The group stages of the World Cup ended yesterday and dare we say there have been some surprise exits already.
It makes for a compelling watch for neutrals, but not so much for the supporters of these nations, who have seen their side crash out of the tournament and back on the plane from Qatar much earlier than expected.
It is even worse for the players, a lot of whom are quite likely playing on this level for their nations for the very last time.
An early exit, or for that matter, an exit at any stage of such a prestigious tournament, is often met with the obvious reactions of sorry and anger from the players. And understandably so.
By leaving prematurely, they have let themselves, their teammates, and the whole country down. It is not an easy pill to swallow.
Both of these emotions were on display yesterday after Uruguay were eliminated. South Korea’s late 2-1 win against Portugal meant Uruguay needed to win by at least 3 goals against Ghana to secure safe passage to the Round of 16. And they fell short, by one goal.
After the game, Luis Suarez, who assisted both the goals his side scored, was inconsolable.
At 35 years, this is quite possibly his last tournament and to see him go out like that is indeed sad.
His strike partner, Edinson Cavani, also 35, came on a late sub and did have a chance or two but could not net the ball. He also had a few VAR calls go against his team, especially one in stoppage time where Cavani was on the ground holding his ankle after a tackle from Alidu Seidu.
And his anger was there for all to see post-match. Cavani, walking towards the dressing room after the loss, punched the VAR monitor and toppled it.
A few fans nearby, probably supporting the South American country, shouted “Perfect” in response to Cavani’s actions.
This wasn’t the only ‘act of violence’ we saw this week after elimination.
After Belgium’s shocking exit earlier, striker Romelu Lukaku punched the side panel of the dugout in anger. Lukaku was probably the most culpable in his side’s game against Croatia. He ended with an xG of 1.73 but failed to convert any chances, getting closer with every attempt but unable to find the net.
His anger was probably aimed at himself than at anything else.
Romelu, still only 29, will quite likely have a chance to right his wrongs in 2026. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said about the Uruguayan duo. It is highly likely that we have seen the last international action for the two lethal strikers.
The knockout rounds start today and we will surely have more upsets and unlikely exits. Qatar officials would surely be hoping all their infrastructure remains intact come the end of the tournament.