Qatar 2022 has been a World Cup like no other in so many ways. It's the first time since 1994 that no team finished the group stage with nine points. This tournament is probably matching that of 2002 one in terms of the so-called lesser teams punching above their weights.
Interestingly, this is the second World Cup in Asia since the 2002 tournament and it's the first time three teams from Asia (AFC) have made the knockouts. In fact, eight out of 16 teams in the last 16 are from outside Europe, compared to six from the last World Cup in Russia.
There have been glimpses but no European team could show complete dominance so far in the showpiece event. Since that 2002 event, no non-European team could win the World Cup and this year's tournament may very well see Europe lose its grip on the trophy. Here's why:
France: Bench strength exposed
Despite injuries to some key players, holders France surely have enough talent in the bag to defend the title. Their powerful performance in the first two matches showed why they are one of the best teams in the tournament. Didier Deschamps fielded a second-string side in the third group game against a much lower-ranked Tunisia and ended up losing.
For now, it may not be a worry for him and France but the evident lack of strength of the reserve bench might be a worry deep into the tournament if there are more injury concerns. Apart from that, Deschamps knows the strength of the first-choice players quite well and they are easily the strongest European side in the event.
England: Southgate has to make tough selection calls
England started the tournament in the best way possible by thrashing Asia's best-ranked team Iran. They looked a pretty strong outfit and in the third match, they made several changes. Marcus Rashford and Phil Foden started in place of Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling and both of them were among the goals.
Rashford, in particular, was outstanding. Now, what do they do? Do they bring back Saka and Sterling or retain the scorers? Also, Harry Kane is yet to open his account in the tournament. England might face France in the quarterfinals and against such a high-scoring team, Kane needs to return to his best.
Spain: Defense not convincing
Spain were magnificent in their first game against Costa Rica and established their position as one of the top favourites. The reputation, however, dwindled as the tournament progressed and Spain didn't look as threatening as the first game. In fact, they were momentarily out of the top two spots on D-day with Costa Rica taking the lead against Germany.
But they finally made the knockouts but had two unconvincing games in the group stage. Their possession game was challenged big time by the high pressing of Germany and at times Japan and in fact, Japan substitutes Ritsu Doan and Kaoru Mitoma absolutely dismantled their defense.
Unai Simon and Sergio Busquets didn't have a great game against Japan and it will be a worry for Luis Enrique's young side when they face a spirited Morocco in the last 16.
Portugal: Ronaldo needs to fire
Portugal were one of the first few teams to secure a spot in the round of 16. Their Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes has been in great form in the tournament. But in big games, they will need their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo to fire which as of now, doesn't seem likely. He scored Portugal's first goal from the spot in the World Cup but remained largely ineffective on the pitch.
Against South Korea, his side conceded a loss and the Portuguese captain had a forgettable game. He even missed a one-on-one with Kim Seung-Gyu but his effort was too weak to trouble the keeper and he was eventually taken off after 65 minutes. They face Switzerland in the round of 16 and it won't be easy for Fernando Santos' men.
Croatia: Unbeaten so far but nowhere near the best
Belgium were probably the only side that could challenge them in the group but they were "too old to do so". A draw against them ensured Luka Modric and Co. the top spot in the group. They have been unbeaten in the World Cup but the 0-0 draw with Belgium was their second such result.
They only won one out of three matches and were far from their best. They are very lucky to be paired up with Japan in the round of 16, on paper the weakest team in the knockout stages. But the Samurai Blue impressed in the group stages with their sudden burst of high pressing and it can hurt the 2018 runner-ups as well.
Poland: How long will they ride their luck?
Poland were extremely lucky to progress to the round of 16 despite a loss against Argentina because the other result went in their favour. Poland haven't been a very good side in the tournament and their biggest star Robert Lewandowski hasn't had the kind of impact he is known to have.
He sure broke the World Cup duck by scoring one in the second match but had a poor game against Argentina in the big game. They will face holders France in the round of 16 and an exit looks almost inevitable.
Switzerland: Inexperience in making it big
Switzerland have made the round of 16 for the third time in a row but have made it past the quarterfinals way back in 1954. They played well to beat Serbia 3-2 in an ebbed-and-flowed game but the lack of individual brilliance might hurt them in big games. They lack consistency in the attacking third i.e. they don't have consistent goalscorers.
But they will fancy themselves against Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal and exploit whatever weaknesses they have. Xherdan Shaqiri returned to the team in the previous game and scored the first goal. Against Portugal, Yann Sommer will be tested and the penalty-stopper will have to be at his brilliant best if there's a penalty shootout.