Asia’s failures, Croatia’s marathons and Neymar’s return: five lessons from day 16 of the 2022 World Cup

Be afraid, be very afraid. Brazil set a daunting milestone ahead of their fellow 2022 World Cup (opens in new tab) contenders on Day 16 with an outstanding performance to advance to the quarterfinals.

South Korea trailed 4-0 – and could have been more – at halftime, only for the Asians to pull one back in the second half.

While the Seleção were dazzling and dominating, the first draw of the day came down to the razor-sharp thrills of a penalty shoot-out – the first of the tournament.

After a 1-1 draw in regulation time, Croatia advanced to penalties thanks to three saves from goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic – ending a remarkable mammoth killing campaign from the Samurai Blue.

Brazil must now be the favourite

(Image credit: Getty)

They were tipped for success from the start, but Brazil are starting to look unstoppable in Qatar. It may have only been South Korea, but this was a night where everything fell into place.

Richarlison kept scoring, Vinicius Jr scored a rare goal, the defense looked composed and Neymar’s return was sparkling. Many football fans feared the ankle injury he suffered in the group stage would limit his impact, but he proved all doubters wrong. The samba dance move came out early as Brazil reached the final eight.

Then they take on Croatia. You would want exceptional odds to bet against them to make it to the semi-finals in this kind of format.

Asia is still far behind Europe

(Image credit: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

South Korea has struggled admirably against Brazil and can leave with their heads held high after a goal against the favourites. But it was clear that they fell far short in quality during their 4-1 loss.

There were five Asian sides at the start of this tournament: Qatar, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Japan and South Korea (with two remaining at the start of the evening), so none of them reached the quarter-finals of a World Cup in Asia is disappointing.

Croatia likes to go beyond 90 minutes

Ivan Perisic celebrates scoring Croatia's first goal during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Round of 16 football match between Japan and Croatia at Al-Janoub Stadium in Al-Wakrah, south of Doha on December 5, 2022.

(Image credit: Ozan Kose/AFP via Getty Images)

Disappointing as it was to see Japan’s mammoth assassination streak come to an end, the manner of their defeat cannot have come as much of a surprise to those familiar with Croatia’s recent history.

This was the seventh time in Croatia’s last eight knockout matches that extra time was required.

The only exception was their 2018 World Cup final defeat to France, so this was far from unfamiliar territory for Zlatko Dalic’s side.

Once it came down to penalties, Croatia won their third successive World Cup shoot-out – a record bettered throughout the tournament only by Germany (obviously) who have won four out of four.

Livakovic was the hero and made three saves from four poor Japanese penalties. He became the third goalkeeper to do so at the World Cup, following Portugal’s Ricardo in 2006 and Danijel Subasic for – you guessed it – Croatia in 2018.

Giant-killers Japan an inspiration for the underdogs

Japan's Ritsu Doan celebrates after scoring their team's first goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group E match between Germany and Japan at Khalifa International Stadium on November 23, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.

(Image credit: Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

Japan’s World Cup campaign will be long remembered, both by their fans and those of some of the world’s football powerhouses.

The remarkable double scalp of the Samurai Blue of Germany and Spain – both world champions in the last 12 years – was the biggest shock of a tournament full of misfortunes.

It underlined a group stage theme – that the international football pitch is now flatter than in previous years and nothing can be taken for granted.

Just ask Argentina, Brazil, Portugal or France, all of whom suffered surprise group defeats, or Germany, Uruguay, Belgium and Denmark, who dropped out early.

Japan leaves Qatar with their heads held high and champions of the underdog.

They are an example that less developed countries will follow in the years to come, having been given little hope of progress by almost everyone once the draw for the group stage was made.

Ronaldo melodrama causes tension in camp Portugal

Ronald Santos

(Image credit: Getty)

Cristiano Ronaldo does not like to be substituted. This is no secret.

But this time he has managed to liquidate his manager, question his starting position and create an unwanted off-field distraction ahead of an important match for the team he captains, Portugal.

And all because we had 25 minutes left of what was a relatively unimportant match against South Korea overall, given that Portugal had already finished.

Asked if he had seen video footage of Ronaldo criticizing Santos’ decision to replace him, the Portuguese boss said: “Yes. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it at all.”

“From there it’s the things you arrange internally. It was arranged this way and now we are thinking about tomorrow’s game.”

It will now be closely monitored how much playing time Santos Ronaldo gives against the Swiss.

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