The 2022 Qatar World Cup has proven itself to be one of the most unpredictable football tournaments in recent history. Shock results, unexpected comebacks, and giant killings have made this coveted tournament one to remember for the ages. With the group stages over, it's time to head on to the round of 16 and look at the ties and try to figure out who can book their place in the quarterfinals, one step closer to the biggest prize of them all.
Netherlands vs USA
The Oranje finished top of Group A, finishing above Senegal, Ecuador, and hosts Qatar in order to reach the Round of 16 stage.
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Fueled by the emerging brilliance of Cody Gakpo, the Dutch giants are slowly coming into their own as the tournament progresses.
With only one goal conceded so far, their defense, which consists of the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Matthijs De Ligt, Daley Blind, and Stefan de Vrij, has been top-notch. Frenkie de Jong has also found form in the middle of the park, making the Dutch a very tough opponent.
The US, on the other hand, qualified after beating Iran on the final day, behind England. Christian Pulisic and Timothy Weah have played brilliantly along with captain Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah, and Weston McKennie in the midfield.
On paper, the Netherlands look like the better team, but as we all know, games are played on the pitch, and the US just might have enough to edge it.
Argentina vs Australia
Both Argentina and Australia qualified on the final day, though Australia qualified under much more dramatic circumstances.
A loss to France on the opening day saw them rooted to the bottom of the group as Denmark and Tunisia played out a draw.
However, a win against Tunisia and Denmark on their two subsequent matches saw them finish second with 6 points, behind France with 7 and above Tunisia with 4 and Denmark with 1.
Argentina, on the other hand, were part of one of the all-time shocks of the World Cup as Saudi Arabia beat them 2-1. But a nervous win against Mexico, courtesy of Lionel Messi, and an overall dominant performance against Poland saw them finish first with 6 points.
Although Argentina started in a shaky way, they seem to have found their rhythm, as proven by their brilliant display in the game against Poland. Thus, it should be an easy game for Argentina against Australia, but the way this World Cup is going, you never know.
Japan vs Croatia
Talking about final day drama, few could've predicted Japan finishing top of their group ahead of Spain and Germany, but that is exactly what they did.
The Samurai Blue advanced to the round of 16 at the expense of Germany by beating Spain 2-1 on the final matchday.
Croatia did something similar, drawing Belgium in order to remain in the Fifa World Cup and have a chance to repeat their heroics from 2018, which saw them reach the final.
However, by putting these two teams against each other,It's hard to say who'll have the upper hand. Japan have played well when they've been the underdogs, while Croatia have not been at their best in 2018.
The sheer determination, grit, and discipline of Japan could outweigh the magical abilities of the Croats, who have legendary players in their ranks, but for us, it's the Blue Locks who'll be seeing the quarterfinal stages in Qatar, causing yet another upset.
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Brazil vs South Korea
Brazil were defeated by Cameroon in their final match, while South Korea qualified after scoring a stoppage-time winner against Portugal.
The Tigers of Asia have a compact defense, a hardworking midfield, and quality in their attack, which has the likes of Son Heung Min, Hwang Hee Chan, Lee Kang In, and Jeong Woo Yeong.
On the other hand, the Selecao should be too strong for the high-flying South Koreans, as Brazil have looked and performed well at the World Cup.
Dominating all three of their group stage games, they've had to struggle for their goals against opponents weaker than them, but in a knockout match with Neymar returning, they should always be the favourites to go through.
England vs Senegal
Tournament favorites England started in blistering fashion with a 6-2 thumping of Iran. Following a draw against the US, they needed a point on the final day to get through to the Round of 16.
They managed to blow away their opponents, Wales, 3-0 in order to finish top of their group, scoring nine goals, the joint most in the whole tournament.
With key players Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, and Marcus Rashford all in good form, along with talisman Harry Kane, England will be firm favourites against Senegal, who will remain hapless.
Senegal finished behind the Netherlands, carried by Ismaila Sarr's magnificent performances. But the Three Lions should prove too much for the charming Lions of Teranga, who have come so far in the tournament.
France vs Poland
France were the first team to qualify for the Round of 16, and the alleged "champions curse" was nowhere to be seen with them this time. Kylian Mbappe was once again their shining light, along with the supporting cast of Oliver Giroud, Adrien Rabiot, Aurelien Tchouameni, and others.
The reigning champions were only beaten by Tunisia on the final day, but they had a late equalizer chalked off due to offside.
Poland had to rely on a stoppage time Saudi Arabia consolation against Mexico to finish ahead of the North American team on goal difference.
Their talisman Robert Lewandowski scored his first ever goal in the World Cup finals against Saudi Arabia, and they have had a good defense for most of the tournament.
But in the face of France, the Polish defense should crumble against the likes of Kylian Mbappe and co. Unless another all-time upset is in store for us, France should make light work of Poland.
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Morocco vs Spain
Morocco finished top of Group F at the expense of Belgium, who have headed home after finishing third behind Croatia and the Atlas Lions.
Spain's massive win against Costa Rica proved to be vital, as with their +6-goal difference, they overcame their defeat to the Japanese on the final matchday to go through ahead of Germany.
Although both teams are very similar geographically, the Spanish side is more favored on paper.
The likes of Gavi, Pedri, Alvaro Morata, Dani Olmo, and others have already proven that they can do what is necessary for Spain to qualify, but their loss against Japan proved that they can be frustrating at times with their lack of cutting edge in the final third.
Morocco, on the other hand, finished unbeaten, and their key players such as Bono and Youssef En Nesyri are in brilliant form. Although Spain should win, this smells like another one of this year's trademark upsets.
Portugal vs Switzerland
Portugal are being carried by Bruno Fernandes' inspired performances. His class alone got them through the group stages, even after their loss against South Korea on the final matchday.
They've looked like a shaky side that is hugely underperforming. Their all-time great and talisman, Ronaldo, is also not in form due to off-field issues, and Switzerland could very well prove to be too much for them.
The Swiss have looked like a well-oiled machine under their head coach, with players such as Breel Embolo, Granit Xhaka, and Yann Sommer getting into form. They could pull off an upset against the more-favored Portugal.
Underperforming Portugal against overperforming and hardworking Switzerland. An upset is written on the cards.
This World Cup has proved that predicting football games is not something that is enviable. Who would have predicted that four-time champion Germany would be eliminated in the group stages on consecutive occasions, while Japan came out on top of a group that included Spain and Die Mannschaft?
And what about perennial darkhorses in Denmark? Few would have predicted their abysmal showing while Morocco flourished.
This FIFA World Cup 2022 has shown the best of football, which has been unpredictable and unbelievable. Despite that, there are favourites in the Round of 16 fixtures who will be desperate to book their places in the quarterfinals.
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