World Cup Team of Round of 16 

The World Cup Round of 16 was nothing short of a thrilling action movie. Although there weren’t many surprises, the quality of each match was off the charts. En route to finding the eight best teams of the tournament, some players have shown their caliber to give their respective teams significant advantages. Let’s look at some of the best shining stars of the World Cup’s first knockout stage.

GK: Yassine Bounou (Morocco)

Yassine Bounou (Morocco). Photo Credit: TSN

Morocco making history in the Round of 16 had a lot to do with the brilliance of Yassine Bounou, or Bono as most fans call him. He was the leader of an unbreakable Morocco defense alongside captain Romain Saiss. The 31-year-old Sevilla goalkeeper played ultra-focus in all 120 minutes and made outstanding head-up saves. But Bono was truly big-time in the penalty shootout — guessing every shot correctly and saving two — to book Morocco a surprising entry to the quarterfinals.

CB: Thiago Silva (Brazil)

World Cup Thiago Silva
Thiago Silva (Brazil). Photo Credit: Sports Mole

Brazil had a walk in the park against a much inferior South Korea in the Round of 16. But that didn’t overshadow a masterclass performance from 38-year-YOUNG Thiago Silva. The Chelsea defender was there to diffuse most of the scoring opportunities for South Korea, winning every duel and making crucial interceptions. More impressively, he provided an instrumental assist to Richarlison with a refined touch. That is the Samba inside of a warrior!

CB: Pepe (Portugal)

Pepe (Portugal). Photo Credit: NBC Chicago

As we advance into the competition, the role of experienced veteran players is further mentioned. Hence, we have an appearance of a 39-year-YOUNG Pepe in the lineup (sorry, Thiago Silva, you aren’t the oldest here). On the day when the captain’s armband was given to him, he delivered a masterful performance. Defensively, he was solid like a rock, disappointing all efforts from Embolo or Shaqiri. The air space above the box was his to clear, and the oppositional box also belonged to him. He outjumping all younger players from a gorgeous Bruno’s corner to head home for Portugal was the cherry on top of this fantastic display. 

CB: Daley Blind (Netherlands)

Daley Blind (Netherlands). Photo Credit: The Sun

Daley Blind typically plays as an LWB in Louis van Gaal’s formation, but we know he is versatile enough to be a center-back. Did we just witness a throwback of the 2014 World Cup version of Daley Blind against the USA? The 32-year-old gave Dest a hard time on the wing by being impeccable on defense and productive on offense. He cut inside from the wing and finished like a pure striker from Dumfries’ cross for his first-ever World Cup goal before returning the favor in the second half to seal the score.

RWB: Denzel Dumfries (Netherlands)

Denzel Dumfries (Netherlands). Photo Credit: Sporting News

Alongside the mentioned Daley Blind, Denzel Dumfries was the second half of the wing-attacking duos that terrorized the USA’s defense. But the damage done by Inter Milan’s player was even more severe. The Netherlands’ offensive scheme was scheduled around Dumfries’ excellent crossing ability. And on two same runs, he delivered two pin-point assists to Depay and Blind to give the Oranje the lead. He continued to be phenomenal in the second period. Just minutes after making a goal-line clearance, he joined the attack and pulled a magnificent first-time finish to make it three. An offensive output that strikers can dream of.

LWB: Raphaël Guerreiro (Portugal)

Raphael Guerreiro (Portugal). Photo Credit: Football FanCast

Taking over the left flank after Nuno Mendes picked up an injury, Raphael Guerreiro showed everyone why he was the unanimous pick for this position in the past years. The Dortmund left-back was pivotal for Portugal against Switzerland. He locked down Edmilson Fernandes and any of the Swiss wing threats on defense. And on offense, Guerreiro once again showed his knack for goals when he cleanly finished the pass from Goncalo Ramos on the counter. And in the final minutes, the 28-year-old sparked the attack before Leao put the nails in the coffin, capping off a marvelous performance.

CM: Jude Bellingham (England)

World Cup Bellingham
Jude Bellingham (England). Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

With Musiala and Pedri out of the competition, Jude Bellingham seemed to have run away with the “Best Young player” award for this World Cup. That title was concreted into the former Birmingham player’s hand after a genius display against Senegal in the Round of 16. Bellingham bossed the midfield, providing much-needed defensive help while advancing the ball on the attack. One of those efforts paid off with an assist to Jordan Henderson. He plays maturely for his age, a true superstar that every team would desire.

CM: Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco)

Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco). Photo Credit: FourFourTwo

With Bellingham in the Best XI, we should pair him with a defensive juggernaut to boost his attacking characteristic. And who fulfills that duty better than Sofyan Amrabat of Morocco? Playing against a stacked Spanish midfield, most fans expected Morocco to struggle. But Amrabat and the Moroccans shellshocked not only us but also the Spanish. He almost single-handedly carried the ball recovery duty for the African side. He outlasted Pedri and Busquets, still looking fit after 120 minutes. There was a meme going around of Amrabat bossing the Barcelona midfielders. Well, what can we say because it’s a fact!

RW: Lionel Messi (Argentina)

World Cup Messi
Lionel Messi (Argentina). Photo Credit: Eurosport

How many times do we have to talk about Messi’s genius? Lionel Scaloni’s game plan was to let Messi do his magic so Argentina would win. And it worked. The little magician opened the scoreline with a trademark goal. It was not a powerful shot, but it was lethal enough for Matthew Ryan to watch the ball slowly roll into the back of the net. Messi continued to display his playmaking skill in the second half. But all his passes were wasted as Lautaro Martinez was unbelievably inaccurate. 

LW: Kylian Mbappe (France)

World Cup Mbappe
Kylian Mbappe (France). Photo Credit: NBC4 Washington

Facing a weaker Poland in the Round of 16, we were bound to expect another superb display from the speedster Kylian Mbappe. France started off slow, and when the fans imagined a scoreless scene going into the break, Mbappe set up Giroud with a magnificent through ball to break the deadlock. With a goal in hand, France dominated the possession game. And what had to come came. Mbappe put himself on the scoresheet with a thunderbolt of a finish before defeating the amazing Szczesny again with a magnificent curler into the top corner. Two world-class scores from difficult positions may have solidified Mbappe’s status as the clear frontrunner for the World Cup Golden Ball.

ST: Gonçalo Ramos (Portugal)

Goncalo Ramos (Portugal). Photo Credit: TEAMtalk

Fernando Santos made a gutsy call by benching an out-of-form Ronaldo for 21-year-old Goncalo Ramos in a crucial World Cup knockout game against Switzerland. He opted for Ramos, who only had three international caps for Portugal before the match, rather than someone like Andre Silva. And props to Santos. What a decision that was! The Benfica opened the scoreline with a cannonball into the top corner. In the second half, it was still the Goncalo Ramos show. He doubled his tally with a delicate touch from a Dalot’s cross before completing his hattrick with a cheeky chip shot minutes later. In between the two goals, he even got himself an assist. His stock price will skyrocket after this performance.

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