Was Matchday 18 the Craziest Day in FIFA World Cup History?

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How are you supposed to describe that?

Matchday 18 of the 2022 FIFA World Cup is already one for the history books. 

In the first day of quarterfinal matchups in Qatar, two nations are going to bed with relief and jubilation while the other two will struggle to keep their eyes shut wishing the outcome had been different. 

To start the action, Brazil went up against Croatia in a game that seemed favorable on paper for the 2022 favorites, but it ended in the Vatreni pulling off a stunner by winning 4-2 in penalty kicks after the game was tied 1-1 through 120 minutes.

Then came Argentina and the Netherlands for a chance to play Croatia in the semifinals. Argentina took a 2-0 lead thanks to Lionel Messi, but Wout Weghorst became the unpredictable hero for the Oranje with two goals to force extra time and eventually, penalties. However, the Dutch lost the shootout 4-3 to La Albiceleste in another thrilling showdown.

Let’s go through the key moments of this stunning day of football:

How did Croatia beat Brazil?

Football doesn’t always favor the attackers. The Seleção learned that the hard way – 21 shots with 11 on target wasn’t enough to score more than Croatia’s nine, with just one going on target. And that Bruno Petković goal in the 117th minute was deflected off Marquinhos. 

Brazil created 2.72 expected goals from the game to Croatia’s 0.68. If the game followed logic, Brazil should’ve won that game by a score of 3-0, 2-0, 3-1 or 2-1. But this sport does not always follow logic, and Dominik Livaković is not just writing his name in the history books – he’s cementing it. The 27-year-old Dinamo Zagreb goalkeeper made 11 saves in the game and one in the penalty shootout. 

Ultimately, Tite, Brazil’s manager, will regret not going with a five-man backline after Neymar’s extra-time goal to see off the win. Tite also left his role after the loss. He said before the tournament started that he’d leave the post no matter how Brazil’s run ended, but this was an unfortunate way to bow out after he took over in 2016. 

Who missed the last penalty kick for Brazil?

Marquinhos, a 28-year-old center back for Paris Saint-Germain, missed Brazil’s fourth and last penalty kick. He sent Livaković the wrong way, but saw – and heard – his shot clang off the left post. That’s a sound he and Brazilian fans will not forget for a long, long time. 

Is 2022 Neymar’s last World Cup?

Neymar did not commit to anything after the loss, saying he’s unsure if he’ll ever don Brazil’s iconic yellow and blue kits again. He also tied Pele’s all-time record in goals scored for the national team with 77. 

Did Lionel Messi score against the Netherlands?

Yes, Messi both scored and assisted against the Dutch. He fed right back Nahuel Molina with a sublime no-look pass in the 35th minute before converting a penalty in the 73rd. He also made one of Argentina’s penalties in the shootout. His regulation-time tally in Qatar stands at four goals and two assists in five games. His quest for a first World Cup title continues in what may ultimately be his last. 

Who fought in the Argentina-Netherlands game?

Things got chippy between the Argentines and the Dutch towards the 90th-minute mark of regulation. After Leandro Paredes made a tackle on Nathan Ake, Parades kicked the ball towards the Dutch bench after the referee blew the whistle, prompting for benches to be cleared for both teams. 

Dutch captain Virgil van Dijk came running in and sent Parades flying, and the Juventus loanee was booked with a yellow card. 

What other day in World Cup history compares?

In short, not many. But there was one day in 1986 that can enter the conversation.

During the 1986 quarterfinals on June 21, France and Brazil played to a 1-1 tie during regulation and ended in a 4-3 penalty shootout win for Les Bleus. In the other game, West Germany and Mexico played to a 0-0 tie before West Germany won 4-1 via penalties.

In the end, both games went to extra time, had riveting penalty shootouts, Neymar scored an exquisite goal, Croatia responded with three minutes to go to pull off the upset, Messi logged both a goal and an assist, the first bench clearing occurred and the Dutch scored an equalizer in the 11th minute of stoppage time – what else could you ask for in one day?

Portugal, Morocco, England and France, over to you. 

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