And then there were eight. It's been a gripping 2022 FIFA World Cup and the battle to be crowned World Champions is heating up, as we enter the quarter final phase of the tournament. There's been upsets aplenty, and we're likely to see more, but how are the final eight nations shaping up? Who's the favourite to go all the way? Find out below with The Sporting Landscape's Quarter Final Power Rankings.
Who doesn’t love an underdog? The Moroccans are fast becoming the nation for neutral fans to get behind as their daring World Cup run continues. They topped Group F with seven points and are undefeated to date, having downed Belgium and Canada and drawn with Croatia. Their round of 16 performance is where they stole the headlines however, holding Spain to a scoreless draw for 120 minutes before keeper Yassine Bounou elevated his name to cult-hero status, completing a compelling hattrick of saves in the penalty shootout. It sees Morocco become the first African nation since Ghana in 2010 to reach the quarter finals and just the fourth African nation ever. Regardless of what happens in their clash with Portugal, it’s been a successful tournament for Morocco, but don’t write off their chances of another historical upset.
The 2018 World Cup finalists have followed up that infamous run with a quarter final berth in 2022. Undefeated at this stage, the Croatians finished second in Group F following draws to Morocco and Belgium and a 4-1 defeat of Canada. They scraped through the final eight on penalties having drawn 1-1 with a defiant Japan side. Despite their undefeated status, they’ve also only picked up one win in regulation time. Will need to find another gear if they’re to down the heavily favoured Brazil and make it back-to-back semi-final berths.
The Argentines were given a serious fright by the Socceroos in a match that went right down to the wire, but they prevailed 2-1 to keep their World Cup dream alive. Messi is no doubt eyeing a fairytale World Cup as the sun slowly sets on his remarkable career, and he’s in fine form, slotting a decisive goal in a player of the match performance in that round of 16 clash. Ranked third in the world, one could argue Argentina’s performances this World Cup have been somewhat under par. An incomprehensible 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia saw Argentina’s campaign start shakily, but they’ve found their feet since, downing Mexico and Poland en route to topping Group C with six points. That being said, they were far from clinical against Australia and will need to find another gear if they’re to get past the Netherlands.
A country that has a habit of stepping up when the World Cup roles around, this instalment looks to be no different for the Netherlands. Are undefeated to date - although they’ve been gifted a relatively comfortable run - having downed Senegal and Qatar in the group stage and drawn with Ecuador. Eased past the USA 3-1 in the round of 16 and will certainly face their biggest challenge when they meet Argentina in the quarter finals.
Portugal is in the midst of a changing of the guard as a disgruntled Ronaldo only saw 20 minutes of game time in his side’s 6-1 destruction of Switzerland. The extraordinary decision from manager Fernando Santos was vindicated as 21-year-old replacement Goncalo Ramos bagged a hat-trick - becoming the youngest player to do so in a World Cup knockouts since Pele. As harsh and unfitting as the call is to leave Ronaldo out in his swansong World Cup, the round of 16 Portuguese outfit looked to be at their best with the presence of Ramos and will pose a serious challenge for underdogs Morocco. They were upset 2-1 by South Korea in the group stage, but have been fairly clinical aside from that.
Is it finally coming home? England have been building in recent years following a semi-final appearance at the last instalment of football’s showpiece event before a runners up finish in last year’s Euros. Despite a poor run of international form leading into the World Cup, having gone winless through six Nations League games, including a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Hungary, England have turned it around in time for the World Cup. They’ve been strong all tournament, going undefeated to date and topping their group with seven points and a goal difference of seven. Face a brutal quarter final clash against France, but certainly have a team capable of upsetting the reigning world champs.
The reigning world champions have put the infamous winner’s curse to bed, easing past Poland 3-1 to set up a mouth-watering quarter final clash with England. Kylian Mbappe looks ominous up front, leading the golden boot race with five goals and taking his career World Cup goals tally to nine at just 23 years of age - equalling Lionel Messi and surpassing Cristiano Ronaldo’s eight. Like Brazil, this French team has abundant depth and is oozing class and flair, even with the likes of N’golo Kante and Paul Pogba missing through injury. Also topped their group with six points despite a surprise final matchday defeat at the hands of Tunisia.
Brazil only firmed their credentials as tournament favourites with a 4-1 demolition job of South Korea in the round of 16, the carelessness of their performance potentially conveyed as arrogance. The Brazilians were having a ball, even coaxing manager Tite to join in on the antics at one point. Third choice keeper Weverton was even subbed on the 80th minute meaning all 26 squad players for Brazil have now featured. The team’s enjoying themselves and it’s translating to their on-field performances. They ooze depth in every position, and with Richarlison in a rich vein of form up front accompanying none other than Neymar - who’s returned from an ankle sprain after missing the last two games. It’s going to be a tough task stopping this outfit. Topped their group with six points despite a loss to Cameroon.