After 17 consecutive days of competition, the 2022 FIFA World Cup knockout stage will continue Friday in Qatar as Brazil and Croatia prepare to face off in the first quarterfinal match.
Europe Represents Majority of Quarterfinalists
Five of the remaining eight teams are European as only three European nations — Spain, Switzerland and Poland — were eliminated in the Round of 16.
After defeating Spain in a penalty-kick shootout Tuesday, Morocco became the fourth African country in World Cup history to advance to the quarterfinals.
Brazil Faces Croatia
Brazil and Croatia advanced to the quarterfinals Monday after eliminating both remaining Asian teams. It defeated South Korea 4-1, while Croatia beat Japan in a penalty-kick shootout.
Brazil and Croatia have faced off twice in World Cup history. It prevailed 1-nil in 2006 before defeating Croatia 3-1 in the 2014 World Cup opener. Brazil forward Neymar scored both the game-tying and go-ahead goals. After missing consecutive group-play matches due to an ankle injury, Neymar returned against South Korea and made history with a goal and an assist.
Brazil forward Richarlison leads the squad with three goals in three matches. In the Round of 16, Brazil’s chemistry was on full display as Richarlison made his third goal of the tournament look easy.
Despite allowing only two regulation goals through four matches, Croatia has struggled to produce offensively. Croatia scored four goals on Canada but laid a goose egg versus Morocco and Belgium. Croatia will lean on its experience as 37-year-old midfielder Luka Modric and company look to contain Brazil’s explosive attack.
The Dutch Seek Revenge Against Argentina
The Netherlands will seek revenge after falling to Argentina in penalty kicks in the semifinal match of the 2014 World Cup. Both squads enter Friday afternoon’s match in impressive form.
After dropping its first match to Saudi Arabia, Argentina bounced back with three straight victories to advance to the quarterfinal. In his 1,000th career game, Argentina forward Lionel Messi scored the match’s first goal en route to a 2-1 win over Australia.
Messi leads the Argentines with three goals and remains in the hunt for the Golden Boot Award.
The Dutch are still undefeated following three wins and a draw. Last Saturday, the Netherlands beat the United States 3-1 in the Round of 16. Despite not scoring against the U.S., 23-year-old forward Cody Gakpo leads the Netherlands with three goals.
6-foot-5-inch defender Virgil van Dijk will look to lead the Dutch defense against Messi and Argentina’s formidable attack.
Portugal Looks to Spoil Morocco’s Undefeated Run
Both teams enter Saturday morning’s match in solid form. Morocco has maintained a clean sheet through four matches barring an own-goal against Canada. Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou denied Spain’s first three penalty-kick attempts to prevail 3-0 in Tuesday’s shootout.
Portugal, on the other hand, has relied heavily on its attack to combat the five goals it has surrendered. Portugal forward Gonçalo Ramos scored a hat trick Tuesday — the first Portuguese player to do so in the World Cup knockout stage in over half a century — en route to a 6-1 win over Switzerland.
Portugal manager Fernando Santos decided to bring forward Christiano Ronaldo off the bench against Switzerland after Ronaldo started the first three matches and scored Portuagl’s first goal of the tournament. It remains unclear whether Ronaldo will start against Morocco as Portugal chases its first ever World Cup title.
Three Lions Prepare For Mbappé-Led Defending World Cup Champions
England and France will face off for the first time in a World Cup since 1982. It advanced to the quarterfinals with a 3-0 win over Senegal, while the French beat Poland 3-1.
England is tied with Portugal for the most goals scored (12) so far. Midfielder Buyako Saka and forward Marcus Rashford lead the Three Lions with three goals each.
England manager Gareth Southgate has one of the world’s deepest lineups as Rashford started only one of the first four matches. A pair of Manchester City forwards — Phil Foden and Jack Grealish — have contributed significant minutes on the pitch despite only two combined starts.
Striker Harry Kane — who scored six goals in the 2018 World Cup to capture the Golden Boot Award — leads England with three assists and four points.
After flying home before the Round of 16 match to deal with the fallout of an armed robbery at his house, England forward Raheem Sterling will return to Qatar ahead of Saturday’s quarterfinal.
Raheem Sterling will return to England’s @FIFAWorldCup base in Qatar.
— England (@England) December 8, 2022
Sterling started England’s first two matches and recorded a goal and and assist against Iran.
Although France found the back of the net nine times through its first four games, forward Kylian Mbappé and striker Olivier Giroud combined for all but one of the goals. Mbappé leads the race for the Golden Boot with five goals.
Is the Golden Boot Mbappé’s to lose? 🏆⚽️ pic.twitter.com/N2Qzo7cZdn
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 8, 2022
After scoring his 52nd career goal in international competition, Giroud became the French National Team’s all-time leading goal scorer.
52 goals and counting ⚽️📈
The French National team celebrates Olivier Giroud becoming the all-time men’s leading scorer 🇫🇷
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 7, 2022
The highly anticipated match will kick off Saturday at 2 p.m.