Spain KO’d, Portugal win without Ronaldo

The World Cup Round of 16 is over and what a drama it has been. We were treated to the surprise of a tournament favorite, and one of the game’s biggest names had to watch from the bench… as his team progressed without him and looked better than any tournament.

Be sure to check back on ESPN during the tournament as we bring you the latest from Qatar. Here’s what you may have missed from Tuesday’s World Cup events, and a preview of what’s to come later in the week.

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Spain are eliminated, Portugal continue – without Ronaldo

At the second World Cup in a row, Spain was eliminated on penalties in the round of 16. Four years ago it hosted Russia; On Tuesday, it was Morocco that ended hopes La Furia Roja – and more specifically, it was Madrid-born Achraf Hakimi who converted the game-winning penalty.

After Pablo Sarabia started Spain’s penalty shootout with a terrific cannon shot, Moroccan goalkeeper Yassine Bounou stole the show. The Seville No. 1 saved against Carlos Soler (who had converted every one of his last nine penalties in all competitions) and Sergio Busquets, setting up Hakimi to take the dagger to his native country.

The Atlas Lions are the fourth African team to reach a World Cup quarterfinals after Ghana 2010, Senegal 2002 and Cameroon 1990. All three were defeated and Morocco have a tough task ahead of them if they are to end this run as they meet a Portuguese side looking better than ever.

– World Cup bracket: Spain eliminated in the round of 16



Sebastian Salazar explains how Spain eliminated from the World Cup and credits Morocco for the achievement

And that’s quite a statement considering Fernando Santos’ side were without Cristiano Ronaldo. The 37-year-old free agent, who left Manchester United by mutual agreement after an explosive row with manager Erik ten Hag and much of the club hierarchy, found himself on the bench after reacting furiously at being substituted in the Portuguese group stage final Loss to South Korea. It was behavior Santos said he “didn’t like at all”.

Almost as if on cue, Goncalo Ramos, who started instead of Ronaldo, opened the scoring with an exquisite shot off the post just 17 minutes into the game. The 21-year-old Benfica phenom added a second just five minutes into the second half, registering an assist five minutes later and completing his hat-trick in the 67th minute. Now his manager has a lot to think about ahead of the quarter-final game against Morocco.

Should Ronaldo’s bench press send a message? Or does Santos think his team is better off without a captain whose skills can’t match his ego? With Ramous thriving and Portugal as convincing as ever in their 6-1 win over Switzerland, all indications are that it could be the latter.



Gabrielle Amado believes Fernando Santos will keep Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench in the World Cup Quarterfinals.

Croatia-Brazil, Argentina-Netherlands start quarterfinals

For the first time at this World Cup, there are a few days off before the quarter-finals kick off on Friday. When things pick up again, we’ll see Croatia take on favorites Brazil, while the Netherlands take on Argentina – which could make for a huge semi-final match if both South American powerhouses progress.

Croatia needed a penalty shoot-out on Monday to beat Japan in the round of 16 after a hard-fought 1-1 regular-time draw, while Brazil’s 4-1 win over South Korea was their latest feat Jogo Bonito.

In a World Cup that could potentially be the last for a host of true superstars – from Cristiano Ronaldo to Luis Suarez to Lionel Messi – we’re also likely to be nearing the end of Luka Modric’s illustrious career. Four years ago, the Real Madrid midfielder hauled Croatia to the World Cup final en route to winning the Ballon D’Or. Now at 37, Modric wants to capture one last magical moment at international level.

Almost everything ended prematurely for Modric when he was substituted off against Japan nine minutes from time and threatened with a penalty shoot-out. Of the 13 players who took part in the 2018 final against France, only five made the 2022 squad, with Dejan Lovren and Marcelo Brozovic being the only remnants to last through to the penalty shoot-out against Japan. But Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic’s gamble in eliminating his star veterans and replacing them with lesser-known players Mario Pasalic and Nikola Vlasic before the penalty shootout paid off.

What is Croatia’s reward for progressing? A big date against the high-flying Brazilian, who wows fans with his dominance (and goal celebrations) and instills fear in his opponents in equal measure. After a group stage in which Brazil showed their potential, the opening 45 minutes against the South Koreans were a mix of bright yellow and blue. Neymar, who returned after two games with an ankle injury, acted as chief conductor in the selection‘Symphony that also featured Richarlison, Vinicius Junior and Lucas Paqueta all found the back of the goal.

Neymar’s goal from the penalty spot was particularly poignant as it came just short of Pele’s record of 71 goals for most goals scored by a Brazil international. Pele is recovering in his home country due to health problems in a hospital. Brazil’s overwhelming victory served to honor one of the greatest players of all time as this current side writes their own chapter in Qatar.



Netherlands coach Louis Van Gaal praises his side’s win against USA and discusses the other quarter-finalists.

The Netherlands will be sidelined for almost a week since beating the United States last Saturday when they next take to the field against Lionel Messi and Argentina. This Dutch side isn’t a textbook example of the ‘total football’ philosophy that historically defines the Oranje, but it’s clear that coach Louis van Gaal is more focused on doing what it takes to win than attractive to play expansive football.

Not that the Dutch would definitely win ugly. With Memphis Depay at the front and Frenkie de Jong controlling midfield, even full-backs Denzel Dumfries and Daley Blind could be included in the goalscoring list. Keep an eye on Cody Gakpo, he was one of the breakout stars of the tournament. His playing ability, which has produced three goals, shows why sides like Manchester United want to sign him from PSV Eindhoven.

If the Dutch want to win their first World Cup in Qatar, they will have to face a familiar opponent. These two sides faced each other in the 2014 semi-finals, the 2006 group stage, the 1998 quarter-finals and, most importantly, the 1978 final where Argentina, as hosts, won everything.

Messi is aiming to finally win the one major trophy missing from his mantle and he will need his supporting cast to continue rising. Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni has opted for an impressive midfield trio (Alexis Mac Allister, Enzo Fernandez and Rodrigo de Paul) and striker Julian Alvarez has prevailed against the ailing Lautaro Martinez but there are still some questions. Angel di Maria’s injury has left a small weakness on the left wing and Scaloni seems to oscillate in the formation of his back line.



Sebastian Salazar reacts to a stunning Argentina win over Australia in the round of 16.

Today’s top readings


A far too early look at USMNT’s depth chart for the 2026 World Championship
What will be the US player pool for the 2026 World Cup? Here’s a position-by-position breakdown.


why Brazil’s dancing goal celebration: rehearsed on TikTok, demonstrated on the pitch
Some might call them disrespectful, but Brazil don’t care. Neymar and company will keep dancing every time they score at the World Cup.

News and Notes

  • Spain coach Luis Enrique took full responsibility for his side’s shock World Cup elimination against Morocco at Qatar’s Education City Stadium on Tuesday night. “The responsibility is mine,” he said after the game. “I picked the first three penalties, which I think were the best specialists on the pitch. We didn’t even get to the fourth. Bounou is a spectacular goalkeeper in that regard, he has a lot of right flank.” Way. He was great. “

  • Cameroon Football Federation president and former star player Samuel Eto’o has apologized for being involved in a “violent altercation” with a man outside a World Cup stadium on Tuesday. Eto’o had taken a break from Brazil’s 4-1 win over South Korea in the round of 16 to pose for photos with fans near Stadium 974. Footage circulating on social media showed him reacting to comments from a man holding a camera. The former Barcelona and Internazionale forward was initially held back by people in his entourage, then broke free and appeared to direct a kick at the man, who fell backwards to the ground.

  • Cristiano Ronaldo denied he had agreed to join Saudi club Al Nassr after Portugal’s World Cup win over Switzerland on Tuesday. “No, that’s not true,” said the Portuguese striker when asked about a move after a 6-1 win in the last 16. In Spain on Monday it was reported that Ronaldo will play for Al-Nassr from January 1st. after agreeing a 2½-year deal with the Saudi team – a deal reportedly worth €200m a season. Spain KO’d, Portugal win without Ronaldo

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