World Cup 2022: Messi, Ronaldo, Mbappé, Neymar and other stars ready for the quarter-finals

Host Country: Qatar Appointment: November 20-December 18 Cover: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Day-to-day TV programsFull coverage details

Eight teams remain in the 2022 World Cup, all with the same dream of lifting the trophy on December 18.

After a shock tournament in the group stage, we are now moving on to real business, and the quarter-finals are full of talent.

Six of the remaining teams are former champions or runners-up – and they have won the competition 10 times between them.

There is also a surprise package, with Morocco now aiming to become the first African semi-finalists to have reached their first quarter-final.

BBC Sport looks at some of the themes brewing as players aim to shore up their greatness and enshrine themselves in football folklore.

A hard-hitting final eight

World Cup quarter-final rosters: Croatia v Brazil, Netherlands v Argentina, Morocco v Portugal and England v France

Friday: Croatia vs. Brazil (3:00 p.m. GMT), Netherlands vs. Argentina (7:00 p.m.).

Saturday: Morocco-Portugal (3 p.m.), England-France (7 p.m.).

Shock group stage exits for the likes of Germany and Belgium – and the elimination of Spain in the round of 16 – mean they missed out on being part of a quarter-final for the ages. .

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo provide the headlines, but big guns such as Neymar, Harry Kane, Kylian Mbappe and Luka Modric are still standing.

The four links are so close you just can’t call them. It’s gonna be epic.

An Anglo-French Battle

England and France – the defending champions – meet in a major tournament for the first time in 10 years, and for the first time in the round of 16.

The teams drew 1-1 in the group stage of Euro 2012, but we have to go back to 1982 for their last meeting in the World Cup.

Bryan Robson scored twice in England’s 3-1 win over a side led by French great Michel Platini.

The Three Lions did not become world champions in Spain that year, but the only time they did – in 1966 – one of the teams they beat on their way to glory was, you guessed it, France. Not a bad omen.

However, they now have the daunting prospect of facing strikingly in-form sensation Mbappe, who leads the Golden Boot race with five goals and plays alongside his country’s all-time top scorer in Olivier Giroud.

“Saturday will be really tough,” England captain Kane said. “France are a great team, reigning world champions, so we know that the evening is going to be very difficult.

“I think if you want to win the World Cup you have to play against the best teams in the world, and France are definitely up there.”

A Messi-Ronaldo final?

Sunday, December 18. A confrontation at the Lusail stadium in Doha. The two greatest players of their generation go head-to-head – their last chance at World Cup glory. It’s on!

Argentina’s Messi and Portugal’s Ronaldo have been pushing each other to rewrite the record books for years. At this tournament alone, Messi scored in his 1,000th career appearance in the last 16 win over Australia, while Ronaldo became the first man to score in five World Cups.

Both have won their continental titles – Messi won the Copa America last year and Ronaldo the European Championship in 2016 – but football’s biggest prize remains elusive.

With Messi, 35, hinting this may be his last World Cup and Ronaldo turning 41 by the time the next tournament arrives, this is surely their last hope of winning the famous gold trophy.

However, Ronaldo had to settle for a small role in Portugal’s round of 16 – relegated to the substitutes’ bench as a 21-year-old substitute, Goncalo Ramos, crashed out in a hat-trick against Switzerland.

A final involving both superstars would make neutrals salivate. Will the “GOAT” debate finally be settled?

South American skirmish?

Before that, a tantalizing semi-final could be on the schedule.

Should the two progress ahead of Croatia and the Netherlands respectively, a South American heavyweight battle will ensue between Brazil and Argentina at the Lusail stadium.

Five-time champions and tournament favorites Brazil showed their skills as they edged past South Korea, while Argentina needed skipper Messi’s brilliance to edge past Australia.

The teams have met four times at the World Cup, but not since 1990 when Claudio Caniggia’s late winner led Argentina to the quarter-finals.

Hopes of lifting the trophy outside of Europe rest heavily on these two teams, with Brazil being the last non-European team to win the competition in 2002.

Star man Neymar recovered from an injury picked up in his opener to score in the last 16 win over South Korea and needs just one more goal to equalize the 77 strikes of the great Pelé for the Selecao.

But that of Luka Modric Croatia and the Netherlands of Virgil van Dijk will have their say on whether or not this immense spectacle is produced.

The Shard of Bergkamp

Speaking of Netherlands, Louis van Gaal’s side and Argentina are familiar opponents in this tournament, who will face off for the sixth time for a place in the semi-finals.

It’s a repeat of the 1978 final, which the South American side won, and their last meeting was in the last four eight years ago, with Argentina winning on penalties.

But one of the most famous moments – not just in that game but in World Cup history – came in 1998 when Dennis Bergkamp scored a sensational last-minute goal to lead the Netherlands into the semis. -final.

“Dennis Bergkamp, ​​Dennis Bergkamp, ​​Dennis Bergkamp,” the Dutch commentator shouted as the Arsenal man expertly controlled Frank de Boer’s raking pass, before turning inside Roberto Ayala and shoot a finish in the net.

Cody Gakpo will do something similar this time…?

Beautiful Morocco

Achraf Hakimi’s penalty in the shoot-out victory over Spain was majestic, smashed in the middle of the goal to spark wild celebrations in Education City.

Their progress to the World Cup quarter-finals also received a royal seal of approval, as boss Walid Regragui received a phone call from Morocco’s King Mohammed VI after the game.

Well organized and hard to beat, Morocco are in fine form – they are yet to lose at this World Cup and have conceded just one goal in their last seven games.

Morocco are only the fourth African nation to reach the last eight and are seeking to become the first side from the continent to qualify for the semi-finals.

However, another severe test against European opposition awaits us – and Portugal aim to make history by reaching a first final.

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