All eight teams have now booked their places in the World Cup quarterfinals. Who are they and how did they get there?
Croatia vs. Brazil
When: Friday, December 9, 10 a.m. ET
Where: Education City Stadium
Perhaps the weakest team on paper in the quarterfinals, Croatia looks like a side struggling to reclaim the control that took it all the way to the final in 2018. The team was held comfortably by Morocco in the group stages, was very lucky to draw with Belgium and had to rely on penalties to beat Japan in the last 16..
For any other team, that would be a worry. But Croatia has shown that it is the master of navigating matches that go down to the wire. All three of its knockout games in 2018 went to extra-time or penalties, but in every one of those, the Croatians looked like the side in control.
That experience was on show against Japan. Like its semifinal victory over England four years ago, this was a game in which Croatia looked stronger and stronger as the game went on. That tournament experience and nous will be put to the test as Kockasti face a Brazil team that looks every bit as good as its pre-tournament tag as favorite would suggest.
Morocco 0-0 Croatia
Croatia 4-1 Canada
Croatia 0-0 Belgium
Round of 16:
Croatia 1-1 Japan (Croatia won 3-1 on penalties)
A Seleção, for the first time in 20 years, looks as good as fans expect. The five-time world champion comfortably beat stubborn European opponent, Serbia, before giving the first team a rest against Cameroon. But against South Korea, the world saw what this team is truly capable of.
Within the first seven minutes, Brazil had already won the match and brought jogo bonito (the beautiful game) back to the World Cup, scoring for fun. Neymar – after missing the final two group stage matches through injury – was back again and playing with a freedom that the star has rarely been able to exhibit in the green and gold shirt.
Brazil will once again be heavy favorite as it faces Croatia, but manager Tite and his team will not be underestimating its opponent. For the last 16 years, Brazil has come to tournaments with hype before crashing out against European opponents in the knockout stages. But this team looks like it could be the first since 2002 to bring the World Cup trophy back to its spiritual home.
Brazil 2-0 Serbia
Brazil 1-0 Switzerland
Cameroon 1-0 Brazil
Round of 16:
Brazil 4-1 South Korea
Netherlands vs. Argentina
When: Friday, December 9, 2 p.m. ET
Where: Lusail Stadium
In what is expected to be the last tournament of Louis van Gaal’s stellar career, the Netherlands manager is looking to replicate his 2010 accomplishment of reaching the final of the World Cup – and maybe going one step further this time.