Home Sport World Cup quarter-finals: Four will fall – but who?

World Cup quarter-finals: Four will fall – but who?

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Let’s check out how this weekend is going to play out in a breakdown of the quarters.

Brazil players celebrate during the FIFA World Cup 2022 round of 16 soccer match against South Korea at Stadium 974 in Doha, Qatar, 05 December 2022. Picture: EPA, Abedin Taherkenareh

ONLY a fool would try to predict what’s going to happen in this weekend’s World Cup quarter-finals.

Having watched almost every minute of the action in Qatar, I know better than most not to forecast results. But let me do it anyway.

What I can say with some confidence is that whoever wins this weekend will have a one in four chance of lifting the trophy next Sunday.

And having stated the obvious, Tuesday and Wednesday’s semi-finals will probably be cagey affairs, which means a possible Argentina vs Brazil final-four clash will be a nailbiter.

I’m also seeing a France vs Portugal match-up next week for a place in the final.

But before all of that, let’s check out how this weekend is going to play out in a breakdown of the quarters.

Croatia vs Brazil

BRAZIL have got their groove back with the return of Neymar from injury and they are looking gevaarlik.

If his teammates are scoring goals and dancing, it’s because the 30-year-old is the man who sets the tempo of their attack.

And luckily for coach Tite, Neymar has the talents of Vinicius Junior, Raphinha and an in-form Richarlison to pump up the jam.

With Neymar alongside Lucas Paqueta and Casemiro, they took the Koreans apart and they will want to do the same to Croatia.

But that’s the catch, this is not Korea.

Croatia’s midfield is manned by Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic and they won’t let Brazil waltz through, with a defence blessed with Josko Gvardiol.

It’s in attack where Croatia are lacking and will probably struggle to worry Brazil at the back.

However, like this World Cup has proven many times over, you can’t underestimate anyone – especially not Ivan Perisic and Andrej Kramaric.

Prediction: Going 3-1 to Brazil to kick off the action this weekend.

Netherlands vs Argentina

BOTH sides have been unconvincing so far.

With Louis van Gaal sticking to his guns by playing with the three-man defence, the Dutch have been surprisingly shaky at the back.

That may sound weird given that they have only conceded twice, but they still seem to invite a lot of pressure on Virgil van Dijk, Nathan Ake and Justin Timber.

Their problems begin in midfield, where the opposition press has been able to stop Frenkie de Jong from carrying the ball to the attack.

If they can involve Memphis Depay and the imposing Cody Gakpo, they will get some joy against an Argentina defence that also hasn’t been great.

At the same, the Albiceleste’s midfield has also been struggling to function optimally with Rodrigo de Paul uncharacteristically poor.

If De Paul and Enzo Fernandez can control the centre of the park, then we could see a Lionel Messi masterclass.

They also need Lautaro Martinez to come good to give the attack a focal point.

Prediction: Argentina to scrap past the Dutch 2-1.

Morocco vs Portugal

AFTER beating Spain, can Morocco do the Iberian double on the guys across the Gulf of Cadiz?

The Lions of the Atlas have been proven tough to beat, with the last opposition player to beat Yacine Bounou in goal being Bafana Bafana’s Lyle Foster nine matches ago.

While Achraf Hakimi and Hakim Ziyech have been Morocco’s main weapons down the right flank and their tough defence has Premier League pedigree, it’s the midfield who have quietly been bossing games.

Soufiyane Amrabat may be attracting Liverpool’s attention, but it’s the assured Azzedine Ounahi who can really give Portugal something to worry about with his reading of the game and his ability to carry the ball forward.

Coming out on top against Luka Modric and Kevin de Bruyne, Ounahi really proves that this team have nothing to fear from Cristiano Ronaldo and company

But with the likes of Joao Felix, Rafael Leao and Goncalo Ramos clicking with playmaker Bruno Fernandes, Portugal still have the genuine firepower to take this.

Fernando Santos’ brave decision to bench Cristiano Ronaldo against Switzerland has given his team freedom to look for the best attacking option and not seek out the 37-year-old.

Prediction: Portugal to tame the Lions 3-1.

England vs France

THE juiciest of the quarter-finals sees these cross-Channel rivals battle it out for a place in the final four.

But the question on everyone’s lips is: how do you stop Kylian Mbappe?

England will have a tough job down their right flank, but fullback Kyle Walker will be backed up by Manchester City club teammate John Stones at centreback and backtracking winger Bukayo Saka.

Mbappe is obviously not Les Bleus’ only threat, with Ousmane Dembele on the opposite flank also on fire and then they have Antoine Griezmann, who has a free role behind Olivier Giroud.

It’s gonna be a humdinger. Neither side has genuinely been tested yet, but this is the match that could tell us if the World Cup is staying in Paris or if it’s “going home”.

Prediction: France win 3-2 in show of defiance.

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