Every game in the World Cup is special in its own way, yet, Saturday just seemed to have that extra layer of cream. Two quarterfinals were played on the night, both having their own unique stories to tell.
The first game of the night saw the Moroccan team take on Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, the clear favourites of the tie, for a spot in the semifinal. No African side had ever made it to the last four in the World Cup before, but that was going to change at Al Thumama Stadium.
Walid Regragui’s men matched Portugal like-for-like in the opening minutes and took the lead in the 42nd through Youssef En Nesyri’s outstanding header. The 2016 European Champions pushed hard but could not create many solid chances past Morocco’s resilient defence.
Ultimately, the game ended in heartbreak for Ronaldo and Portugal and jubilation for Morocco who became the first side from their continent to make the semifinals.
Later in the night, the world witnessed a battle between two equals. England and France had both impressed in their run-up to the last eight. The two sides fought tooth and nail in an enthralling game involving three goals, but it was the defending champions who took the spoils.
Real Madrid’s Aurelien Tchouameni opened the scoring, but England equalised through a Harry Kane penalty. It was Olivier Giroud who gave them the lead late on in the game, but the Three Lions were presented with another penalty moments later to restore parity. Stepping up for the second time against Hugo Lloris, Kane misplaced his shot and sent England crashing out of the tournament.
Madrid Universal brings you an overview of the performances of Real Madrid players on the day.
Aurelien Tchouameni (France vs England)
France’s outing against England saw Aurelien Tchouameni go through a roller coaster of experiences, emotions and feelings. He was the hero at one point, but also equally responsible as the villain at other moments in the game.
The Real Madrid midfielder once again started for Didier Deschamps’ side, riding on the back of his superb form thus far. He was deployed alongside Adrien Rabiot in the deep midfield.
His night went into a state of paradise in the 17th minute when he scored a golazo for Les Bleus. The move began in a quick sequence of passes between Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, and Antoine Griezmann who passed the ball to Tchouameni who took one touch and struck the ball hard, through the legs of Jude Bellingham and past Jordan Pickford.
Ironically, it was Tchouameni who gave away the equalising penalty to England with a senseless challenge. Bukayo Saka’s menacing run in the French box led to a moment of madness from the Real Madrid ace’s end, tripping the Englishman in the box. The referee did not have to think twice about his decision and pointed to the spot.
Apart from his massive error in judgement in defence, he had a moderate game given the amount of pressure Gareth Southgate’s side put him under. Tchouameni made a crucial intervention in just the second minute of the game to deny Phil Foden’s ball into the area and broke the English play and most of his game followed suit.
In ninety minutes, the youngster recorded 48 touches and completed 37 passes with a success rate of 91%. He made one key tackle and won five duels but did not have too much more to contribute.
In short, France’s midfield was overrun by the English midfield on the night but Tchouameni did well to hold on to the wild game and hamper the opponents’ progress down the middle of the park.
Eduardo Camavinga (France vs England)
As expected, Camavinga did not participate in the quarterfinal tie and stayed on the bench throughout the ninety minutes. Deschamps did not turn to his bench except for Kingsley Coman in the 79th minute.
Camavinga may not have a role to play in the rest of France’s campaign, but sharing the dressing room with such a team will go a long way in developing his game.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Las Palmas | La Liga
The heartbreak at Civitas Metropolitano saw Real Madrid drop down to third on the La Liga standings for the first time this season. They now sit on 15 points from six games, only one point behind leaders Barcelona.
Yet, there is barely time for the team to recover. Less than 72 hours after their defeat, the Merengues play host to Las Palmas in the seventh Matchday of La Liga in a tricky fixture.
Garcia Pimienta’s side have improved leaps and bounds in recent times, although their start to the new season has been far from positive.
Las Palmas were winless in their first five league games but picked up a first win in their most recent outing against Granada.
With the visitors coming off their first win and the hosts their first loss, it will be interesting to see how the game of momentum plays out.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Wednesday’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu.
The important reaction
Having secured six wins in six games under their belt, the threat of breaking the moment was always lurking around the corner from Real Madrid. After all, their wins to that point were not always convincing.
Jude Bellingham’s magic, Joselu’s constant threat and the talented midfield helped Los Blancos on their way to scrappy wins over the weeks. Yet, it was always glaringly clear that they had deficiencies in defence and the final third.
All of Real Madrid’s troubles came to the forefront on Sunday and were left glaringly exposed. The end result was a defeat that left a bitter taste in the mouths of players and fans.
Despite facing their first setback of the season, however, the men in white have no time to lament. After all, the hectic schedule leaves them little time between games.
It is thus of utmost importance that Real Madrid does not slip into a vicious state of negative momentum. As they face off against Las Palmas midweek, Carlo Ancelotti’s side needs a strong and dominant win to keep spirits high.
Considering that they will be back at the Santiago Bernabeu, Real Madrid will be the favourites by far on the night. Nevertheless, there will be pressure on the players to take all three points.
Limelight on the manager
The aftermath of the defeat to Atletico Madrid sent ripples through the Spanish media. It was reported that the Real Madrid board was not entirely happy with the list of ‘sins’ committed by Ancelotti in the clash at Civitas Metropolitano.
It thus goes without saying that the limelight will be on the manager on Wednesday.
For starters, the Italian gaffer must get the starting lineup right and not go overboard with his rotations. Aurelien Tchouameni is a must for the Merengues’ defensive efforts and must be introduced back into the lineup midweek.
Moreover, there will be pressure on him to revert to the winning 4-4-2 diamond formation featuring two natural forwards including a striker.
With Joselu returning to the lineup, Jude Bellingham must shift back to his more comfortable attacking midfield role.
Moreover, the manager must strike the right balance between youth and experience, for both Toni Kroos and Luka Modric can no longer start together.
Perhaps the most important job Ancelotti is faced with, however, is in defence. Both David Alaba and Antonio Rudiger appeared lost in the last game, and it remains to be seen if the manager ropes Nacho Fernandez in to strike a better dynamic.
Return of the magician
While Thibaut Courtois and Eder Militao are amongst Real Madrid’s most valuable players, it is Vinicius Jr’s injury that hit the club the hardest.
The Merengues unfortunately have a very thin and fragile forward line this season with just three players competing for two spots. Of the three names, Vinicius is the single most important one.
The Brazilian star may not have started the 2023-24 season at his optimal level considering his altered role in the new formation. Yet, he is the Merengues’ most lethal weapon to break open defences and create chances.
The men in white have had problems since the Selecao star hobbled off the field injured against Celta Vigo.
Their games against Getafe and Union Berlin were both down to last-gasp winners, while the defeat to Atletico Madrid showed everything wrong with the team.
Vinicius Jr is set to make his return in tomorrow’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu, and there could be no better news for Ancelotti.