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The 2022 World Cup is reduced to eight teams. And, my god, football fans are in for a treat as the quarter-finals begin Friday in Qatar.
Football royalty headlines all four games – with a Cinderella. Brazil, five-time winner. Defending champion France. Finalist 2018 Croatia. Argentina and its star Lionel Messi. England, Netherlands and Portugal. Morocco join the party, making their first-ever quarter-final appearance.
Friday is a shock of football grandeur. In the first quarter-final, Brazil face Croatia. And this is followed by Argentina and the Netherlands.
Saturday’s showpiece game is England and France, with Morocco and Portugal’s intriguing game earlier in the day.
The winner punches his ticket for the semi-finals. The loser goes home.
A look at every match in the quarter-finals
Brazil v. Croatia (Friday, December 9, 10 a.m. ET): Brazil is full of one-named wonders like Neymar (who came back against South Korea after missing two games with an ankle injury), Richarlison (can someone stop talking about it glittering side slash goal against Serbia?), and their sensational goalkeeper Alisson.
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Top-ranked and five-time champions Brazil have lived up to their pedigree and expectations so far in this tournament – and perhaps none better than their round of 16 tie against South Korea, with a lead 4-0 in the first 36 minutes.
Croatia will have their hands full even though they made it to the 2018 World Cup final. They haven’t looked as strong or sharp in this tournament. But just like four years ago, they found a way to keep winning and move on to the next round. Team captain Luka Modrić will have to carry his team, supported by goalkeeper Dominik Livaković who stopped three Japanese shots in the round of 16.
Argentina v. Netherlands (Friday, December 9, 2 p.m. ET): Argentina. Need we say more? The other South American powerhouse is eager to hand star captain Lionel Messi his first-ever World Cup title. At 35, this is probably his last chance. Messi is one of the best to ever play the game and he wants to add that missing trophy to his CV.
Argentina started the tournament with a shock loss to Saudi Arabia but turned things around by beating Mexico and Poland to win the group and then beat Australia in the round of 16.
The Netherlands are the best team to never win a World Cup. The Dutch have played in three World Cup finals (1974, 1978 and 2010). The Netherlands weren’t at their best in the group stage at the 2022 tournament, but showed their strength against the United States in the round of 16 with a 3-1 victory guided by their longtime manager Louis van Gaal.
The Netherlands will rely on Memphis Depay, who scored the opening goal against the United States, and Denzel Dumfries, who had two assists and a goal of his own. The Dutch defense sometimes seemed shaky against the Americans. If the United States failed to capitalize on mistakes, Argentina probably won’t.
Morocco vs. Portugal (Saturday, December 10, 10 a.m. ET): This quarter-final game was the result of two football upsets in the round of 16. Morocco dispatched the former Spanish champions with 90 minutes of scoreless play, 30 minutes of added time and a superb penalty shoot-out which saw Moroccan goalkeeper Yassine Bounou (known as Bono) blocked two shots and a third bounced off the post. In fact, not a single opponent has scored against Morocco in this World Cup – neither Croatia, nor Belgium, nor Spain (the goal credited to Canada in the group stage was an own goal from Morocco ). Few teams in World Cup history can boast such defensive dominance.
Morocco is the first Arab country to go this far in a World Cup and the first African country to reach the quarter-finals since Ghana in 2010. Moroccan fans from across the Arab world descended on Doha and filled the stands at each of these matches in Qatar. sounds like home contests. Apart from the team’s solid play on both sides of the pitch, this may be one of their greatest assets.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the round of 16 was that Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo was on the bench for the kick-off against Switzerland. The decision stunned the footballing world. The last time Ronaldo didn’t start for Portugal at a World Cup was in 2006. The decision to seat one of the world’s most famous athletes turned out to be a good one. decision. His replacement Gonçalo Ramos scored not one, not two but three goals in Portugal’s 6-1 draw.
Ronaldo played but long after the game against Switzerland was decided. The reshuffle signals a potential new era for Portugal, who seemed to be doing well with his absence.
England vs. France (Saturday, December 10, 2 p.m. ET): France entered this World Cup as defending champions and the star of the 2018 tournament picked up where they left off. Striker Kylian Mbappé has scored five goals – the most of any player. His incredible speed and ball handling continue to dazzle opponents and teammates alike. He scored two goals and had an assist in France’s 3-1 round of 16 win over Poland.
Mbappé, 23, is not the only star of the France team. Antoine Griezmann has played 71 consecutive games for his country. He stepped up his efforts in Qatar after several key players suffered injuries ahead of this tournament, which led to a restructuring of the team. He was moved into midfield – and shone. Olivier Giroud also shone. He scored his 52nd goal for France against Poland, becoming his country’s top scorer. France is stored.
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If there is a team that knows how to play with high expectations, it is England. The Three Lions have just one World Cup title, starting in 1966. Yet England players (and fans) expect to be in the mix every four years and 2022 is no different. . Captain Harry Kane has excelled for club and country and is leading his team forward. Perhaps the most important man on the pitch for England will be Kyle Walker. He will probably be the defender in charge of trying to slow down Mbappé.
England were solid in Qatar with three wins and a draw (0-0 result against the United States in pool). Look for Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka to be in the mix. They each scored three goals for England in the World Cup.
Fasten your seatbelt friends. The World Cup quarter-finals are about to begin and the next few days should be exciting.
In the United States, all matches are broadcast on Fox or Telemundo.
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