World Cup Update: Who to Watch in the Quarter Finals


Fans watch the Brazil/Cameroon match on Friday, December 2nd.

Lila Sole and Shae Cotter

The action of the quarterfinals will start with Croatia and Brazil. Both teams have proved throughout the tournament so far that they deserve to be here, but the real question is, who will show the most strength and resilience on the field Friday?

Brazil vs. Croatia (Friday, December 9th at 10 pm EST)

Croatia started their run off to an okay start, gaining 5 points and 2nd place in their group. This did include 2 ties early in the tournament though. They also nearly got knocked out during the knockout stages, the round of 16, by Japan after a 1-1 draw that took them to penalty kicks. Their team showed their experience though as Mario Pasalic slotted away all the deciding kicks after Japan had three of their four saved by Dominik Livokovic. With many star players such as Kovacic and Modric, their midfield has shown through as one of the best in the tournament, but going up against a team like Brazil is going to be a tough task, especially after the many close calls that they have suffered recently, although they have shown to be strong under pressure. 

Brazil has to be serious contenders to win after their first 2 wins in the group stage, securing their spot before the 3rd game, but they were beaten by Cameroon in the last game. This did not affect their run though, as they still proceeded to go through, topping the group. After the loss, they showed just how good they are with their 1st team lineup back in including Neymar who is back from injury against South Korea in the knockout stages. They were up 4-0 at the half before South Korea took one back through a monster goal, but it wasn’t enough. The Brazilians kept the party going with somewhat choreographed dance routines performed after each goal, including Neymar’s penalty kick after Richarlison got tackled in the box. The vibes continued after the first goal where Lucas Paqueta converted through a cross completing the 4 goals and signing off with his signature dance. With these previous performances, it is going to be very interesting to see who will advance.

The Netherlands vs. Argentina (Friday, December 9th at 2 pm EST)

The Netherlands and Argentina have both made it this far in the tournament for a reason. The Netherlands certainly looked very assured in their win over the USA in the round of 16, with stars like Denzel Dumfries, Frenkie de Jong, and Memphis Depay all shining for the Netherlands in what was, unfortunately for the USA, a dominant performance, with the Dutch demonstrating their class and poise when it counts most. The offense that seemed somewhat stalled early on in their disappointing draw with Ecuador finished clinically on the chances they created against the USA, and their defense has been mostly solid, only allowing two goals in their four games so far and shutting out both hosts Qatar and Senegal. Some have said that the Dutch’s lack of an established presence in goal is their biggest weakness, but Andries Noppert, who came into the tournament with no appearances for his country, has held up well in goal so far.

That being said, Argentina is looking like a real contender and is predicted by many to go far after stepping up with three consecutive wins after their shocking loss at the hands of Saudi Arabia. Since then, their team has looked more cohesive, and in what is likely his last World Cup, Lionel Messi has been playing as beautifully as ever, scoring three goals so far and he certainly seems to be enjoying himself. 

Messi alone has convinced many that Argentina will come out on top in this clash. “I think Argentina’s gonna win because Messi’s the GOAT [greatest of all time],” said Francesco Lopez (‘25).

Even when they looked shaky, Argentina has done what they do best, averaging 66% possession through their games so far, and recently, their domination of possession has been such that it’s hard to imagine that they won’t hold the majority over the Netherlands. Even so, this is, in my opinion, going to be one of the closest quarterfinal matches and one of the hardest to predict. I see the most likely outcome in this match as a draw at the end of regulation, necessitating extra time and perhaps even penalties.

“I feel like Argentina will win, but the Netherlands, I searched up their record before they played the US and they have not lost a game, so that’s pretty good, but they also played against easier teams in their regular season, so I think that Argentina will win that one,” said Simone Williams (‘24). 

Morocco vs. Portugal (Saturday, December 10th at 10 am EST)

It’s fair to say that Morocco was probably one of the most underrated teams heading into the World Cup. Even though their squad holds quality players like Hakim Ziyech and Achraf Hakimi, most people had Belgium and Croatia, not Morocco, advancing out of Group F, but Morocco went above and beyond expectations, tying Croatia and beating both Belgium and Canada to top the group. 

Even so, almost no one expected their dramatic victory over Spain in the round of 16. Spain, currently ranked number 7 in the FIFA world rankings, was seen by many as favorites to lift the trophy going into the tournament, but they looked shaky through the group stage, drawing Germany and losing to Japan, and they were unable to break through against Morocco, who were incredibly defensively strong and nailed their tactical approach to the game. 

The game eventually went to penalties, where the incredible Yassine Bounou (nicknamed Bono) saved three Spanish penalties in a row, ultimately allowing Achraf Hakimi to take Morocco’s final penalty, which, if he converted, would send Morocco through. Not only did Hakimi make the penalty, but he also made it in a truly gutsy fashion, with a low Panenka straight down the middle. 

After the splendid performance by the Moroccans, some are able to see them going far.

 “I think Morocco is a dark horse to win it,” said Dean Payne (‘25).

It’s hard to imagine Morocco will change their tactics at all against Portugal. Their approach toward the Spain game: sitting back and defending, and almost never venturing forward, was extremely successful in the end. Though Spain held 77 percent of the possession, they were at the end unable to get the ball in the back of the net, and this is what Morocco needs to happen again against Portugal. 

Unfortunately for Morocco, a scoreless draw doesn’t look like the most likely outcome of their quarterfinal match. Portugal’s offense has been unstoppable lately, putting 6 goals past Switzerland in the round of 16 in a game where Ronaldo was controversially benched, and scoring 6 goals in the group stage. 

“Morocco destroying Spain was incredible to see, but I think Portugal’s gonna silence all the Morocco fans that are coming out, I think Portugal will pull through,” said Adenuga.

That being said, Spain had scored 10 goals in the group stage and was kept out by Morocco, so if Morocco executes their game plan as flawlessly as they did against Spain, a draw or win for Morocco is a definite possibility.

However, it’s fair to see that most still see the Portuguese side emerging victorious in this matchup, including Williams. 

“I think Portugal’s gonna win,” said Williams, “even though Morocco could surprise us because they did get a pretty good upset against Spain.” 

England vs. France (Saturday, December 10th at 2 pm EST)

England vs. France is probably the most anticipated game of the quarterfinals. Because they are both such good, even sides, the match is going to be insane. Before Qatar 2022, four of the last five World Cup champions failed to advance out of the group stage in the following world cup, but France broke free of the curse, topping their group. Now, they aim to be the first back-to-back World Cup champions since Brazil in 1958 and 1962. 

Fueled by their stacked team topped with star forward Kylian Mbappe, it is going to be a battle for England, but no one should write them off just yet. Kyle Walker recently said in an interview, “It is not Mbappe versus England, it is England versus France.” He then continues to describe Kylian as a very good player but says that he [Walker] is playing for the badge and that he will not let him off easy. Later in the interview, he was asked who was faster and Walker responded, “we’ll see on Saturday.” This alone seems to be a rivalry unfolding, but as Walker said, we will see on Saturday just who edges out in front to go through to the Semis. France and England both topped their groups, France with 6 points and England with 7. With an even playing field building, will we see penalty kicks again for the 3rd time so far this World Cup?

France has shown that they are a strong side time and time again. With many pre-tournament injury occurrences with starters in previous international sessions such as Paul Pogba, N’golo Kante, and Karim Benzema, many people thought that they would fall short considering these losses, but they have proved quite the opposite. Not only did they top their group but they have competed with ease throughout the competition so far. Mbappe has broken many records throughout this World Cup. Scoring two goals against Poland in the Knockout Round, he now has five, making him the top goalscorer thus far, breaking Pele’s record for most goals in a men’s competition before turning 24. He has also tied Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest player of all time, with career World Cup goals at nine, already surpassing Ronaldo’s seven. Mbappe is definitely the one to watch going into this match, though not everyone agrees with his attitude.

“I’ll admit, he is a great player, but I don’t want France to win because I find them cocky, specifically Mbappe,” said Williams.

England is not going to let the French squad walk all over them though. They also have proven throughout the tournament that they are just as good. After coming off of a six-game losing streak in the Nations League, fans were still concerned about how they would improve. The team beat all expectations though, with eight different players scoring the twelve goals England has had so far, showing that England has many options as to who can score, even those who have come off the bench, the main one being Marcus Rashford. He is England’s top goal scorer with 3 and scored England’s 100th World Cup in the game against Wales, where he scored twice. This draws a notable contrast with a French team that has had five of their nine goals so far come from Mbappe, with only two other players (Adrien Rabiot and Olivier Giroud) also on the scoresheet for France.

Though England’s offense appeared very capable in their 3-0 win over Senegal in the round of 16 and their high-scoring wins over Wales and Iran, their lackluster performance against the USA still has some questioning if England will be able to get the win against the high-scoring French team.

“I think France will win this one,” said Imani Adenuga (‘24). “England should’ve tossed America, and it was 0-0, so if England can’t beat America, I don’t see them beating France.”

Our best guess? The semi-finals will feature Argentina, Brazil, France, and Portugal.

The semi-finals begin on December 13th (during the school day) and we will update our thoughts and predictions on December 12th. Stay tuned for updates and opinions on the quarterfinals and upcoming semi-finals.