|Neymar (10) in his return after injury, was instrumental in Brazil's attack against South Korea. — AFP/VNA Photo|
HÀ NỘI — Japan and South Korea suffered heartbreak in their knockout matches, while France and England easily dismantled their opponents to face each other in the quarterfinals.
Japan faced 2018 finalists Croatia, after completing a dramatic comeback against Spain to get to the knockout stage.
As their coach Hajime Moriyasu said before the match, Japan did not play defensively against Croatia, instead opting for high-pressing plays. Many chances came the way of the Blue Samurai, but it was late in the half that they find their opening goal.
From a clever corner, Ritsu Doan crossed in for Daizen Maeda, who was lurking and took advantage of the melee inside Dominik Livakovic's six-yard box, and tapped in the empty net.
Japan went into the second half with great confidence, but Croatia showed why they are one of the world's best. In the 55th minute, Ivan Perisic leveled the score after a cross from Dejan Lovren.
After Perisic's goal, both teams were playing carefully and did not take risks. This also translated into the 30 minutes of added time and the game went to the penalty shootout.
Croatia, having won their last two World Cup penalty shootouts to reach the 2018 final, came out on top, missing just one kick from Marko Livaja, while Livakovic's heroics saved three out of Japan's five kicks before Mario Pasalic sealed Croatia's ticket to the quarterfinals.
In the late match on Monday, South Korea, another Asian miracle story of this World Cup, faced off against Brazil, the number one team in the world.
27 places were the difference between Paulo Bento's Taeguk Warriors and Tite's Selecao in the FIFA Rankings, and the difference was obvious in the first half.
Four goals were scored by Brazil in the first 36 minutes, a performance reminiscence of... Germany, in their infamous 7-1 victory against Brazil in 2014. All four goals were scored in a very artistic fashion, true to the Brazillian style of football.
The Brazilians, however, were somewhat more lenient to the Germans, as they took their foot off the gas and Korea found their consolation through a 25 metre strike from Paik Seung-Ho in the 76th minute.
Brazil will face Croatia in their quarterfinal match on Sunday.
Another favourite for the cup, defending champions France also found an easy win against Poland, earlier on Sunday.
Superstar Kylian Mbappe continued his terrific form for Les Bleus, scoring a brace that made him the tournament's current top scorer with 5 goals.
Mbappe's teammate, Olivier Giroud also broke a record, by scoring the opener in the 44th minute. The 36-year-old became France's top goalscorer with 52 goals, one more than Thierry Henry's record.
In the 74th minute, Mbappe was free inside the box and curled a vicious shot that startled the Polish defence, sealing France's victory.
The superstar completed his brace in the first minute of added time in a similar fashion.
Poland got a penalty late in the final minute of added time when Dayot Upamecano handled the ball inside the box. Robert Lewandowski stepped up to the spot, and his shot was saved by Hugo Lloris.
However, replays from VAR showed that Lloris has stepped over the line before Lewandowski took the shot, and the penalty was retaken, with Lewandowski finally converting. The match ended 3-1 to France.
France will meet England in their quarterfinal match on Saturday (local time) , who also easily overcame Senegal by 3 goals to nil.
The match was decided early on in the first half by the Three Lions' clever plays in midfield.
In the 39th minute, Jude Bellingham and Jordan Henderson suddenly appeared inside Senegal's box in place of England's strikers, and Bellingham was able to cross in for Henderson who found the back of the net.
Just seven minutes later from a counter attack, Phil Foden's great through ball found Harry Kane, who was through on goal and scored his first goal in the 2022 World Cup to double England's lead.
England did not relent and looked for more goals to secure the victory. Phil Foden again, was instrumental when his dribble and cross evades the Senegalese defence, and reached Bukayo Saka who slotted past Chelsea's Edouard Mendy to seal England's place in the quarterfinals. — VNS