We’re currently in the midst of the first-ever winter World Cup, which has so far been a feast for the eyes, but as we approach the quarter-finals, the stakes couldn’t be much higher.
It’s time to take a quick look at the four quarter-final match-ups and see who has better chances of progressing into the coveted last four.
Croatia vs Brazil
It’s been far from an eventful tournament for Croatia, but despite only winning one of their four matches in Qatar, they’ve still made it to the quarter-finals.
After only winning once in the group stages (D2), Zlatko Dalic’s men crashed Japan out in the round of 16 on penalties to set up a mouth-watering tie against Brazil.
Unlike their rivals, Tite’s team strolled into the knockouts as Group G winners (W2, L1) before demolishing South Korea 4-1 last time out in arguably their best performance of the tournament.
The Selecao have thus far lived up to their status as pre-tournament favourites, and with attacking potential bursting at the seams, we see them as comfortable winners in his quarter-final contest.
Prediction: Croatia 1-3 Brazil
Netherlands vs Argentina
This one’s catchy as both teams have fared well in Qatar, especially the Netherlands, who are out to make amends for missing out in 2018.
While they’ve yet to make it to the list of World Cup champions, the Dutch, led by the 71-year-old Louis van Gaal, head into the quarter-finals as the only team to have won all four matches in Qatar.
Following a 3-1 humbling of the United States in the first knockout round, the Netherlands will take the Education City Stadium field looking to maintain their stellar form during van Gaal’s third stint (W13, D6, L1).
Standing between them and their third appearance in the World Cup quarter-finals from 2010 onwards is Argentina, whose captain Lionel Messi seeks a career-defining achievement in the Middle East.
La Albiceleste squeezed past Australia 2-1 last time out, and it’s fair to say they’ve yet to display their full potential in Qatar, casting doubt on Messi’s bid to follow in the footsteps of Diego Maradona.
So we’re inclined to believe the Netherlands could send La Pulga home come Friday.
Prediction: Netherlands 2-1 Argentina
Morocco vs Portugal
Morocco are a living example that you don’t need a host of European superstars to go the distance in sports today, though they’re boasting more than a few themselves.
Having finished top of a highly competitive Group F without losing a single game to Belgium, Canada and Croatia (W2, D1), the Atlas Lions managed to upset Spain in the round of 16 via a penalty shootout.
Carrying the torch for Africa after becoming the first Arab nation to advance into the quarter-finals of a World Cup, the Moroccans have conceded just once in Qatar.
Yet if there’s a team that could cope with Morocco’s water-tight defence, it’s Portugal, who dismantled Switzerland 6-1 in their round-of-16 tie to reach the World Cup last-8 for the first time since 2016.
With 12 goals under their belt, Fernando Santos’ men are the joint-most prolific team in the 2022 World Cup alongside England, and it’s hard to see them ending Morocco’s fairytale here.
Prediction: Morocco 1-2 Portugal
England vs France
The World Cup quarter-finals round off with a mammoth clash between familiar foes England and France, and although they first met in 1923, this is just their third World Cup encounter and the first since 1982.
Whether ‘it’s coming home’ or not massively depends on this fixture, as the Three Lions go head-to-head with the reigning world champions, who have been on a tear in Qatar.
Gareth Southgate’s men have played down scoring concerns in the Middle East by tallying a whopping 12 goals at the tournament, 25% of which came in a 3-0 thumping of Senegal in the first knockout round.
However, it’s hard to imagine the 1966 World Cup winners packing a punch against Les Bleus.
Inspired by high-flying Kylian Mbappe, France first conquered Group D with a game to spare before trouncing Poland 3-1 in the round of 16 to set up this blockbuster tie.
With both sides having a rich attacking potential, you’d be forgiven for anticipating another high-scoring affair, but we expect extra time or penalties to decide this game.
It’s simply impossible to give one or another the upper hand.
Prediction: France 1-1 England
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