The race for who will become the kings of world football for the next four years is getting tougher. Thirty-two teams have been reduced to eight. At this stage, if you can’t be good for ninety or one hundred and twenty minutes, then just be lucky. Everything counts and there are no margins for error.
The fixtures are all set. Croatia will face Brazil, Morocco will tackle Portugal, Netherlands will battle Argentina and England will slug it out with France. All matches will be live on World Cup Central (DStv channel 202 and GOtv channel 33), starting from 4pm on Friday.
Four of the eight teams left in Qatar have won the title ten times between them. Brazil has the most wins with five. Argentina and France are tied on two. England’s only win came when they hosted in 1966. Morocco carries on the hope of Africa and will enjoy massive support when they play Portugal on Sunday for a place in the semifinals. No African team has been there before.
The Atlas Lions are the biggest story of the tournament so far. They are one of the unbeaten teams left in Qatar. After surprisingly topping Group F with seven points, the Arab nation won 3-1 on penalties against their Iberian neighbors, Spain. They will aim to add another Iberian nation, Portugal, to their World Cup scalp.
Argentina and the Netherlands have met four times in World Cup history and three of those were knockout stage classics. They both had a man sent off in France 98 quarterfinal clash which was settled by a 90th minute strike by Dennis Bergkamp. Argentina won the semifinal clash of 2014 4-2 on penalties after a goalless draw. Their 1978 meeting ended 3-1 in favour of Argentina after extra time. Lionel Messi is hoping to win the only trophy left in his illustrious cabinet in what will most likely be his last World Cup. The Netherlands have never won it before having lost the final on three occasions – both teams have everything to win at this tournament.
Brazil have featured in every edition of the World Cup, but it has been twenty years since they last won it. Croatia’s first appearance at the World Cup was in 1998 where they finished third. They lost the final match to France in the 2018 edition and are hoping luck can carry them all the way to the trophy this time.
Rounding up the quarterfinal ties is the big one between two former champions, France, and England. Tournament top scorer, Kylian Mbappe, has inspired the defending champions thus far with five goals. England are unbeaten so far in the tournament and their twelve goals is also joint highest with Portugal’s. 2018 golden boot winner, Harry Kane finally scored his first of the competition against Senegal, and the Three Lions will hope he can lead them to another semifinal victory like he did four years ago.
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