Phew. Finally after eight breathtaking matches, the quarter-finals are here, and what a roller-coaster ride it has been.
Just like the group stage, the round of 16 had surprises aplenty. Russia shocked everyone when they eliminated Spain on penalties. Meanwhile, England have finally broken their penalty shootout duck with their victory over Colombia.
Also, both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are out of the World Cup and Andres Iniesta has announced his retirement from international football.
Before we move on to the quarter-finals, let’s have a look at The Statesman’s Dream XI from the round of 16 in a 4-4-2 formation.
Goalkeeper: Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark)
Kasper Schmeichel was heroic in Denmark’s defeat to Croatia.
It was a sight to behold when Peter Schmeichel was celebrating his son’s penalty save to deny Luka Modric in the 116th minute.
Schmeichel single-handedly kept Denmark in the game as he made many exceptional saves, including denying Modric from the spot.
The game went to penalties and Schmeichel was again up to the task as he saved two penalties. He was let down by his teammates who failed to convert their penalties and a certain Danijel Subasic who also kept making exceptional saved at the other end.
Left-Back: Lucas Hernandez (France)
Lucas Hernandez has come into his own at this World Cup.
The young Atletico defender has kept the 50M Benjamin Mendy out of the team with his performances. He gave the assist for France’s second goal and was also solid at the back.
France ultimately won 4-3 and Hernandez was praised for his tireless shift down the left flank.
Centre-back: Yerry Mina (Colombia)
England was all set to easily qualify for the quarter-final with a 1-0 win but Yerry Mina had other plans.
Before the tournament started, no one expected Yerry Mina to end up as Colombia’s top scorer but that’s how good he has been.
He scored a 90th minute equaliser to drag England into penalties and take his World Cup tally to three goals. Colombia ultimately lost the penalty shoot-out but Mina was brilliant throughout the match, not allowing Harry Kane any room to free up his devastating right foot.
Centre-back: Harry Maguire (England)
Harry Maguire has been a rock at the back for England.
He has kept the experienced Gary Cahill out of the team and rightly so as he was brilliant yet again against Colombia. He was given the difficult task of marking Radamel Falcao, but he was up for it and kept Falcao in his pocket.
He won 12 aerial duels against Colombia and that is phenomenal. Many big clubs will be lurking for his signing after the World Cup.
Right-back: Diego Laxalt (Uruguay)
Not many had heard his name before the tournament started but he was exceptional against Portugal. He made six clearances and won 10 duels against an attack which had Ronaldo.
Originally a midfielder, Laxalt was assigned defensive duties against Portugal and he was definitely up for the challenge.
Left-midfield: Eden Hazard (Belgium)
The Chelsea number 10 has silenced all his critics at this World Cup. Often criticised for not being consistent enough, Hazard has won three MOTM in four games and led his side from the front.
He provided the assist for Belgium’s equaliser as Belgium overcame a two goal deficit to ultimately win 3-2.
Centre-midfield: Ivan Rakitic (Croatia)
Alongside Luka Modric, Rakitic has been sensational at this World Cup.
Having previously been under Modric’s shadow, Rakitic finally came into his own against Denmark and scored the winning penalty for Croatia.
Kasper Schmeichel had already saved three penalties, but Rakitic kept his nerve and stroked home the winning penalty as Croatia set up a quarter final clash against Russia.
Centre-midfield: N’Golo Kante (France)
N’Golo Kante has been doing what he always does — breaking up oppostion attacks and providing the link between attack and defence.
He was solid once again against Argentina as he won eight duels, recovered five balls and made three successful tackles. He did not allow the weak Argentine midfield any time on the ball and won the midfield battle without breaking a sweat.
Right-midfield: Willian (Brazil)
Willian started the tournament slowly and was in risk of losing his place to Douglas Costa but he finally performed when it mattered.
He was Brazil’s best player on the pitch and gave the assist for Neymar’s first goal. While Neymar grabbed all the headlines, it was Willian who was the catalyst of Brazil’s comfortable 2-0 win over Mexico.
Brazilian fans will be hoping for more of the same from the Chelsea man as they take on a balanced Belgium side in the quarter-final.
Striker: Kylian Mbappe (France)
Kylian Mbappe has arrived and all the teams should be scared.
He single-handedly blew away Argentina out of the water with his blistering pace. Argentina’s defence simply had no answer for him as he ran the entire length of the pitch only to be brought down in the box for a penalty, as France led 1-0.
Argentina took the lead in the second half but Mbappe was once again up to the task as he scored two quick goals to give France a 4-2 lead and take the match beyond Messi’s reach.
France will now take on Uruguay in the quarter-final and Godin & Co. should be very scared of this 19 year old kid.
Striker: Edinson Cavani (Uruguay)
What Mbappe did to Argentina, Cavani did to Portugal.
Cavani scored a brace to single-handedly knock Portugal out of the World Cup. He scored a header early in the first half to give Uruguay the lead and later scored a brilliant winner from outside the box.
He makes our team ahead of Neymar but he remains a doubt for the quarter-final against France. If Uruguay want to have any chance of beating France, Cavani has to be up and running.
Igor Akinfeev, Russia
Kieran Trippier, England
Diego Godin, Uruguay
N’golo Kante, France
Harry Kane, England