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World Cup becomes a showcase for superstars as pool shrinks

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Martin Rogers

Martin Rogers

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ynav=”true” class=”mg-t-b-20 ff-h fs-16 lh-1pt88 mg-t-b-20 article-content” data-v-6bd26a2e=””>Thus, the World Cup of surprises became the World Cup of superstars. How did that happen? And how did it happen so fast?

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What looked like a bloodbath for the favourites, as the underdogs roared through the group stage, order was restored and the biggest names are still here, with two weeks to go, throwing punches and staring at each other.

Lionel Messi is still here, and he keeps scoring. Cristiano Ronaldo is still here, and he’s still pouting. Kylian Mbappé is still here, and he’s still amazing. Neymar is still here, and he keeps smiling.

Kylian Mbappé puts on a show

Kylian Mbappe

France‘s Kylian Mbappe scored twice in a 3-1 win over Poland as the defending champions progressed to a quarter-final clash with England.

World Cup

Everyone has received one on the chin. All have survived, and now only have eyes for the glittering grand prize ahead.

“My dream,” said Neymar, at the start of the tournament, when asked what the World Cup meant to him. Quickly, however, sleep began to cloud over for the biggest of the big names.

On just the third day of the tournament, Argentina suffered a stunning loss to Saudi Arabia, and Messi’s survival in the tournament seemed to be in jeopardy. Yet here is the little maestro, feet up, quarterfinal spot booked against Netherlands (Friday, 2 p.m. ET on FOX and FOX Sports App), watching with some confidence at what he hopes will be the element What is missing from your resume?

Defending champions France also suffered a loss, stunned by Tunisia, with even the late energy of Mbappé as a substitute unable to turn the tide. But with five goals so far, this has become their tournament, especially after the way they smashed Poland in the round of 16.

Ronaldo’s Portugal fell to South Korea, and the former Manchester United ace got into an argument with the opposing players and looked very upset as he sat on the bench after being substituted. However, that didn’t stop them from securing a spot against Switzerland in the Round of 16 on Tuesday (2 pm ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App).

What makes Neymar special

Stu Holden

Brazil‘s Neymar is known for his speed, dribbling, passing and is ranked No. 5 on Stu Holden’s list of the 50 Greatest Players in the FIFA Men’s World Cup 2022.

Vincent Aboubakar

Neymar has not played since his team’s opening match due to a torn ligament and had to watch as Brazil lost to Cameroon in their last group action, a match that provided the enchanting moment when striker Vincent Aboubakar stripped off his shirt and he held it up, and referee Ismail Elfath felt so bad about having to send him off that he wiped it off and shook his hand first.

But Brazil had also been here since Monday morning, with Neymar primed and ready to take the field when the South Americans took on South Korea (2 pm ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app).

Barring big surprises on Monday and Tuesday, the quarterfinal lineup promises to be an absolute blockbuster. Half is already closed, and Messi’s men will face the conquerors of the United States, the Netherlands.

In addition to the established star power, there is also the emerging type. Four years from now, would it be a surprise if we’re talking about Dutch goalscoring sensation Cody Gakpo in the same esteemed breath as today’s soccer superheroes?

Is England a serious contender?

Alexi Lalas and David Mosse

Alexi Lalas and David Mosse react to Judge Bellingham and England’s win over Senegal and discuss whether they are serious contenders.

Ditto for England

Ditto for England’s Jude Bellingham, who will face the biggest test of his career when the Three Lions take on France on Saturday (2 p.m. ET on FOX and FOX Sports App), but shows no signs of being daunted by the task. .

Spain, with young and dynamic midfield connoisseurs Pedri and Gavi, could take on Portugal, led as always by Ronaldo, who is almost their age together.

Brazil could face Croatia, with their evergreen wizard Luka Modric, player of the tournament in 2018 and named the best player in the world that same year.

USA head coach Gregg Berhalter has repeatedly talked about the World Cup being two separate tournaments, and it’s certainly beginning to feel that way.

For a while, you couldn’t move because of the discomfort. Australia‘s worthy run culminating in them beating Denmark, a popular outside team to win it all before the tournament started.

Lionel Messi gives a master class

Lionel Messi

Argentina’s Lionel Messi displays top skill and scores the first goal of his career World Cup knockout round. He gets a closer look at the action with all the angles of the goal.

Mohammed Khalil Al Owais

Arguably the most entertaining team to watch in the entire tournament, the wonderful ball movement and spirit of Japan set up victories over 2010 and 2014 champions Spain and Germany, which was enough to send the latter packing early. of the knockout rounds for the second consecutive. weather.

Morocco‘s leap to the top of Group F, which also included Croatia and Belgium, deserves more respect and attention than it has received.

There was no shortage of special moments, time in the sun for the players who produced the performance of a lifetime. Like the Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Khalil Al Owais, who was impossible for Messi and company to break. Australian Matt Leckie, who plays in his country’s domestic league but shone against Denmark and then gave Argentina a scare in the round of 16. Tunisian captain and goalscorer, Wahbi Khazri, the epitome of national pride.

The underdogs lit up the tournament, and each surprising result provided another burst of bewildering joy for the neutrals.

But now it’s time for the big ones.

Soccer likes its celebrities, but it gives it that status for a reason. There is nowhere to hide in the beautiful game, because its global nature is all-encompassing. The suitors are quickly discovered. Fame comes from sustained excellence, the kind that breeds trust and confidence, even on the biggest stage of all.

That’s why the best teams and biggest stars stick around, looking for the chalice that everyone wants. Only one team, one megastar, can pull it off, which is the recipe for a cruel reality and an exciting final fortnight.

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Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and sign up for the daily newsletter.

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