World Cup 2022 diary: Support for legend Pele as knockout stage begins

The group stage of the 2022 World Cup concluded in dramatic fashion on Friday, with attention turning to the last 16 on Saturday.

Portugal and Brazil both saw their 100 per cent records ended, with South Korea's victory enough to take them through at Uruguay's expense.

Despite their dramatic win over Brazil, Cameroon fell short thanks to Switzerland's defeat of Serbia.

Stats Perform has men on the ground at every match in Qatar, taking in the sights and sounds from an increasingly intriguing tournament.

Understandably, though, there has also been plenty of focus on one of the game's great names.

Brazil send best wishes to their best

News of Pele being admitted to hospital this week has caused understandable concern in Brazil, with the 82-year-old World Cup legend battling bowel cancer.

Brazil's game against Cameroon – their first since the news broke – was surrounded by tributes to the great number 10, starting with a drone-powered lights show that created a 'Pele 10' shirt above Lusail Boulevard.

Inside the stadium, the messages of support for Pele continued. Flags bearing his face could also be spotted among the Brazil fans even before the national anthem started and a banner was unfurled above supporters' heads.

A piece of Pele history

Pele is evidence football's biggest stars came to Qatar long before 2022, believe it or not. In 1973, Santos – with the great forward, then aged 33, on their team – played in Doha against Al Ahli.

Pele was booked in that game, meaning the match really does go down in history. He was never booked in any other senior game across his 22-year playing career.

On display in the 3-2-1 Olympic and Sports Museum is a Santos shirt from that match, as well as a few of Pele's match-worn Brazil jerseys from World Cups gone by.

Saudi excitement after Ronaldo rumours

Cristiano Ronaldo has reportedly been offered a mammoth contract with Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia as he looks for a new club after controversially leaving Manchester United.

Although Saudi Arabia are now out of the World Cup and Ronaldo was playing – and losing – elsewhere on Friday, fans (in Brazil shirts) were welcoming the veteran superstar on Lusail Boulevard.

"CR7, welcome to Saudi," read a banner. "See you soon..."

Another trophy mystery for Pickles the dog

The World Cup has gone missing before. At the 1966 finals, the Jules Rimet Trophy was stolen, only to be recovered by Pickles the dog ahead of England's first and only triumph.

Now, 56 years on, there may be another mystery for Pickles to solve...

The extravagant pre-match displays ahead of each Qatar 2022 fixture had, until Friday, featured a giant inflatable World Cup trophy in the centre of the pitch surrounded by flames and fireworks.

However, these inflatables were absent at all four matches on Friday with no obvious explanation. Has the trophy gone missing again?

South America's 'noisy' press conferences

A coach rescuing his player, furious reporters having been ignored and a unique request from FIFA's moderator – South American press conferences can be colourful affairs, and that has been no different at this World Cup.

The first press conference of the World Cup was Ecuador's. Moises Caicedo appeared alongside coach Gustavo Alfaro and was asked a typical question of the first days in Doha: "What do you think about the World Cup being played in Qatar with the human rights situation?" The midfielder was about to reply, but Alfaro intervened: "He's a player, he has dreams to play the World Cup, don't ask them these questions."

Gustavo Alfaro and Moises Caicedo
Gustavo Alfaro and Moises Caicedo

Even before Uruguay were knocked out of the tournament on Friday, their reporters were angry for reasons completely separate to the poor performance of their team. During the press conference before the match against Ghana, one of the Uruguayan reporters was not selected to ask questions and went wild: "I'm Uruguayan, I want to ask! No way, I want to talk to the coach!"

Then, in the build-up to Argentina's match against Poland on Saturday, Rodrigo De Paul faced the microphones. But before he started, the FIFA moderator followed his typical instructions about questions and the work of the photographers with a further plea to a somewhat noisy audience: "I know it's full of South Americans in this room, but I ask you please to be quiet."

One of Stats Perform's men in the room – an Argentinian – did not take offense, however. "Yes, we are noisy!" he said.