat the 2010 champions, Morocco would become just the fourth African team to advance to the final eight, joining Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002, and Ghana in 2010.
“We’ll come out swinging,” said Regragui. “We want to hoist the Moroccan flag way up high. We’re playing first and foremost for us and our country.
“All Arabs and Africans, we want to make them happy. We want their prayers and we want their support so it can give us that extra ingredient to win. Before it was just the Moroccans that supported us.”
Prior to a tie with Germany and a loss to South Korea, Spain started the campaign with a bang, thrashing seven goals past Costa Rica.
Prior to the World Cup, coach Luis Enrique said he gave each of his players the “homework” of practicing 1 000 penalties because he is certain they are not a lottery.
With Neymar back in the lineup after injury, Brazil dominated the first half of their match against South Korea, soaring to a 4-0 lead in the 36th minute, including a goal from the penalty spot for their talisman.
A terrible night for Asian football saw Paik Seung-ho pull one back with a thunderbolt late on, but his side was overwhelmed.
Earlier, Croatia under Luka Modric did it the difficult way, defeating Japan 3-1 on penalties after coming back from a goal down.
Dominik Livakovic, Croatia’s goalkeeper, emerged as the shootout’s hero by stopping three penalties.
The only game in Croatia’s last eight knockout matches at major tournaments that did not go into extra time was their loss to France in the final in Russia four years ago.
On Friday, the Netherlands will play Argentina, and Brazil will play Croatia in the quarterfinals. On Saturday, England will play France.
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