A missed penalty, an added-time goal, tears, revenge (of sorts) and a red card for over-celebrating – the final round of group matches did not disappoint.
With time ticking down Uruguay were heading into the last 16 as they led Ghana 2-0 in their grudge match, but South Korea’s 91st-minute strike gave them a 2-1 win over Portugal.
That left the South Americans needing one goal and Ghana needing two in the final eight added minutes to qualify, but neither outcome materialised and the Asian side, watching mobile phone footage on the pitch 15 miles away across the city, were able to celebrate snatching second place in Group H.
In Group G Cameroon recorded a famous victory over Brazil but still missed out on the last 16 as, for the first time in World Cup history, a nation from all six competing continents made it out of the group stage.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at how Friday unfolded and what is in store as the knockout stage begins.
Luis Suarez’s World Cup – likely to be his last – ended with the former Liverpool and Barcelona striker in tears on the bench as a 2-0 victory over Ghana was not enough for Uruguay to secure progress.
The veteran forward, 36 in January, had a hand in both first-half goals for Giorgian de Arrascaeta after the African nation – 12 years on from Asamoah Gyan missing a penalty which would have put them into a semi-final following a Suarez handball – had seen Sergio Rochet save Andre Ayew’s spot-kick.
But Hwang Hee-chan’s late winner sent South Korea through, with Uruguay and Ghana both left fruitlessly chasing the goals which would have turned things around again.
Boss Diego Alonso refused to blame his squad, saying: “I don’t have anything to say to my players because they broke their backs, they gave their best versions.
“I don’t want to use excuses but everyone can see what happened in the previous matches.
“I deeply regret we are out of the World Cup.”
For Ghana the satisfaction of denying their opponents the late goal which would have put them through – and so gaining a semblance of revenge for 2010 – was tempered by their own failure to sneak into the last 16.
“Football is beautiful, sometimes it is ugly. It is ugly for us today, there is no human being in the world who hasn’t missed a penalty,” said boss Otto Addo, the Borussia Dortmund talent coach who is now stepping down from his role with the national team.
Highs and lows for Cameroon and Aboubakar
Cameroon captain Vincent Aboubakar scored a memorable late winner against Brazil and was then dismissed for whipping his shirt off in celebration, but his goal could not prevent their World Cup exit.
On what could have been a truly famous night for the African side, another shock result this time did not have the desired effect as Switzerland’s win over Serbia made their progress to the last 16 for the first time in 32 years impossible irrespective of the 1-0 victory at the Lusail Stadium.
For a brief period Aboubakar’s superb header in the third minute of added time had Cameroon believing in the impossible and federation president Samuel Eto’o frantically checking his phone in the VIP section for news from Stadium 974.
Aboubakar was shown a second yellow card for removing his shirt and, when the whistle went on Cameroon’s first World Cup win in 20 yearsm they did not have long to wait to discover their fate and their joy was dampened after learning Serbia had not managed to force an equaliser.
Swiss roll into the knockout stage
Switzerland booked their spot in the last 16 after edging a heated contest with Serbia 3-2 at Stadium 974.
Xherdan Shaqiri opened the scoring in a fiery end-to-end first half before Aleksandar Mitrovic levelled six minutes later.
Dusan Vlahovic handed Serbia the lead after 35 minutes but saw it cancelled out by Breel Embolo, who sent the sides in level at the break.
It took Remo Freuler just three minutes after the restart to net the eventual winner and, despite chances for both sides, ensure Switzerland sealed second spot in Group G.
FIFA defend VAR line call
FIFA insists Japan’s second goal in their shock World Cup victory over Spain was legitimate “on the evidence available”, and added some of the images shared online were “misleading”.
Ao Tanaka bundled home from close range to give Japan a 2-1 lead, but the goal was only given following a lengthy VAR review after it appeared the ball had gone out of play before Brighton’s Kaoru Mitoma cut it back from the byline.
The goal sparked huge debate and on Friday the game’s global governing body published two posts on its official Twitter account by way of clarification.
“The video match officials used the goal line camera images to check if the ball was still partially on the line or not,” the first read.
A second post added: “Other cameras may offer misleading images but on the evidence available, the whole of the ball was not out of play.”
USA progress shows state of the game – Van Gaal
Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal insists he has not been surprised by last-16 opponents USA’s progress at the World Cup.
The veteran boss believes Gregg Berhalter’s side are one of the best-drilled teams at Qatar 2022.
He said: “Perhaps the USA hadn’t expected that from this squad, but if you watch them play, it’s crystal clear they’ve had opportunities.
“I don’t think it’s a surprise to be quite frank. But it’s nothing we can’t overcome. We also have a good team.”
Aussies to take attack to Argentina
Australia coach Graham Arnold has vowed his side will take on Argentina with “all guns blazing” in their World Cup last-16 showdown.
The Socceroos were surprise qualifiers from Group D, not least after losing their first match 4-1 against France.
“It’s a one-off game, anything could happen,” said Arnold. “It’s 11 v 11, a battle, a war and we’ve got to fight that. We’ll give it everything, all guns blazing.
“We respect Argentina, for sure, but we can’t focus solely on them.”
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Who’s up next?
Netherlands v USA (3pm, BBC One)
Argentina v Australia (7pm, BBC One)