The knockout stage of the World Cup is always exciting, and this latest round of games was no exception.
After 780 minutes of football, 28 goals and two penalty shoot-outs, the competition has been halved down to just eight teams. And, of course, several players made their mark in the last few days.
Here is our best XI from the round of 16.
Dominik Livakovic (GK) – In 2018, penalty shoot-outs were crucial to Croatia’s run to the final. With Danijel Subasic in between the sticks, they eliminated Denmark and Russia on spot kicks.
Four years on, and Dominik Livakovic is on his way to emulating Subasic’s heroics. He saved three penalties from a possible four as his side defeated Japan after a 1-1 draw.
Denzel Dumfries (RB) – Up against a previously unbeaten United States side, Netherlands had a tough task in their first knockout game. But they emerged victorious, largely thanks to an inspired performance by Denzel Dumfries.
The full-back helped them take a two-goal lead into half time, assisting Memphis Depay and Daley Blind. After the US pulled one back, he wrapped up the victory with a well-placed volley in the last ten minutes.
Romain Saiss (CB) – Morocco are this year’s underdog story, having reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the first time in their history. They boast the best defensive record at the tournament, conceding just once in four games.
In their latest game, they held Spain to a 0-0 draw and knocked them out on penalties. Captain Romain Saiss was crucial to this, holding firm under relentless pressure from Luis Enrique’s side.
Thiago Silva (CB) – Brazil put on a show in the first half of their fixture with South Korea. By the time the half time whistle went, they were 4-0 up and already planning for their quarter-final tie.
And it wasn’t only their forwards that contributed to this display. Thiago Silva had a solid game at the back, and also assisted Richarlison brilliantly for the Selecao’s third of the game.
Raphael Guerreiro (LB) – Brazil weren’t the only team to comfortably win their round of 16 game. In fact, they were outdone by Portugal, who defeated Switzerland 6-1.
Raphael Guerreiro was one of many who got in on the act. He slammed one into the roof of the net early in the second half and registered a late assist for Rafael Leao.
Bruno Fernandes (RM) – Bruno Fernandes plays most of his football centrally. He was shifted out to the right against Switzerland and was able to adapt excellently.
In the first half, his corner was headed home by Pepe to make it 2-0. This was his third assist of the tournament, taking him joint top of the charts. And he was unlucky not to pick up a few more during the game.
Sofyan Amrabat (CM) – As a midfielder, playing against Spain can be a daunting prospect. A trio of Sergio Busquets, Gavi, and Pedri is as technical as they come, and it’s easy to get overrun.
But Sofyan Amrabat was able to limit their influence on the game with a battling performance in the middle of the park. The Moroccan made numerous tackles and interceptions to protect his side’s back four.
Jude Bellingham (CM) – England were struggling in the early stages of their clash with Senegal, failing to create much of note while coming under some threat. That was until Jude Bellingham stepped up to the plate and dragged them into a commanding lead.
First, he burst into the box to set up Jordan Henderson for the opener. Then, just before half time, his brilliant work set the Three Lions on the counter-attack for their second goal.
Kylian Mbappe (LM) – Having been touted as the next big thing for a few years, it seems as if Kylian Mbappe has now fulfilled his potential. He’s enjoying a sensational World Cup campaign, and people are starting to recognise him as the planet’s best player.
Against Poland, he was once again the star of the show. He assisted Olivier Giroud’s record-breaking goal just before the break and then scored two stunners to take France into the quarter-finals.
Goncalo Ramos (ST) – Goncalo Ramos was brought into the starting line-up in place of Cristiano Ronaldo – a man with over 800 goals, five Ballons d’Or, countless records and a loyal fanbase bigger than anything you could imagine. No pressure, kid.
Evidently, the 21-year-old was not even slightly fazed by this, as he stole the headlines with a magnificent performance. He bagged the first hat-trick of the tournament, while also getting an assist.
Lionel Messi (ST) – While Ronaldo’s World Cup swansong isn’t quite going as planned, Lionel Messi is seemingly bowing out in style. He produced another fine performance to help Argentina edge past Australia.
La Albiceleste were finding it difficult to make the breakthrough until their star man produced a moment of magic out of nowhere to put them ahead. He continued to run the game, embarking on several trademark dribbles and creating plenty of chances.
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