The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is rapidly nearing its conclusion, as the first round of knockout matches have already been played. But who will win the fight for the semis? as we wait for another round of human emotions on both sides of the coin? Who will enjoy ecstasy while others face agony?
The knockouts were much more predictable than the group stage fixtures, but that doesn't mean that there weren't any surprises in store for us.
We saw a stubborn Australia play their hearts out against Argentina, who only managed to scrape past them 2-1, courtesy of Messi's magic. A last-minute save from Emiliano Martinez saved the Albiceleste from the grueling thirty minutes of extra time and possible penalties.
Last night, we saw the first major shock in the knockouts as Morocco held Spain for 120 minutes before Yassine Bounou's heroics in the shootout ensured that the Atlas Lions reached the quarterfinals for the first time in their history.
We also witnessed heartbreak as The Samurai Blue's magical run was ended by last year's finalists Croatia, as another goalkeeper, this time Dominik Livakovic, proved himself to be a national hero.
But with all of the Round of 16 fixtures done and dusted, we now move on to the quarterfinals. Each team is now potentially 3 games away from ascending into the annals of history and having their name written in gold.
Croatia vs Brazil
Brazil and Croatia greet us in the first quarterfinal as the Samba Stars look to continue their mission hexa. Croatia, on the other hand, will try to outdo Russia by winning their first ever title.
Two teams head into this quarterfinal with vastly different Round of 16 performances. Croatia broke Japanese hearts on penalties to go through after they came from behind in the second half.
Brazil, on the other hand, demolished South Korea 4-1, with starman Neymar coming close to Pele's all-time record for Brazil.
The Brazilians will be coming into the contest with heaps of confidence, while Croatia will be a little shaky after their 120-minute draw against a stubborn Japan.
With the form that the Brazilian attackers are in, especially Vinicius Junior and Richarlison, you'd be hard-pressed not to back them in this contest.
As for Croatia, their key advantage should be their exceptional midfield. Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic, and Marcelo Brozovic need to be at their best in order to get the better of the Samba midfield. But all in all, the Brazilians should get the victory in what should be a tight contest.
Netherlands vs Argentina
An all-time World Cup classic awaits us in the second quarterfinal as Argentina take on the Netherlands.
Argentina progressed after a nervy encounter with Australia, where Lionel Messi gave one of the performances of the tournament to ensure a 2-1 victory for the Albiceleste.
The Netherlands had a fairly easier affair than their counterparts as they strolled past the USA 3-1, courtesy of a wonderful performance from Denzel Dumfries.
Both Memphis Depay and Cody Gakpo are in red-hot form in attack, and with Frenkie de Jong having a good tournament as well, the Dutch look a dangerous prospect for the Argentinians.
Lionel Messi and co. will have another grueling encounter on their hands as they strive towards the promised land of the FIFA World Cup.
This matchup has always provided a great viewing experience, and the last match between them saw Argentina win on penalties. Expect the same to happen this time.
Morocco vs Portugal
Morocco served up the first surprise of the knockout stages when they beat Spain on penalties. Portugal were impressive as well, to say the least, handing an absolute spanking to the Swiss, beating them 6-1 courtesy of a Goncalo Ramos hat trick.
Morocco held Spain on for 120 minutes in a dogged defensive performance, and in the end, Yassine Bounou proved himself to be a national hero as he saved three penalties to cause another upset in this surprise World Cup.
Portugal was the most impressive team in the Round of 16 after fielding a Ronaldo-less XI. Goncalo Ramos' hat trick meant that they demolished Switzerland 6-1 in a very one-sided encounter.
Morocco's underdog aura will give them a massive boost that just might be enough to make them the first African nation to reach the semi-finals. But if they do achieve that, they'll have to do it on the back of their highly impressive defense.
France vs England
In the fourth and final quarterfinal, France and England, two of the most expensive squads in Qatar 2022, will face off, and one of them will have to give up on their dream of bringing it home.
Le Bleu will look to retain their crown on the back of Kylian Mbappe's undeniable class.
The PSG man has been the man of the tournament so far, scoring five goals already. France beat a tough Poland team 3-1 to qualify for the quarterfinals with a very impressive performance.
England were magnificent in their match against Senegal as well. Their incredible all-round performance made sure they got the job done against the Lions of Teranga easily, winning 3-0.
A match between the heavyweights will be highly exciting, as no team will leave no stone unturned in order to take one step closer to the elusive trophy.
A full fit Kyle Walker could finally be the defender to stop Kylian Mbappe as Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, and Harry Kane pit their best against the French defense. Harry Maguire and John Stones will have to do their best to stand any chance against the ruthless French attack.
In the middle of the park, England just about edges the French with no significant injuries and proper quality all over the pitch and in all roles. England could just about get the win, but honestly, this is going to be one unpredictable encounter.
Matchups of the highest caliber await us in the quarterfinals as the magic of the Qatar World Cup nears its final stages. New heavyweights, old classics, and underdogs This round has it all, and each and every contest promises to be filled with blood, sweat, and tears.
In the end, two emotions will remain and prevail. Unlimited joy and unbearable sadness await, and the matches will be even tougher than the previous round. The football world now waits to see which teams make it to the last four.