The Qatar World Cup 2022 is reaching its twilight. The quarterfinals have concluded, and eight teams have been filtered down to four - Argentina, Croatia, France and Morocco.
The quarterfinals of this World Cup were one of the best in recent memory. It had everything - late drama, nerve-wracking penalties, individual heroics and controversies.
The last-eight stage of the World Cup had its share of good goals, but what stood out was the immense role the goalkeepers played to keep the dream alive for their teams.
Croatia vs Brazil
Brazil was widely regarded, as the tournament favourite before the start of the quadrennial event. Croatia had impressed everyone with its dogged personality, but the general conception was that it would be the end of the road for the Croatians against the mightly Selecao.
But Zlatko Dalic’s men had other ideas, and they emerged victorious in another penalty shootout to knock the Brazilians out.
For Croatia, it has always been about team effort and not about any individual. But, the special focus goes out to one man in the monumental victory - Dominik Livakovic.
Livakovic has grabbed a huge chunk of the spotlight in this World Cup, and deservedly so. He saved three penalties in the shootout against Japan in the Round of 16 match to help his team qualify for the quarters.
In the quarterfinal against Brazil, Livakovic made 11 saves in 120 minutes. He denied the talismanic Neymar four times, Lucas Paqueta twice and Vincius Jr and Antony, once each to force the match to penalties.
In the shootout, he saved the first penalty of Rodrygo to preserve Croatia’s lead and eventually, it won the shootout as Marquinhos missed the deciding penalty.
Livakovic faced a total of 21 attempts on goal, out of which he made 10 goal interventions. Out of the 11 saves he made, he retained the ball five times. Livakovic had a stunning save percentage of 91.
Netherlands vs Argentina
Lionel Messi grabbed the headlines with a goal and arguably the best assist of the tournament in Argentina’s dramatic quarterfinal against the Netherlands. But it was keeper Emiliano Martinez who took the final spotlight courtesy because of his stellar performance in the penalty shootout.
Martinez did not need to do much throughout the match. The Netherlands attack did not threaten much, till after the 80th minute, when Wout Weghorst scored two late goals to force the match into extra-time. However, the Argentine keeper couldn’t be faulted for the goals.
But, it was in the penalty shootout, where Martinez had the last laugh. He saved the first two Dutch penalties from Virgil Van Dijk and Steven Berghuis to put pressure on the Oranje, and it paid off as Argentina won the shootout 4-3.
Martinez’s performance against the Netherlands had shades of the Argentina vs Colombia, Copa America 2021 semifinal match where the keeper made three saves in the shootout.
Morocco vs Portugal
It was Youssef En-Nesyri’s goal, that scripted a historic 1-0 victory for Morocco against Portugal in the quarterfinals. But, it was keeper Yassine Bounou’s (known as Bono) performance between the sticks that guided the Atlas Lions towards victory.
Bounou became a topic of discussion after his performance in the Round of 16 match against Spain, where he made two saves in the shootout and helped his country qualify for the quarters.
In the quarterfinals against Portugal, he enjoyed a save record of 100%, which speaks volumes about the shift he put in on the day. Two notable saves came from Joao Felix’s curler and Cristiano Ronaldo’s near-post shot, both of which would have been the equaliser.
Post-match numbers revealed Bono threaded passes at an accuracy of 70 per cent, while his long ball accuracy rate was 55 against Cristiano Ronaldo and his men.
Bono won two consecutive ‘Man of the Match’ awards for his performance against Spain and Portugal, but he gifted his award to En-Nesyri after the quarterfinal match against Portugal.
England vs France
The England vs France quarterfinal had a plethora of talent on the field. It was always going to be a closely-contested match, considering the attacking arsenal both teams have, but it was French keeper and captain Hugo Lloris whose clutch performance went a long way in Les Blues’ 2-1 win against the Three Lions.
Becoming France’s all-time highest-capped player with 143 appearances, Lloris made six saves against England, including a brilliant one-on-one stop from a Harry Kane shot. Enjoying a save percentage of 83, Lloris had a total of 45 goal involvements over the course of the match.
Apart from Kane, Lloris made important saves from shots by Bukayo Saka and Jude Bellingham. The only goal Lloris conceded in the match was Kane’s penalty.