More twists and turns: World Cup quarterfinals recap


Photo by Republic of Korea via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

A 2022 World Cup match in Education City Stadium, located in Al Rayyan, Qatar.

Eight teams entered the World Cup quarterfinals, but now, only four remain. The second round of the knockout round certainly did not disappoint. Here is a recap of the matches that took place on Friday and Saturday. 

Croatia crashes Brazil’s party

After a vibrant and dominant victory against South Korea in the round of 16, Brazil had no shortage of confidence going against Croatia in quarterfinals and was expected to dance through to the semis. But as the world should have learned from the last tournament, the Croatians certainly would not go out easily. 

The first 45 minutes of the game were extremely balanced, with each side having chances but neither putting them away. The match was not looking to be the cake-walk which Brazil had so vividly imagined, and Croatia was giving the five-time champions a run for its money. However, Brazilians fans did not lose faith. Surely, the “Seleção” would be victorious. It was just a matter of time. 

The second half kicked off with neither side making changes. Croatia switched gears, playing more patiently and defensively, while Brazil picked up tempo, desperately searching to find the net. 

However, the initial 90 minutes concluded scoreless, a far cry from the scoreline which Brazil would have predicted. 

The match was heading into extra-time, with a trip to the semi-finals on the line. The Brazilians were finally able to rejoice when, in the 106th minute, Neymar thumped in a shot, giving Brazil the lead it had been so desperately searching for. The goal also made Neymar Brazil’s joint top scorer of all time, equaling the record set by the iconic Pelé.

However, the match wasn’t over yet. Just ten minutes later, Bruno Petković fired a shot past the Brazilian keeper, leveling the scoreline. Croatia was ecstatic, while its opponents were horrified. In a matter of minutes, Brazil’s hopes for heading to the semifinal were deflated. Extra time concluded with the score being 1-1, and it was official. The match would be determined through a penalty shoot-out.

Croatia converted each of its penalties, while Brazil missed one and made two. Brazil’s fate would rest on the shoulders of Paris Saint-Germain defender Marquinhos, who stepped up to take Brazil’s fourth penalty.  If he was unable to score, then the Brazilians would be heading home. Marquinhos sent the keeper the wrong way, but shockingly hit the post. It was all over. The Brazilians were out, eliminated in the quarterfinals for the fourth consecutive World Cup.

The upsets keep pouring in.

Dutch inspire comeback, but fail to overcome Messi & co. 

The stage was set for one of the most exciting games of the tournament. Both the Netherlands and Argentina were serious contenders to go all the way in Qatar, and each provided star-studded squads. The match surely was to be a classic.

And what a classic it was.

The match kicked off at Lusail Stadium in front of a crowd predominantly sporting blue and white, with the occasional orange splash. For Argentina, it must have just been like home.

The first half was competitive, but it did not take long for Argentina to find gaps in the Netherlands team, and Argentina was knocking on the door. In the 35th minute, Argentina was able to take the lead, after Nabuel Molina slotted in a picture-perfect pass from Lionel Messi. The first 45 concluded with the Argentinians ahead, and the Netherlands without a single shot on target.

Lionel Messi has never won a World Cup. Could this possibly be his and Argentina’s year? (Photo by Hossein Zohrevand via  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0)

The second half opened with the Oranje seeing more of the ball, but the game was still dominated by the Argentinians. The Dutch’s situation went from bad to worse shortly after the 70-minute mark, when Dumfries committed a careless penalty. Messi then converted it to put the Albicelestes up by two, seemingly putting the final nail in the coffin for the Dutch.

But in the 83 minute, new life was breathed into the match when the Netherlands finally got a shot on target, which resulted in a goal. Now, it was anyone’s game. The Dutch continued to battle relentlessly, while the Argentinians began to panic. And in the dying moments of the match, the Netherlands was presented with a free kick in a dangerous scoring position, which it scored in genius fashion. The Argentinians had a two-goal advantage with less than 20 minutes to go, and the score was 2-2.

The match concluded in a draw, and the game went into extra time. Neither side was able to emerge victorious, so just like the Brazil vs. Croatia game, the match would be decided in a penalty shoot-out.

After a dramatic shoot-out, Argentina emerged victorious. The Dutch fought hard, but under pressure they simply couldn’t keep their cool.

Lionel Messi’s team will now play Croatia on Tuesday Dec. 13. The last time these two nations faced was in the last World Cup in Russia, where Croatia beat Argentina in a decisive 3-0 victory.

Morocco’s fairytale continues 

Morocco certainly has been the surprise team of the tournament. Coming to Qatar with a low ranking, expectations were low for the Atlas Lions. However, the Moroccans have taken the tournament by storm. For the third match of the quarterfinals, Morocco squared off against Portugal and history was made.

The match kicked off at Thumama Stadium on Saturday, and the Portuguese were fairly confident. In the round of 16, they had decisively beaten Switzerland 6-1, all without the help of its most iconic player, Cristiano Ronaldo. Morocco, on the other hand, knocked out heavyweights, Spain. The match was going to be intense, no doubt.

Unlikely heroes Morocco have captured the hearts of many this World Cup, and have made history. (Photo by Hossein Zohrevand via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.o)

Ronaldo, once again, did not feature in Portugal’s starting 11. Instead, he would be watching the action from the bench, unless his talents were called for.

Portugal dominated possession early on, but Morocco’s defense remained firm. Both teams looked dangerous on the ball.

Then, in the 43rd minute, after attacking down the left flank, Yahia Attiyat Allah sent a long cross into the box. The Portuguese goalie was beaten by Youssef En-Nesyri, who headed it in to give Morocco the lead. The stadium was rocking. Ronaldo, watching the events unfold from the bench, was in disbelief. Morocco was winning. 

The last few minutes of the first half were incredibly intense, and a Portuguese appeal for a penalty was denied. The first half came and went, and the score was 1-0, advantage Morocco.

Early in the second half, Ronaldo was given his curtain call. Portugal hoped he could be the one to turn things around, and lead “Os Navegadores” to victory.

Minutes later, Morocco defender and captain, Romain Saiss, went down with an injury. Saiss had been a key figure for Morocco and solid in the back. Unfortunately, Saiss could not go on and was carried off in tears. His injury certainly was  a massive loss for the Atlas Lions.

Even with that setback, the Moroccans preserved, refusing to give up their precious lead. Portugal continued to bombard the Moroccan’s goal, and it came close to equalizing several times. Morocco, on the other hand, piled up defensively, switching to a back five midway through the second half. Morocco still had the lead after 90 minutes, and eight minutes of added time. Just three minutes in, Morocco was dealt another blow. Forward Walid Cheddira picked up two yellow cards and was then shown a red. Morocco was down to ten men.

Morocco managed to cling on and were in complete euphoria when the final whistle blew. The team had done it. Morocco became the first African and Arab nation to make it to the World Cup semifinals.

Beating Belgium, Spain and Portugal, and only allowing one goal the entire tournament? That’s impressive.

Sorry England, it’s not “coming home” 

Per usual, England fans were convinced that this was their year. With a team that starts Harry Maguire, how could England possibly lose?

Jokes aside, England’s squad for Qatar was impressive (for the most part). With young talents such as Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka mixed in with veterans such as Jordan Henderson and John Stones, England certainly had the star power needed to go far in Qatar.

After finishing first in its group, England faced Senegal in the round of 16. England comfortably swept the Lions of Teranga aside, winning 3-0.

For the next round of the tournament, the Three Lions were set for a showdown against defending champions: France. It was going to be an incredibly close game.

Gareth Southgate chose to start the same 11 who beat Senegal. Didier Deschamps also made no changes after beating Poland 3-1.

From kickoff, the game was incredibly competitive. Early on, both sides had the chance to take the lead, but the opening goal arrived at the 17 mark. After receiving the ball from range, Aurélien Tchouaméni sent a sensational strike past Jordan Pickford, putting the French up 1-0. England claimed that Bukayo Saka was fouled in the buildup to the goal, but VAR wasn’t having it.

A couple of minutes later, Tottenham striker and England captain, Harry Kane, went to the ground with cries for a penalty. VAR checked it, but it appeared that the foul had taken place just outside of the box, so there was no penalty. England kept pushing for an equalizer and had several close shots. However, the half ended 1-0, advantage France.

Early in the second half, Saka was brought down by Tchouaméni and England finally got its penalty. Kane stepped up to take it, and after sending Hugo Lloris the wrong way, smashed it into the left corner. England was back in it. France picked up the pace, while England turned down the tempo a bit.

In the 78th minute, the French re-established its lead after a corner that was magnificently headed in by Olivier Giroud. Southgate responded by making a double changing, subbing off Saka and Henderson in favor of Raheem Sterling and Mason Mount.

Shortly after he was subbed on, Mount was recklessly knocked over in the box by Lucas Hernandez, and VAR awarded England its second penalty of the night. Once again, Kane stepped up to attempt to level the scoreline.

Kane chose to “aim for the stars,” sending his shot high above the crossbar and into orbit. You can take the player out of Tottenham, but you can’t take the Tottenham out of the player. Mbappé got a good laugh out of that one.

France was able to grind out the rest of the game for a win, and the match ended 2-1 in its favor. The French will now face Morocco in the semis on Tuesday as they continue their quest to defend their crown.