It feels like just yesterday Ecuador and Qatar were kicking off the FIFA World Cup™. But here we are, in the quarterfinals with each nation just three wins away from eternal glory. There’s been some surprises throughout the tournament, but the final eight teams in Qatar all deserve to be where they are. Each matchup contains tasty storylines and clashing of styles. Let’s dive into each FIFA World Cup™ Quarterfinal matchup. Every game will be on FOX.
Friday – December 9, 2022
Croatia vs Brazil – 10am ET on FOX
Croatia’s road to the quarterfinal has been an interesting one. The 2018 second-place team opened the tournament with a 0-0 tie vs Morocco that saw little offensive production, but plenty of possession, which is normal against that opposition. They then bounced back with a wholoping of Canada, but were then fortunate to not lose to Belgium in their final group stage match thanks to some missed opportunities by the Red Devils. Then, in a match that saw chances for both teams, they outlasted Japan in penalties. Now, this older Croatian team will meet Brazil who have had little resistance throughout the tournament. Yes, they lost to Cameroon with their ‘B team’ but it was an opportunity to rest most of their regular starters. Brazil hasn’t had an issue of creating chances, it’s just been a matter of finishing them, which they put to bed in their 4-1 victory over South Korea. The key for Brazil will be to get ahead early in this match and force Croatia out of their shell. Croatia will try to slow this game down and lean on a set piece or a moment of brilliance from Luka Modric. They are an experienced side, but they haven’t shown much through this tournament, as they’ve just done enough to advance in each stage. Although it’s a tough task for any team in the world taking on Brazil, the pressure is on the Selecao. The longer Croatia can hang around the more that pressure will build.
Netherlands vs Argentina – 2pm ET on FOX
The Albiceleste of Argentina and the Oranje of Holland is a classic match up. These two nations just seem to attract each other in World Cups. This will be the sixth time Argentina and the Netherlands meet in the world’s greatest tournament. Each nation has two victories along with one draw and both have taken very different routes to the quarterfinal. The Netherlands have been mostly steady the whole way through, riding the likes of potential Young Player of the Tournament Cody Gakpo. Their 3-1 victory over the United States in the Round of 16 was nothing short of clinical. Argentina, on the other hand opened, the tournament with a disastrous loss to Saudi Arabia before bouncing back and beating Mexico, Poland and Australia with some superb goals from Lionel Messi and company.
This will be a very intriguing tactical battle. The Dutch showed how capable they are without the ball while leaning on Virgil Van Dijk in defense and transitioning at lightning pace with Frenkie De Jong, Cody Gakpo and Memphis Depay. This is far-and-away the most talented team Argentina will have faced in the tournament. It’s yet to be seen how Netherlands manager Louis Van Gaal will set up, but he has to like his team’s chances in absorbing pressure, winning the ball back and then attacking in transition. The Dutch are fast and have all the technical ability in the world, as they showed they don’t need much to pounce. Van Gaal will likely try to force someone other than Messi to beat him. Players like Julian Alvarez and Enzo Fernendez have pulled their weight but striker Lautaro Martinez has struggled despite being set up by Messi countless times (shades of Gonazlo Higuain, anyone?). When watching Argentina in World Cups, they tend to not respond well to adversity within singular matches. They lack fortitude when times get tough, and pressure has always seemed to fluster the squad (look no further than their first game vs Sadui Arabia). They did bounce back to win their next three matches, but I really like how the Netherlands matchup in this one. However, the reality is there is no predicting what Lionel Messi can accomplish when he’s on the pitch. I think this one goes to penalties, and then all bets are off. Emiliano Martinez is known for being a good goalkeeper against penalties, while Holland’s Andries Noppert is the biggest goalie in the tournament standing 6’8’’. If Messi and Argentina advance, a date with hated rival Brazil most likely looms in the Semifinal. Should that happen, the scenes for that match will be arguably one of the greatest in sport.
Saturday – December 10, 2022
Morocco vs Portugal – 10am ET on FOX
The Cinderella of the FIFA World Cup™, Morocco will take on a Portuguese team who look to have awoken following the benching of Cristiano Ronaldo. Although the result isn’t easy to predict, it’s not hard to see the way that this one will be played. Morocco wants nothing to do with possession. They will rely on a disciplined and compact defense and will pick and choose their chances when going forward. It worked against Spain, but Portugal has more creativity in attack than Spain. While some would say Spain passes for the sake of passing, Portugal has playmakers all over the pitch to make more decisive moves; Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Dalot, João Félix and João Cancelo just to name a few.
It’s been interesting to see Portugal navigate the Cristiano Ronaldo drama while getting results. They got it done against Ghana and Uruguay before a shocking loss to South Korea. Then manager Fernando Santos elected to not start Ronaldo in their Round of 16 match vs Switzerland and put in striker Gonçalo Ramos, who has 9 goals in 11 games for his club Benfica. The result? A World Cup hat trick en route to a dominating 6-1 victory for Portugal. Has this Portuguese side been unlocked now that the manager finally took a stand and made the tough decision to bench arguably the greatest player ever? We’ll see, but if the Portuguese get ahead in this one early, it will be very difficult for Morocco to chase the game, especially with Ronaldo and Rafael Leão ready to come off bench.
England vs France – 2pm ET on FOX
The quarterfinals end with a bang, as two European giants oozing with talent fight for the final spot in the semifinals. France, the defending FIFA World Cup™ champions, have looked just as lethal as they did in 2018, despite not having the likes of Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba. Kylian Mbappe has been nothing short of incredible, while Olivier Giroud has filled in seamlessly at the striker position. England, on the other hand, have done what they’ve needed to do. Despite the critics, Gareth Southgate has navigated his way to the quarterfinals of the World Cup after taking the Three Lions to the Euro Final last summer. It will be interesting to see how Southgate lines up vs France. Based on his history, it’s fair to assume it’ll be a more defensive setup that allows Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden (or Raheem Sterling), and Harry Kane to lead counter attacks. Kyle Walker will likely be tasked with slowing down Mbappe, but the midfield battle will be a joy to watch. It’s yet to be determined who England will pair with 19-year-old sensation Jude Bellingham (likely Declan Rice and either Jordan Henderson/Mason Mout) for, but France’s Aurélien Tchouaméni and Adrian Rabiot will have their hands full. This is a heavyweight battle in every sense of the word and a great way to cap off the quarterfinals.