The 2022 FIFA World Cup continues to wind down towards its final stages and the next step is the quarter-finals with eight nations remaining.
But which of the four clashes should offer the best prospect? Let's try to classify them all:
4.Brazil vs Croatia
It's a little odd to rank FIFA's top-ranked team as the worst of the four, but that's not entirely Brazil's fault. Croatia come into play as runners-up from 2018, but that title hasn't been very significant in 2022 so far. The Vatreni managed a goalless draw against Morocco in their Group F opener, beat Canada 4-1 and earned another goalless draw against Belgium. They then needed penalties in the round of 16 against Japan to win by regulation and extra time after a 1-1 draw. The 4:1 is the breakaway performance in front of goal, otherwise Croatia did not approach previous standards.
This lack of goals could play a role against a Brazilian team that largely resisted in the defensive third. Brazil did not make a goal with it’s A team against Serbia and Switzerland, and the Seleção beat South Korea 4-1 in the round of 16. All four goals were scored in the first half. South Korea's only goal was a superb strike from outside the box, partially deflected by the back of a defender. It will undoubtedly be a solid game from a neutral point of view, but it ends up in last place.
3.Portugal vs Morocco
The Dark Horse of 2022 will be looking for more magic in its first quarterfinal appearance. Morocco have so far been the fateful team in Qatar after winning a Group F made up of Croatia, Belgium and Canada. The Atlas Lions then upset Spain in penalties after holding La Furia Roja to a goalless draw during regulation and extra time. Morocco's cure will score enough goals to overthrow Portugal. Yes, the only goal they conceded in Qatar was a goal against Canada, but goals also win games and you have to create chances to create them.
Portugal also have the advantage of being able to rest as Santos have made timely substitutions for their best players, while Morocco will struggle to get back into shape after 120 minutes of defence. Central defenders Nayef Aguerd and Romain Saïss mainly had lower leg problems late in the game. Does Morocco have another surprise in store for you?
2.Argentina vs Netherlands
Two renowned international powers will tackle an exciting affair. Argentina bounced back with back-to-back wins in Group C and finished first after an impressive loss to Saudi Arabia before edging Australia 2-1 in the round of 16. But it also shows La Albiceleste's main problem. They haven't lined up their title-fighting squad yet. Apart from Lionel Messi's magic moments and former substitute striker Julian Álvarez's two decisive goals, Argentina looked very vulnerable to defeat. This will undoubtedly be their toughest challenge yet.
On paper, the Netherlands were also an elite side who have yet to win convincingly in Qatar. The Dutch needed 84 minutes to score against Senegal, had just one shot on target in a 1-1 draw against Ecuador and only managed a 2-0 win over Qatar, which should have been more. They defeated the United States 3-1, but results don't always tell the full picture. Either will see their flaws become their undoing in each of their biggest games to date.
1.England vs France
This is by far the best fight Qatar has to offer, at least on paper. England came through the tournament relatively well with a 6-2 victory over Iran and 3-0 over Wales and Senegal. The only problem the Three Lions have encountered was a 0-0 draw with the United States, and manager Gareth Southgate will have his hands full with Kylian Mbappé now looming large. On the bright side, Harry Kane didn't shoulder the entire burden of scoring. Bukayo Saka and Marcus Rashford have three goals each and Jude Bellingham is showing world-class midfield talent at just 19. Alongside Brazil, England were Qatar's second-most balanced side, but the defense - right-back Kyle Walker in particular - needs to be on point.
France are the defending champions and certainly deserve their fair share of praise. But the side suffered several injuries ahead of the tournament and are currently relying on Mbappé to shoulder the scoring load from the left wing. His quick volleys and open-space acceleration have provided defenders with every type of attack thus far, but take that out of the equation and Les Bleus is up for grabs. It is no coincidence that the only time he did not start was when France lost 1-0 against Tunisia. Can his individual brilliance continue to lead the way, or will someone else have his momentum?