First break after 17 consecutive days of football

France's forward #10 Kylian Mbappe reacts during their Qatar 2022 World Cup round of 16 match against Poland at the Al-Thumama Stadium in Doha on December 4, 2022.
 

Photo credit: Franck Fife | AFP

What you need to know:

  • England, winners in 1966, dispatched African champions Senegal 3-0. The nonchalant manner the Three Lions devoured the Lions of Teranga pretenders saw Senegal coach Aliou Cisse conceding, “We were playing one of the best teams in the world. You saw the difference.”
  • Japan pushed 2018 finalists Croatia all the way, losing 3-1 in post-match penalties after a 1-1 draw in extra time.

After 17 consecutive days of football matches, the 2022 World Cup takes a deserved two-day break before the quarter-finals are held on Friday and Saturday.

Some 56 matches have been held in eight wonderful venues in and around Doha producing some great matches, unexpected results and brilliant individual performances that would only be expected at this top level of the international game.

Saudi Arabia caused shockwaves in the football world by upsetting Argentina and Lionel Messi 2-1 in their Group C opening encounter, and even before the dust had settled another powerhouse Germany were felled 2-1 by hard running Japan who ended up topping Group E.

Even Iran got into the act of producing unexpected results, recovering from a 6-2 drubbing at the hands of England to silence Wales 2-0.

Morocco, six-time World Cup participants, also displayed a headline catching performance by beating world number two ranked Belgium 2-0. The composed Atlas Lions inspired by the immaculate play of near namesakes Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech and PSG’s Achraf Hakimi, topped Group F unbeaten to qualify for only their second round of 16 in history.

There was promise of all the five African teams qualifying for the second round but only Senegal, without Mane, and Morocco made it. Still this was only the second time that the African continent has had two representatives in the round of 16.

The first was in Brazil 2014 with Nigeria and Algeria .

Any pretext of the so-called smaller nations making deep runs into the tournament were ruthlessly dealt with in the round of 16 played over a compact four days.

England, winners in 1966, dispatched African champions Senegal 3-0. The nonchalant manner the Three Lions devoured the Lions of Teranga pretenders saw Senegal coach Aliou Cisse conceding, “We were playing one of the best teams in the world. You saw the difference.”

Japan pushed 2018 finalists Croatia all the way, losing 3-1 in post-match penalties after a 1-1 draw in extra time.

France sent out strong signals they are in Doha to retain their title and with a firing  Kylian Mbappe, who netted a sublime two, in their 3-1 demolition of Poland in the round of 16, Les Bleus will take some beating to lose. Mbappe leads the top scorers’ chart with five goals.

But surely, Brazil, the number one ranked team in the world, are the favourites on evidence of their dominant play on Monday.

Selecao, with an attacking array of stars led by Neymar, Richarlison, Vinicius Junior and co., completely bamboozled a decent South Korea outfit that upset Portugal 2-1 in the group stages, with four outstanding goals against one in reply.

The underground metro revealed the heart of Doha, and on that night, it was all about Brazil. Despondent Korean fans must have been proud to lose to such a power, readily accepting selfies with their rivals in yellow.

A record number of spectators have turned up at the stadiums.

Fifa reported that a cumulative stadium attendance of 2.45 million spectators turned up for the 48 group stage matches, an average of 96 per cent occupancy. Fifa said this was higher than the corresponding 2.17 million figure for the 2018 edition in Russia.

Meanwhile, the Fifa Fan Festival, situated in downtown Doha, has already clocked over one million visitors as nationals from all continents of the world mix in a carnival atmosphere as they follow the football action on big screens.
Thus far, they have not been disappointed.

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