Eight ties, two penalty shoot-outs, 31 goals and plenty of players writing their names into legend, the World Cup 2022 round of 16 was an impressive affair.
Despite early hopes and a tournament of shocks, all of the USA, Senegal, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Poland and Switzerland went home as expected. However, Morocco defied the odds and upset Spain on penalties, who had been many people’s dark horses for the tournament.
We took a look at the XI that starred for their country in the latest round of games.
If you need a reminder of who made the Team of the Group Stage, you can click here.
GK: Yassine Bounou (Morocco)
Between the posts was the hardest choice of the team, with both Croatian shot stopper Dominik Livakovic saving three penalties in the shoot-out to see his nation progress to the next round.
However, it is Yassine Bounou that takes the spot, with the Moroccan goalkeeper also starring in a shoot-out as the north African side made the quarter-final for the first time ever thanks to his heroics. saving two penalties as they defeated Spain.
RB: Denzel Dumfries (Netherlands)
The Netherlands were the first side through to the last eight, but had to come through a tricky test against USA to get there. Central to their success was Dumfries, who provided two assists and a goal in a rampaging performance from right wing-back. Recently linked with a move to the Premier League, performances like that from the 24-year-old will only continue to raise his price tag.
CB: Pepe (Portugal)
Becoming the second-oldest player to score in a World Cup, Pepe marshalled the Portugal defence excellently as a Ronaldo-less side put six past Switzerland to romp into the last eight.
CB: Thiago Silva (Brazil)
As the Selecao turned on the style with a 4-1 win over South Korea, Thiago Silva continued to excel despite his advancing age, even managing to grab an assist as Brazil underlined their credentials as tournament favourites.
In this side, he joins Pepe in what may be the oldest defensive pairing in history, but a pair that remain among the World’s best at international level.
LB: Achraf Hakimi (Morocco)
The irony of Spain born Hakimi scoring the winning penalty was not lost on many, but the sheer audacity to panenka the winner to fire his side to their first-ever quarter final.
It topped off what had been an excellent performance from the full-back, and he will harbour the hopes of a nation on his shoulders once again on Friday.
CM: Jude Bellingham (England)
It was unclear whether Bellingham would even start heading into the tournament, but he has emerged as a key part of Gareth Southgate’s midfield and was once again excellent as England headed through at the extent of Senegal.
The midfielder grabbed an assist before a slaloming run set away Phil Foden for Harry Kane to net the second in an all-round top performance, and set England up with a tie against France.
CM: Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco)
Providing one of the most complete performances in central midfield for Morocco, Amrabat kept the much-lauded trio of Pedri, Gavi and Sergio Busquets quiet as he helped his side into the quarter-finals.
He drew admiring glances from Tottenham last winter, and could be due a Premier League move 12 months on as he continues to impress in the Morocco engine room.
CAM: Neymar (Brazil)
It was feared that Neymar’s tournament was over when he limped off in the Group Stage opener, but he returned for the clash South Korea in the round of 16 with his typical flair and skill.
Grabbing a goal and an assist, the PSG man ran the show for his side, and was a welcome return as Joga Bonita swept away Heung-Min Son and co.
RW: Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Another man who needs no introduction, Messi registered his first ever knockout goal against Australia as once more he ran the show for the Albiceleste. Despite a late scare at the end, Argentina have recovered from their opening day defeat to Saudi Arabia well, but now face their toughest test in the form of the Netherlands.
Teammates with Neymar at club level, Messi could meet the Brazilian in the semi-final stage should both get there.
ST: Goncalo Ramos (Portugal)
Replacing Cristiano Ronaldo in any team is no easy feat, but we think that Goncalo Ramos may be getting the nod over the 37-year-old again for the quarter final after his excellent display.
All round top centre-forward play was rewarded with a hat-trick, the youngest man to do so since Pele, as he transformed a previously stale Portugal attack into a truly dangerous strikeforce.
LW: Kylian Mbappe (France)
The fact that Mbappe is the only man in this side also to feature in the team of the group stage says everything about the sort of tournament that the 23 year old is having, but he continues to astound alongside Olivier Giroud in France’s attack.
Two more goals came as Les Blues eased past Poland, featuring two strikes of pure power, and he will be tough to catch atop the World Cup golden boot charts as he looks to help France defend their title.