Without a doubt, the 2022 FIFA World Cup is moving at breakneck speed. One may also rightly regard this year’s finals as having lived up to expectations.
These expectations are in pole position to be heightened and met once again, given the quality of the Quarter-Final match-ups.
These match-ups will be played on Friday, December 9 and Saturday, December 10.
To begin proceedings on Friday, 2018 FIFA World Cup finalists Croatia will take on 2019 Copa America championships Brazil. While Croatia may not have enjoyed the same spirited 2018 campaign, they have done just enough to arrive at this stage.
Having made it past tournament giant-killers Japan on penalties, they may be fancying a repeat against the tournament’s biggest favourites.
Barring a shock 1-0 loss to Cameroon in their final group game, Brazil have enjoyed a relatively smooth campaign so far.
However, off the pitch, Brazil have had cause for concern with injuries. While star man Neymar returned for the emphatic 4-1 victory over South Korea (with a goal for good measure) after missing out on the last two group games, Brazil will be without Arsenal forward Gabriel Jesus for the rest of the tournament due to a knee injury. Notwithstanding, Brazil’s squad depth is more than enough to help them secure a third victory over a European opponent in this tournament.
Hot on the heels of the first tie, two favourites and respective group leaders in the Netherlands and Argentina will square up against one another. It is the biggest test yet for both teams and one can expect a nervy, end-to-end situation. Netherlands would be fancying their chances, with Cody Gakpo proving to be one of the revelations of the tournament with three goals.
Denzel Dumfries and Davy Klaassen, have two assists apiece and would be looking to add to their respective tallies against the South American champions. On the other hand, all eyes will once again be on Argentina’s Lionel Messi, whose team contributions (three goals and an assist) have been instrumental in bringing them this far. With Angel Di Maria billed to start after sitting out the tie against Australia due to a precaution, coupled with the presence of prolific Netherlands midfielder Frenkie De Jong, neutrals are in for a thriller.
The penultimate Quarter-Final fixture is arguably the trickiest affair. While the presence of Portugal at this stage comes as no surprise (despite having not made it this far since Germany 2006), not many expected the same from Morocco.
Morocco have enjoyed a dream campaign, topping a group with Belgium and Croatia before going on to defeat favourites Spain on penalties in an entertaining Round of 16 encounter. Hakim Ziyech, Yourself El-Nesyri, Achraf Hakimi and Yassine Bono, among others, have been instrumental to their progress and would be looking to record another upset against a European heavyweight. While this should keep Portugal on alert, they have the squad and the momentum to kill off Morocco’s dreams.
Gonçalo Ramos broke into the top scorers list with a hat-trick on his first start and maybe fancying a successive start. Bruno Fernandes, the joint-top assist provider of the campaign so far, would also be looking to add to his tally. Of course, Portugal still have the Cristiano Ronaldo element to turn things around when necessary.
Two European heavyweights, France and England, would be closing out the match-ups with a tie that is also guaranteed to thrill neutrals.
Kylian Mbappe has been in mesmerising form, having knocked in five goals and recorded two assists so far. At age 23, he has nine World Cup goals to this credit and would most likely add to the tally before the curtains fall in Qatar.
In addition, Olivier Giroud has scored three goals so far and stands as the all-time leading goalscorer of the French national team. Karim Benzema’s absence may have been a big blow, but France are getting by just fine.
On England’s part, one may argue that they have trailed a fairly easy trajectory. It is one they have made the most of, nonetheless, with Bukayo Saka and Marcus Rashford bagging three goals. France may be the better team, but surprises and upsets are rife in football.
All in all, a great weekend of football awaits. For each of the final eight teams, the world is theirs to take.