Time to say goodbyes
12:00 AM, July 01, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:54 AM, July 01, 2018

Time to say goodbyes

It's time for some tearful goodbyes as the World Cup goes down to wire.

Half of 16 teams are to be knocked out, and many of the glittering stars in the world football will bow out in tears. There will be no scope for draws, and play will roll into extra-time and spot-kicks to decide for whom the bell will toll.

In this round of 16, curtains will also fall on some of the biggest stars in the World Cup, with perhaps the biggest already bidding au revoir as Lionel Messi's Argentina were beaten 4-3 by France in their match yesterday.

Who will be next to pack up their bags -- Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis  Suarez, Neymar, Isco, Romelu Lukaku, Harry Kane or Luka Modric? Football fans across the world may keep their fingers crossed, but the tournament has reached a stage when stars will shine or fall. There will be no second chances.

For fans, tonight holds the most crucial hours of tournament, when two of the four leading football nations -- already-eliminated Argentina and either Portugal or Uruguay -- will head home with broken hearts. And yesterday night may have been the last night for the other half of the two greatest footballers of all time -- Ronaldo -- to captivate the world or bow out of the tournament as Messi had done.

Together, the two champion  players evenly shared the past 10 Ballon d'Or trophies but never tasted a World Cup, the ultimate glory in the game. Will Ronaldo progress or will both of them bow out tonight? Are they both going to burst into tears?  You can feel the adrenaline rush through your blood with time ticking away!

Messi was the first of the two to know his fate when Argentina took on France. For sure, Bangladeshi fans have started to feel the presence of butterflies in their stomachs. Argentina had not play like Argentina before then, but they showed up to the crunch match as a team. Unfortunately it was not enough and Messi had no way to turn the tide.

With France leaving Argentina in tears, Messi, at 31, missed the last chance in his prime to add a World Cup to his trophy trove. And along with Messi, it was perhaps the last hurrah for some other stars -- Javier Mashcherano, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel di Maria and so on. On top of that, half of Bangladeshi football fans would have been numb before switching to support some team other than Brazil!

Meanwhile, Portugal are going to face their toughest challenge in the tournament so far when they show up against the Uruguayans at midnight. Uruguay are not a country to be beaten easily. It would be interesting to see how Ronaldo plays to make inroads into the solid defence of the South Americans led by Diego Godin. At 33, Ronaldo will have his last chance to win the first World Cup for Portugal.

Then again, will the Portuguese defence be able to survive the Uruguayan onslaught from Suarez and Edinson Cavani?

Whatever the case, one team has to go home and either Ronaldo or Suarez has to end up with a broken heart.

Sit tight! We will come to know soon.

The writer is former Sports Editor of The Daily Star

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