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Winners & Losers from day 17 of the World Cup

Morocco’s penalty victory over Spain brings them one step closer to reconquering al-Andalus.

Morocco v Spain: Round of 16 - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

The Round of 16 has now come and gone, and it was an absolute banger. We had our second penalty shootout of the round, Morocco vs. Spain, which for a second time also included one goalkeeper saving three penalties. Morocco’s 3-0 penalty shootout victory makes them the sole representative in the Quarterfinals from Africa, and also makes them the only team with a lower FIFA ranking than their opponent to advance.

Portugal absolutely hammered Switzerland, claiming a 6-1 win thanks to a superstar performance from Gonçalo Ramos, who had three goals and an assist. It was probably a good transition game for Xherdan Shaqiri, as Portugal made Switzerland look like the Chicago Fire. Now we get a little break before the next round of games, as the Quarter Finals kick off on Friday. While the games are still fresh, let’s hit some winners and losers from the last of the Round of 16.


Gonçalo Ramos: I noted above that Ramos had a simply outrageous game, about as close to perfect as a player could hope for on this stage. Switzerland are no chumps, and he made scoring against them look easy. Prior to his 74 minute appearance in this game, he’d played a total of 10 minutes in the World Cup (8 minutes against Uruguay, 2 against Ghana). He’s been the backup to Cristiano Ronaldo, and with the aged and unemployed Christian Bale character on the bench Ramos had his time to shine and he took it. Gonçalo Ramos is a 21 year-old who plays for Benfica, having come up through their academy and B team. At 21, making 80 appearances in all competitions with 28 goals and 10 assists is pretty impressive at a top team in a good European league. He’s really exploded in the last year, though, scoring 14 goals and adding 6 assists in 21 all-competition appearances in 2022. His outburst on Tuesday seems like more proof that he’s arrived rather than just being a flash in the pan, and some fast-acting team in a top league is going to reap the benefits.

The Moroccan Diaspora: Morocco’s shootout win over Spain, after taking them through 120 scoreless minutes, was built on the strength of the Moroccan diaspora. Of the 26 players named to their World Cup squad, 14 were born outside of Morocco — all but goalkeeping superhero Yassine Bounou, who was born in Montreal, were born in Europe — with the most famous of the bunch being Achraf Hakimi, who was born and raised in Spain but chose to represent Morocco. The national team has embraced all who are eligible, and has been embraced in turn and reaped the benefits in the men’s and women’s teams. The women’s team finished runners-up at this year’s Women’s Africa Cup of Nations and have qualified for their first World Cup, to go along with this success from the men’s team.


Cristiano Ronaldo: Ronaldo is operating at a level that Tom Brady couldn’t even dream of right now. He created an atmosphere at his regular job that was so toxic that Manchester United and he terminated his contract. Now the rumor is that the only place where anyone is both willing and able to afford his outrageous salary demands is Saudi Arabia. With the Portugal national team he’s been little more than anonymous since scoring a penalty in their opening game against Ghana. As a result, in a knockout game, manager Fernando Santos decided the team would be better served by leaving Ronaldo on the bench, a decision which was proved to be correct on a huge stage. Ronaldo’s replacement had a hat trick and an assist, and Portugal destroyed a Switzerland team that looked at the very least competent prior to this game. However much longer Portugal last at this tournament, Ronaldo seems likely to have his spot among the subs written in ink.

All of us sickos and freaks: We are, sadly, rapidly approaching the end of the World Cup. For the first time since this whole thing started two and a half weeks ago, we’ve now got not one, but TWO days without games. We’ve been on a steady diet of two or more World Cup games a day, and now we’re 11 days away from the Final. It’s a very strange feeling. Fret not, though. You’ve got UEFA Women’s Champions League action during these two days off (tune in on DAZN’s YouTube page), as well as plenty of second division and lower football and some men’s NCAA tournament action if you need some football to give your life meaning.

Well, that’s it for the Round of 16. I’ll be back to offer some almost certainly unhelpful and uninformed insights ahead of the Quarterfinals. It’s been fun, and I look forward to seeing out the rest of this tournament together!

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