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Winners & Losers from the Quarterfinals, part 1

Messi’s magic will live on at the tournament as Argentina advance past the Netherlands.

Netherlands v Argentina: Quarter Final - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Coming back from a couple of days of no men’s World Cup to a day where both games went to penalties feels a little bit like the first day back at work after a vacation or a long weekend, where you suddenly question why you bother resting at all if there’s just going to be all of this when you come back. That’s exactly what happened with the first pair of Quarterfinal matchups, as both Croatia vs. Brazil and Netherlands vs. Argentina required extra time and penalties to be decided. The games were good and eventful, and so were the penalties, so it’s hard to really complain.

We got to see a bit of Lionel Messi Magic, a nice scuffle, exuberant Brazilians following a lovely Neymar goal, and an emotional Croatian equalizer. We had penalty saves, painful misses, plenty of yellow cards, and one post-match sending-off. Most importantly, though, after two days without, we had the World Cup again.


Penalty freaks: 100% of the games played in the first batch of the Quarterfinals were decided by penalties. Many people might think that’s a bad thing; to a significant portion of soccer watchers and football lovers penalties are stressful, anxiety-inducing coin flips that feel like an entirely unfair way of deciding a game. That’s unfair, though, and may even be offensive to those who love penalties. I don’t know for sure that those people exist, but they probably do, and I’ll bet they LOVED these games. There were excellent saves — Dominik Livaković’s opening save against Rodrygo was pivotal in Croatia’s win against Brazil, and Emi Martínez will probably never pay for another drink or meal outside of the Netherlands for as long as he lives after his two saves propelled Argentina past the Dutch — some good finishes, and a heartbreaking miss. It was everything you could hope for in a couple of shootouts.

Pretty play appreciators: There is not a single angle from which Argentina’s opening goal isn’t simply incredible. The play featured a pass that is the kind of thing that seemingly only Lionel Messi is even capable of seeing, let alone pulling off. Without ever even checking his shoulder or looking to the right side of the field as he carries the ball from right to left about 30 yards away from goal, Messi nutmegged one defender and effectively took the entire Dutch defense out of the play with a no-look pass that found Nahuel Molina just as he entered the box and set up an excellent finish. It was a moment of magic, and a reminder that as Messi is approaching the end of his international career, he can still go out at the top of his game.


Everyone who has undersold Croatia: Alright, I’ll include myself here, but Croatia have definitely not gotten the credit they deserved going into this tournament, or as they’ve progressed. Heck, they were runners-up at the last World Cup, have talent in their squad spread around the top European leagues, and their captain is Luka Modrić, one of the best and most underrated players in the world who’s just casually won 5 UEFA Champions League trophies with Real Madrid and was awarded basically every possible individual award in 2018 including the World Cup Golden Ball. Their win over Brazil wasn’t a foregone conclusion, but it also wasn’t the shocking upset some of us treated it like it would be. Modrić deserves to be in the conversation alongside Messi as players with a chance to forever claim their place among the best players ever as they push their teams further into the tournament.

Stereotypes about hot-headed South Americans: If you’ve listened to much football commentary or read coverage, you’ve almost certainly come across references to combative or “spicy” players from Latin Americans. It’s not a critique or criticism, those leaning on the stereotype will claim, it’s just that the game is played with more passion in South and Central America. CONMEBOL is highly competitive confederation, full of skill and grit, and sometimes that competition boils over. In the match between Argentina and the Netherlands, that stereotype was proven false, or at least it was shown that Argentina’s players were no more hot-headed, aggressive or competitive than their opponents. Leandro Paredes made the foolish and reckless choice to smash a ball towards the Dutch bench, which sparked a little scrap, but ultimately it was Argentina who kept their cool enough to win on penalties, and it was Denzel Dumfries who earned a post-match red card after being shown a second yellow. I’m not claiming that Argentina were the image of zen or stoicism, and they’ll likely need to clean it up on the disciplinary front, but they weren’t any worse on that front than their European opponents on the day.

Storylines to watch in the Quarterfinals, part 2

7:00 AM - Morocco vs. Portugal: Morocco are playing for something bigger than any other team left in the tournament at this point. They remain undefeated so far, knocked off a very dangerous Spain side in penalties, and kept a shutout against now-Semifinalists Croatia in their opening game of the tournament. There’s every reason to think that they could do it again against this Portugal side. For Portugal. the big question is whether Fernando Santos keeps Cristiano Ronaldo benched and runs Gonçalo Ramos out in the Starting XI again. The team seemed to work significantly better without the unemployed attacker, but we’ll see if Santos sticks to that plan.

Watch the game on Fox, Telemundo, or streaming on and Peacock.

11:00 AM - England vs. France: Kylian Mbappé is the obvious marquee name here, as the 23 year-old winger is the attacking engine driving France forward with 5 goals and 2 assists already in the tournament. England has some young stars that are making their own claims on the spotlight. Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka — the oldest of whom is only 22 — have practically chiseled their names in stone in Gareth Southgate’s starting lineup and seem most likely to make the difference if England are going to reach the Semis and beyond.

Watch the game on Fox, Telemundo, or streaming on and Peacock.

You can catch replays of all games in English on or Spanish on Peacock 30 minutes after the final whistle.

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