Yesterday, the 6th of December 2022, the Round of 16 of this year’s Men’s World Cup wrapped up, giving us now the new matchups for the quarter-finals that will take place on Friday the 9th and Saturday the 10th, with today and tomorrow serving as rest days. Last Friday, the 2nd, the group stage wrapped up and I would have done a recap, but the Round of 16 began the very next day. As such, this will serve as the group stage was 24 total matches and that would frankly take a very long time to recap. Without further ado, let us begin.
Saturday, 3rd of December
On each day of the Round of 16, two matches were played and, on Saturday the 3rd, the matches were both solid and expected outcomes. First, at 8 am MST, the Netherlands, the winners of Group A took on the United States, the runners-up of Group B at Khalifa International Stadium. The Netherlands entered the matchup 2-1-0, having taken down Qatar and Senegal and tied Ecuador in their group matches. The US entered 1-2-0, having beaten Iran to enter the knockout round but also tying England and Wales in their prior group matches. Immediately, the US was outmatched as Memphis Depay gave the Dutch the lead in the 10th minute. The play was consistently back and forth until the stoppage time to end the first half when Daley Blind extended Holland’s lead to 2-0. In the 76th minute, the US gained some hope as Haji Wright made it 2-1 before Denzel Dumfries dashed any hopes of a comeback with an 81st-minute goal to give the final score of 3-1 in favor of the Netherlands.
In the second match, kicking off at noon MST, Argentina, the winner of Group C, took on Australia, the runners-up of Group D at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, its last match of the World Cup. Argentina entered the matchup 2-0-1, having beaten Mexico and Poland while having taken an upset loss to Saudi Arabia to open up the group matches. Australia also entered 2-0-1, having beaten Denmark and Tunisia but fell short against France in their group matches. The match started calmly initially, but in the 35th minute, Lionel Messi gave Argentina the lead. In the 57th minute, Argentina extended the lead to 2-0 with a Julian Alvarez goal. Australia avoided the shutout in the 77th minute when Argentina’s Enzo Fernandez scored an own goal to make the final score 2-1.
Sunday, 4th of December
At 8 am MST, the first matchup of the day was between France, the Group D winners, and Poland, the runners-up of Group C at Al Thumama Stadium. France entered the match 2-0-1, having lost to Tunisia with their backups in play and beaten Australia and Denmark. Poland entered 1-1-1, with their win against Saudi Arabia, a tie against Mexico, and a loss to Argentina in the final round of group stage play. The first half was relatively even, with the reigning world champs dominating possession. The stalemate was finally broken in the 44th minute when Olivier Giroud gave France the lead. Later in the 74th minute, team icon Kylian Mbappe made it 2-0 in France’s favor before scoring a minute into stoppage time at the end of the game to make it 3-0. Poland narrowly avoided the shutout, as in the ninth minute of stoppage time Robert Lewandowski, the team’s captain, converted a penalty to make the final score 3-1.
The primetime game that day took place between England, the winners of Group B, and Senegal, the runners-up of Group A at Al Bayt Stadium. England entered 2-1-0, with their wins against Iran and Wales and the tie against the US. Senegal entered 2-0-1, their wins against Ecuador and Qatar and their lone loss against the Netherlands. The game started evenly, but ultimately England’s form came to light in the 39th minute as Jordan Henderson gave his squad the lead, one that wouldn’t be challenged all game. In the third minute of first-half stoppage time, England’s captain Harry Kane made it 2-0. In the 57th minute, England would make it 3-0 on a goal by Bukayo Saka, riding comfortably to a win and a berth in the quarter-finals.
Monday, 5th of December
The first game of Monday proved to be an exciting one, as Japan, the Group E champs, took on Croatia, the runners-up of Group F and the runners-up of the 2018 Russia Men’s World Cup at Al Janoub Stadium, its last of the competition. Japan entered 2-0-1, having upset both Germany and Spain in their group matches while also being upset by Costa Rica in their second group match. Croatia entered 1-2-0, having beaten Canada and tied Morocco and Belgium in their group play. The match was incredibly even, with both sides having many opportunities to take the lead. Japan cracked the scoring first, with Daizen Maeda scoring in the 43rd minute to take the lead. In the 55th minute, Croatia’s Ivan Perisic tied it all up at one, with the score holding through the rest of regulation and extra time. In penalties, Japan ultimately couldn’t keep up as Croatia converted three of theirs and Japan only converted one, with Croatia moving on as a result.
The primetime game of the day pitted Brazil, the winners of Group G against South Korea, the runners-up of Group H, at Stadium 974, its last of the World Cup before it’ll be torn down as it is a temporary venue. Brazil, the heavy favorites, entered the game 2-0-1, with their wins against Serbia and Switzerland while their backups took the upset loss against Cameroon. South Korea meanwhile entered 1-1-1, their win an upset against Portugal in the final group stage round, the tie against Uruguay, and the loss to Ghana. The match quickly unraveled for South Korea, as in the 7th minute, Brazil’s Vini Jr. made it 1-0. A short time later, a patented Neymar flop in the box led to a penalty that he converted using a fake out, making it 2-0 13 minutes in. In the 29th minute, Richarlison made it 3-0 Brazil with a fantastic goal. Brazil’s final goal came in the 36th as Lucas Paqueta made it 4-0. South Korea tried their hardest, ultimately avoiding the shutout as in the 76th minute Paik Seung-ho made it 4-1, the final score.
Tuesday, 6th of December
The early game of the day pitted Morocco, the winners of Group F, against Spain, the favored runners-up of Group E, at Education City Stadium. Morocco entered the match 2-1-0, having upset Belgium and taken down Canada while tying Croatia en route to claiming the group. Spain, on the other hand, entered 1-1-1, where they routed Costa Rica 7-0 in the first match before cooling off significantly, tying Germany and losing to Japan in a major upset in the final round of group-stage play that saw them narrowly avoid being eliminated, their goal differential the only thing that kept Germany from taking their place. The game itself was a scoreless affair as the cold underperforming that Spain had done prior carried on, with their defense doing their best to keep Morocco off the scoreboard. Neither side would score in regulation and extra time, forcing a penalty shootout on back-to-back days. Spain failed to score a single penalty, with Morocco beating them 3-0 to upset them and keep the Cinderella run alive.
In the primetime game of the day to wrap up the Round of 16, Portugal, the winners of Group H, took on Switzerland, the runners-up of Group G at Lusail Stadium. Portugal entered 2-0-1, their wins against Ghana and Uruguay, and their loss the upset to South Korea to end group stage play. Switzerland entered 2-0-1 as well, their wins against Cameroon and Serbia, the lone loss being to Brazil. Something notable about the game was Cristiano Ronaldo being off the starting lineup of Portugal, as his underperformance and demeanor during the South Korea loss ultimately forcing the Portuguese coach to bench him, with Goncalo Ramos taking his place. The match itself was a nightmare for Switzerland and a dream for Ramos. In the 17th minute, he gave Portugal the lead. In the 33rd minute, Pepe made it 2-0 before Ramos scored again in the 51st minute to make it 3-0. In the 55th minute, Raphael Guerreiro made it 4-0 Portugal before the Swiss picked up their only goal three minutes later off the boot of Manuel Akanji. In the 67th minute, Ramos finished the hat trick, making it 5-1 in favor of Portugal before his teammate Rafael Leao made it 6-1 in the second minute of stoppage time, making it the brutal final score for Portugal to move on.
The quarter-finals for this World Cup will begin on Friday, the 9th of December with the early match taking place between Croatia and Brazil at Education City Stadium, the last match it will host this World Cup. This match could go either way personally, but I do know Brazil will be favored most likely. On the one hand, Croatia is the reigning second-place team in the world following 2018. On the other hand, Brazil is strong but also prone to choking as they have failed to make it out of the quarter-finals three of the four times since their World Cup championship in 2002, with the one other time being the humiliating 7-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup semifinals in Brazil. To me, this is a coin toss of a game as Brazil’s history makes it hard for me to trust them, and I really don’t like Neymar’s play (yes, I am still salty from the 2018 World Cup match between Brazil and Mexico).
The later match on Friday will be between the Netherlands and Argentina at Lusail Stadium, the site of the final. This match can go either way as both squads have been playing steady ball, but I do feel like the Netherlands could squeeze a close one and move on to the semis.
The first match of Saturday the 10th will be between Morocco and Portugal at Al Thumama Stadium, its last match of the World Cup. While Portugal is the favorite, I feel like Morocco could keep the run going as they have been punching above their weight. We shall see, but for now, I am on the Morocco wagon. Either way, this match will be overshadowed by the fact Cristiano Ronaldo’s time as a starter may be over, especially after the hat trick by Goncalo Ramos. In the end, I hope Portugal loses because I don’t want him to win. Is that a tad selfish? Yes, but I frankly don’t mind after how Ronaldo has acted throughout his career.
The final match of the quarter-finals will be between England and France at Al Bayt Stadium, a classic rivalry between nations. This match could go either way as both squads have been playing very good football over the span of this World Cup. I could go with either winning, so I can only say this is truly a coin flip to me.
With all this in mind, we are over halfway through this year’s World Cup, and what a ride it has been so far. By 2:30 pm MST this Saturday we will know the semifinal matchups and whose hopes to win it all stay alive. I am personally looking forward to it. Expect a recap of those games, most likely next Sunday or Monday. Until then, let’s watch some football.