DOHA. — Eight teams remain in the 2022 World Cup, all with the same dream of lifting the trophy on 18 December.
After a tournament of shocks in the group stage, we are now progressing to the real business end, and the quarter-finals are stacked with talent.
Six of the teams left in are former champions or finalists – and they have won the competition 10 times between them.
There’s a surprise package too, with Morocco now aiming to become the first semi-finalists from Africa having reached their first quarter-final.
BBC Sport looks at some of the themes brewing as players aim to underpin their greatness and go down in footballing folklore.
Today: Croatia v Brazil (5pm), Netherlands v Argentina (9pm).
Tomorrow: Morocco v Portugal (5pm), England v France (9pm). Shock group-stage exits for the likes of Germany and Belgium – and Spain’s elimination in the last 16 – means they have missed out on being part of a quarter-final line-up for the ages.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo provide the headline names, but big guns such as Neymar, Harry Kane, Kylian Mbappe and Luka Modric are still standing.
The four ties are so closely matched you just can’t call them. It is going to be epic.
A Messi v Ronaldo final?
Sunday, 18 December. A showdown at Doha’s Lusail Stadium. The two greatest players of their generation going head to head – their last shot at World Cup glory. It’s on!
Argentina’s Messi and Portugal’s Ronaldo have pushed each other to rewrite the record books for years. At this tournament alone, Messi scored on his 1000th career appearance in the last-16 win over Australia, while Ronaldo became the first man to score at five World Cups.
Both have won their continental titles – Messi claimed the Copa America last year and Ronaldo the European Championship in 2016 – but the biggest prize in football remains elusive.
With 35-year-old Messi hinting this may well be his last World Cup and Ronaldo turning 41 by the time the next tournament comes around, this is surely their final hope of lifting the famous gold trophy.
However, Ronaldo had to settle for a bit-part role in Portugal’s last-16 tie – relegated to the substitutes’ bench as his 21-year-old replacement, Goncalo Ramos, smashed in a hat-trick against Switzerland.— BBC Sport.