With the quarter-finals of the World Cup now consigned to the history books, it’s hard to imagine this tournament throwing any more drama our way.
We were treated to four of the most nail-biting quarter-final matches you could ever hope to see, with two going all the way to penalties. But which players really made the difference for their countries in this round?
Here’s 90min’s team of the quarter-finals.
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GK: Dominik Livakovic – Honourable mention to Morocco’s Bono, who pulled off yet more heroics and another clean sheet as his side saw off Portugal. But it’s impossible to overlook Livakovic, owing to his incredible penalty saves in Croatia’s shootout with Brazil.
RB: Josip Juranovic – The Croatian full-back was not dispossessed once against Brazil and won 100% of his duels. A superb performance.
CB: Jawad El Yamiq – Morocco have the meanest defence at this World Cup, and Real Valladolid defender El Yamiq was at the heart of it against Portugal.
CB: Josko Gvardiol – Gvardiol has been building hype for a couple of years now, but the 20-year-old has well and truly announced himself as a superstar at this World Cup. He was constantly in the right positions against Brazil and looked unbelievably composed in possession.
LB: Marcos Acuna – Cheating slightly with this one, as Acuna operates as a wing-back rather than a traditional full-back for Argentina. Nevertheless, his driving runs down the left flank caused huge problems for the Netherlands and he helped his side maintain their defensive solidity too.
CM: Sofyan Amrabat – Who had Amrabat down as their player of the tournament going into this World Cup? The Moroccan midfielder has been a revelation in Qatar, protecting the back line and progressing play with his press resistance. Considering he’s supposedly been injured for most of the competition, the guy has been absolutely phenomenal.
CM: Luka Modric – We’re running out of superlatives for Modric now. To command the midfield of a World Cup quarter-final at the age of 37 is simply ridiculous, but somehow the Croatia captain still seems like the most fit and able player on the pitch. He has to be in GOAT midfielder territory now, surely?
CAM: Lionel Messi – Messi’s pass to set up Nahuel Molina was simply ludicrous – the kind of pass only he would be able to find. On top of that, he scored a penalty to make it 2-0, repeated the feat in the shootout and squared up to Wout Weghorst while in the middle of a post-match interview.
RW: Bukayo Saka – England may have fallen short against France, but Saka was absolutely electric. The Arsenal winger had Theo Hernandez on toast and the French players looked noticeably relieved when he was substituted. Whatever happens next, Saka has cemented himself as a key player in this England squad.
LW: Antoine Griezmann – He’s flown under the radar, but Griezmann has been one of the best players at this World Cup. Having dropped deeper into midfield in his later years, he now provides the bulk of France’s creativity and set up both of their goals against England.
ST: Wout Weghorst – The Netherlands suffered heartbreak in the end, but the introduction of Weghorst changed the game as the Burnley striker grabbed two goals after coming off the bench. He deserved more from this match – a handshake from Messi, for starters.
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