CELTIC had four representatives in the World Cup Finals at 3pm yesterday.
Some six hours later, that total had been halved with only Daizen Maeda and Josip Juranovic flying the champions’ colours in Qatar.
At least, one of those players will be performing in the quarter-finals with Japan due to play Croatia tomorrow afternoon.
Cameron Carter-Vickers and Aaron Mooy are on their way home after the USA and Australia exited the soccer extravaganza in the Middle East following their nation’s losses to the Netherlands and Argentina.
LETHAL LIONEL…Argentina’s superstar striker Lionel Messi fires in the left-foot shot that opened the scoring against Australia with Celtic’s Aaron Mooy just too late to block his effort.
Mystifyingly, the Hoops centre-back, who had been a rock in his country’s solitary win in the tournament – the 1-0 victory over Iran – was left out against Louis van Gaal’s side as they slumped to a 3-1 loss.
The USA made only two changes following their crucial victory with Walker Zimmerman and Jesus Ferreira coming in for Carter-Vickers and the injured Josh Sargent.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter erhautilised all five substitutes in the second-half as the contest slipped away, but Carter-Vickers remained on the bench for the duration.
First-half goals from Memphis Depay and Daley Blind put the Dutch in control before their opponents responded in the 76th minute with an effort from Haji Wright. Denzil Dumfries, however, ended any hopes of a stunning fightback when he volleyed in a cross from Blind seven minutes from time.
DELIGHT AND DESPAIR…Lionel Messi is about to be congratulated by team-mate Julian Alvarez as Aaron Mooy can only look on in Qatar last night.
The Dutch will now turn their attention Friday night’s last-eight confrontation against Argentina after the South Americans, inspired yet again by the mesmerising Lionel Messi, overcame Mooy and his battling Socceroos team-mates.
Messi marked the 1,000th senior game of his career with the breakthrough goal late in the first half and keeper Mat Ryan’s blunder allowed Julian Alvarez to double the advantage early in the second.
The Hoops anchorman and his colleagues, with ex-Celt Jackson Irvine among them, were given a glimmer of hope when Craig Goodwin’s shot deflected in off Enzo Fernandez.
It needed a dramatic tackle from Lisandro Martinez and a superb close-range save from Emiliano Martinez to keep them out as they battled for the equaliser.
IT’LL ALL END IN TEARS…USA coach Gregg Berhalter with Christian Pulisic after the loss to the Dutch.
It was Mooy and the Aussies’ bad luck that Messi decided to conjure up his best game in Qatar as he fired in the most shots and created the most chances.
His magic was required to unlock Australia and once the game opened up he was really able to enjoy himself.
He is now the Netherlands’ problem to solve on Friday evening.
Carter-Vickers, even if it was for only one game, and Mooy deserve applause for their mighty efforts among football’s elite.
Over to you, Daizen Maeda and Josip Juranovic to do Celtic proud as the world looks on.