World Cup heavyweights all dressed up for quarterfinals

Agence France-Presse
World Cup heavyweights all dressed up for quarterfinals
Lionel Messi.
STAR / File

DOHA, Qatar – Brazil, France and other World Cup heavyweights started the build-up to their quarterfinal matches in earnest on Wednesday after Portugal made a huge statement of intent against Switzerland.

Five-time winners Brazil, defending champions France, Lionel Messi’s Argentina and England are all still in the mix as the tournament in Qatar paused for a first rest day.

But 2010 winners Spain was licking its wounds after crashing out to Morocco, ruminating on an identity crisis as the players jetted home.

Portugal added its name to the list of favorites with a 6-1 hammering of Switzerland on Tuesday, with young gun Goncalo Ramos smashing in a hat-trick after replacing Cristiano Ronaldo.

Spain was sent packing, knocked out by Morocco on penalties after a match they totally dominated – a familiar story for its long-suffering fans.

Brazil, which faces beaten 2018 finalists Croatia in the first of the quarterfinals on Friday, remains a favorite to lift a sixth World Cup in Qatar after a 4-1 mauling of South Korea.

Argentina, which has hit its stride since a shock defeat against Saudi Arabia, will come up against an in-form Netherlands team, which remains unbeaten.

On Saturday, Morocco takes on Portugal before focus shifts to the late kick-off between England and France.

Spain’s exit means it has not lifted a major trophy since Euro 2012.

But there was joy for Morocco, which qualified for the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time in history.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino hailed the World Cup group stage in Qatar as the “best ever.”

The opening phase featured some eye-catching shocks, with Saudi Arabia’s win over Argentina the first major upset.

Japan also beat Germany and Spain to finish top of their group while Morocco saw off Belgium and drew with Croatia to finish top of their pool.

“I have seen all the matches, indeed, and put very simply and very clearly, this has been the best group stage of a FIFA World Cup ever. So, it’s very promising for the remainder of the FIFA World Cup,” said Infantino.

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