DI Sports Staff picks: World Cup quarterfinal predictions


Photo courtesy of Julian Leshay/TNS

The Original FIFA World Cup Trophy is on display for one day only during the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour in East Rutherford on Nov. 8.

By Sports Staff

After a negative group stage, we are back for the World Cup quarterfinals, going 6-2 on the Round of 16. It has been hectic, and even with some lopsided victories came alltime World Cup moments. Achraf Hakimi’s panenka against heavy favorites Spain to send Morocco through to the top eight is a moment that will live on for decades, as Morocco remain representing all of Africa in the third round.

The storylines continue to form as many greats come to the end of their long and accomplished careers. Cristiano Ronaldo was benched in Portugal’s thrashing of Switzerland, and his replacement in Gonçalo Ramos scored a hattrick. Two goalkeepers managed three saves in a penalty shootout for the first time ever, just a day apart. This is the point in the tournament where your ballers will make the difference.

Without further ado, here are our quarterfinal predictions:


Brazil vs. Croatia – Drew Friberg

Well, none of my predictions have come true this tournament. So, as someone who had Brazil winning it all before any matches kicked off in Doha, I have a bad feeling about this one.

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    Croatia are a team that I love with my whole heart. I had them in the semis of the 2018 World Cup, and Luka Modric is my favorite midfielder. I love this matchup for them.

    When you surround a workhorse with a golden touch, with two of the most technically gifted midfielders in the tournament and reliable pieces around them, you get a solid unit. They passed the Japan test for a reason.

    However, on the other side, you have the favorites. When a team is practicing out celebratory dances for every possible goalscorer, including one with the manager, they are *typically* the real deal. Richarlison is paying like he has bills to pay, and Neymar is effortlessly dancing his way through defenses. I think it will be a scary sight for Croatia’s inexperienced backline.

    I think this game will be won in the midfield. Can Modric neutralize Neymar? Can Brozovic limit Paqueta’s ability to find space? Only time will tell.

    There are many goals in this game, but only with Casemiro and Modric off the pitch. Whoever of those two can go for longer will win the battle, and I think Brazil can take this game 3-1, with all goals coming late. I want to see Neymar make this his moment. Richarlison has stepped up, Casemiro has stepped up, and now it is your turn Neymar.


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    Netherlands vs. Argentina – Martin O’Connor

    For the second game of the 2022 World Cup quarterfinals, the Netherlands face off against Argentina in what is sure to be one of the best matchups at this tournament so far.

    All eyes will be on Holland’s young in form star Cody Gakpo and Argentina’s world class veteran Lionel Messi. Both attackers have notched 3 goals and might have to produce yet another moment of magic to get their team through to the semifinals. 

    Although the match should be a close one, I see the well coached Dutch finding an edge over Argentina, who as a team have not been as consistent as the Netherlands. The Dutch have shown so far that they are tactically prepared to handle their defensive priorities, implementing a mid-block, and while on the front foot they have proved they can be very clinical. This is why I see the Netherlands beating Argentina 2-1. This could very well be the tournament the Dutch go all the way and win their country’s first World Cup. They have shown they are capable of taking their chances while remaining defensively stout.


    Netherlands 2-1 Argentina

    Scorers: Gakpo, Ake, Messi

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    Morocco vs. Portugal – Conor Blount

    Following a stunning performance from keeper Yassine Bounou, Morocco punched their ticket to a quarterfinals appearance against a to-be-determined opponent. Knocking off a juggernaut like Spain appeared to give Morocco all of the momentum necessary to put up another strong showing in the next round. However, as the match between their two potential adversaries unfolded, it became clear that Morocco was in for yet another steep task.

    Leading up to the contest between Portugal and Switzerland, it was revealed that star Cristiano Ronaldo had been benched due to poor attitude and performance in the group stages. While Ronaldo is no longer the superstar he once was, it was reasonable to wonder if his benching in such a high stakes match would negatively impact Portugal. The answer ended up being quite the opposite, as Portugal cruised to their most convincing win of the tournament with 6-1 victory over Switzerland.

    Perhaps the most impressive feat for Portugal is that in Ronaldo’s absence, striker Gonçalo Ramos earned a hat trick in his first start of the World Cup. It is currently unknown whether or not Ronaldo will remain benched for the match against Morocco, but Portugal has managed to look dominant with and without him, in a way that may see Ronaldo ride out this last dance on the bench.

    I believe Morocco’s stellar defense will make Portugal work a lot harder than Switzerland did, but Portugal will still claim a 2-0 victory by the time the final whistle blows.


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    England vs. France – Ben Fader, Theo Gary

    England and France facing off in the quarterfinals is a European matchup that shocks no one, but only one can advance to the semis. England has been able to relax towards the end of three of their four matches thus far, and appear to be hitting their stride. They have not allowed a goal in their last three appearances, and the attack is rewarding the defensive effort as well.

    But, France has plenty of goal scorers, and for England to have a chance, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka will need to step up once more for their country. France are the defending champions and while they may not be undefeated like England, they are dangerous. Led by Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud, the French are deep with players who can step up when it counts, and I think that separates them in this game.

    England is no joke, and I think will take an early lead, which they will need. I think France finds their groove late and the game will head to extra time. There are too many scoring threats on the pitch for this game to not be decided in 120 minutes, and France will knock one in early in the first overtime to send France to the semifinals, 3-2.


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    Across the channel, over the Mediterranean, into Al-Bayt; France and England are at it again. Two teams heavy on talent, experience and media ridiculousness. We will talk about Kylian M’bappe because we have to, and Phil Foden and Jack Grealish and the rest of these young players who the English speaking press seem to think are the next-coming of Messi because they happen to play for England.

    None of this is to say that English are overrated, or that they cannot beat France. But, it does mean that a loss will be very funny. Anyway, in terms of analysis, England are pretty conservative in games like these. They line up with older players and solid midfielders and hope you make a mistake. France might make a mistake; Harry Kane in on goal. That’s where an English victory comes. 

    France might also make several mistakes and they may not matter, because Kylian M’bappe is the great eraser. A player of such caliber, of such immense skill and talent that he can actually will France into a win if he so pleases. Aside from Messi, no player in the world can influence a game like he can. Others control, they assist, they stop goals or pull strings in midfield, but this guy just wills, he dominates; he is amazing.

    I don’t care about the rest of the French team. They are non-factors to me, names on a sheet of paper representing people who surround the guy we all want to see. Will England win? Will M’bappe score? I don’t know. I will be watching, all of this is so much fun. There is no stopping M’bappe, it is just a question of if England can keep up.

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