World Cup Friday Preview: Lionel Messi and Argentina prepare for battle with the Dutch, while No. 1-ranked Brazil clash with Croatia in quarterfinals

Mandatory Credit: Photo by JOSE SENA GOULAO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (13651203b) Vinicius Junior of Brazil celebrates after scoring the opening goal against South Korea during their FIFA World Cup 2022 round of 16 match, at 974 Stadium, in Doha, Qatar, 05 December 2022. FIFA World Cup 2022 – Round of 16 Brazil vs South Korea, Doha, Qatar – 05 Dec 2022

World Cup Friday Preview: Lionel Messi and Argentina prepare for battle with the Dutch, while No. 1-ranked Brazil clash with Croatia in quarterfinals

Quarterfinals: Brazil (No. 1) vs. Croatia (No. 12)

When, where: 9 a.m. CT, Education City Stadium (Doha, Qatar)

Match history: Brazil is 3-0-1 all-time against Croatia, outscoring the Fiery Boys 10-2 in those four matches combined. The two nations’ most recent match resulted in a 2-0 shutout win for Brazil back on June 3, 2018, in an international friendly in which Neymar scored the eventual game-winning goal in the 69th minute. Brazil’s previous two victories over Croatia came at the 2006 and 2014 World Cups. They also played to a 1-1 draw in their first-ever meeting in 2005. In their 2014 World Cup match, Neymar again led the Brazilians to a win by scoring two goals, one in the 29th minute and another in the 71st on a penalty kick.

Players to watch, Brazil: Marquinhos and Vinícius Júnior. The 28-year-old Marquinhos of PSG has been a vital cog with both his passing and defense all tournament long for Brazil. Marquinhos leads the team with 1.11 expected assists (also fifth overall at the World Cup), 263 passes, a 95% pass completion rate, and 23 receptions. Vinícius Júnior, on the other hand, has been a constant nuisance for opposing defenses to handle with his speed and sublime touch.

The 22-year-old forward leads Brazil with eight chances created and two assists in four matches. The rising youngster out of Real Madrid also ranks second on the team in total shots (seven), goals scored (one), and expected assists (0.68), as well as third place in shots on target (three) and expected goals (0.84). The deeper Brazil advance in the tournament, the more talented the opposing defenses will become, which means more attention than ever on preventing Neymar from finding the net. Vinícius Júnior is surely no slouch on the global soccer stage, but he should indeed benefit from the added attention on his older, veteran teammates.

Players to watch, Croatia: Ivan Perišić and Andrej Kramarić. Perišić, a 33-year-old winger of Tottenham Hotspur, currently sits in a tie for first place with six all-time Croatian World Cup goals. Perišić also currently leads the 2022 Croatian national team with 10 total shots and two assists through four World Cup matches, as well as being tied for first on the team with five chances created, tied for second with three shots on target, and tied for second with one goal scored. Perišić’s 10 total shots through four games also tie him for seventh place overall.

Kramarić leads the Croatians with two goals scored and 1.50 expected goals, according to The 31-year-old forward is also second on the team in total shots (seven) and pass completion rate (90%), as well as tied for second in shots on target (three). While the 2018 Golden Ball-winning Modrić is undoubtedly past his prime, Kramarić can make a case that he’s still in his, as could Perišić, albeit to a lesser extent. This duo of Kramarić and Perišić has accounted for nearly half of Croatia’s offense en route to the nation’s second consecutive quarterfinals berth.

Brazil World Cup history: The Brazilians are the most successful national team in World Cup history, having won five championships and finishing in second place twice, third place twice, and fourth place twice as well. The “Seleção Canarinho” of Brazil has now made eight straight quarterfinal appearances dating back to 1994, but they haven’t won a World Cup title since 2002 when they defeated Germany 2-0 behind two goals from FIFA Golden Boot winner Ronaldo. Thiago Silva is the only current member of the Brazilian national team to have four World Cup appearances to his name, making the trip for every campaign since 2010. Neymar currently sits tied for eighth place all-time with seven World Cup goals scored for Brazil. The “Canarinho” of Brazil holds the record for most World Cup titles (five), total appearances (22), victories (75), and most wins in a single tournament (seven in 2002). Brazil is 11-5 all-time in World Cup quarterfinal matches, although they’ve lost three of their past four, getting eliminated in the quarterfinals in 2006 by France (1-0), 2010, the Netherlands (2-1), and 2018 Belgium (2-1).

Croatia World Cup history: Croatia, only a FIFA member since 1998, finished in second place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia after losing to France 4-2 in the finals. Croatian midfielder Luka Modrić also won FIFA’s Golden Ball award (best overall player) in their runner-up campaign four years ago. Croatia’s previous deep run into the tournament came in 1998, their first-ever appearance at the World Cup, when they were also ousted by the French, but this time in the semifinals in a 2-1 defeat. Croatia finished third in that World Cup, and between then and 2018, they had qualified for both three World Cups (‘02, ‘06, ‘14) and three group play exits. The “Chequereds” of Croatia boasts a quartet of highly-experienced World Cup footballers in Modrić, Dejan Lovren, Ivan Perišić, and Mateo Kovačić, who have all been to at least three consecutive World Cups between 2014 to 2022 and are the top four all-time in World Cup matches played for the Croatian national team. This is Modrić’s fourth overall World Cup appearance. The now 37-year-old of Real Madrid leads Croatia with 16 all-time World Cup match appearances, having made two appearances as a substitute in group play in 2006.

What to expect: Croatia certainly has the World Cup experience and mettle to challenge No. 1-ranked Brazil. The Brazilians, however, are rounding into form at just the right time and have too much firepower for the 2018 World Cup runners-up to handle. Brazil ranks second out of 32 total World Cup teams in both shots on target per match (7.5) and expected goals (9.5), according to, despite missing their top playmaker Neymar for nearly all of group play. A second-place finish and quarterfinal appearance in back-to-back World Cups is certainly nothing to scoff at if Croatia is to bow out on Friday, but if this match somehow makes it to penalty kicks, then anything is game. I don’t expect things to get that far, however, as Brazil has too much talent and overall depth for Croatia to contend with at Education City Stadium.

Chris Dell’s Prediction: Brazil 2, Croatia 1

Quarterfinals: Argentina (No. 3) vs. Netherlands (No. 8)

When, where: 1 p.m. CT, Lusail Iconic Stadium (Lusail, Qatar)

Match history: The two sides have played each other nine times between 1974 and 2014, and the results have been painstakingly close. Argentina is 4-3-2 all-time against the Dutch, with the two nations’ most recent matchup quite possibly being its most epic one. Argentina defeated Holland 0-0 (4-2 win on penalty kicks) in the semifinals of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, while the two teams also drew 0-0 in a group play match at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Players to watch, Argentina: Lionel Messi and Julián Álvarez. Just one more goal will make it 10 overall on the biggest of stages for Messi, who would move into another historic class of footballers and into the top 10 World Cup goal scorers of all time by finding the net here at Lusail Iconic Stadium on Friday. Messi ranks first overall at the World Cup with 10 chances created, and he also ranks second overall – behind only France’s Kylian Mbappé – in both total shots (19) and shots on target (nine), according to Messi and Álvarez rank top two for Argentina so far in shots, shots on target, goals scored (two each), and expected goals.

Álvarez, a 22-year-old prodigy out of Manchester City, is rapidly rising up the Argentine football ranks after scoring in back-to-back matches in his first two World Cup Starts, coming against Australia in the Round of 16 and against Poland on Matchday 3 of the group stage. Although Álvarez played as a substitute in Argentina’s first two matches, he’s still tied for fifth at the World Cup in shots on target, tied for ninth in goals scored, and ninth overall in expected goals (1.57).

Players to watch, Netherlands: Memphis Depay and Cody Gakpo. Depay (Barcelona) and Gakpo each have scored three all-time World Cup goals for the Dutch, which puts them in a tie with each other for eighth place on their nation’s all-time World Cup goal scorer list. Depay came into Qatar with a hamstring injury that he had suffered against Poland in the Nations League back in September, and his recovery took longer than most expected. The 28-year-old forward came off the bench as a sub in the Netherlands’ first two matches, but he’s been healthy enough to start the last two in wins over Qatar and the USA by a combined score of 5-1. Despite playing fewer minutes so far than most of his teammates, Depay still leads the Dutch in total shots (10), shots on target (five), expected goals (1.47), and expected assists (0.40).

Gapko more than picked up the slack for Depay’s injury during Holland’s opening matches against Senegal and Ecuador, scoring one goal in each start. The 23-year-old forward out of PSV is a physical force on the football field, clocking in at 6-foot-4. Gapko’s three goals scored easily lead the Dutch so far, and he also ranks first on the team in chances created (five) and second in shots on target (three). When fully healthy, Gakpo and Depay form one of the most dangerous 1-2 offensive punches remaining in the World Cup quarterfinal field.

Argentina World Cup history: This will be Argentina’s 10th overall appearance in the World Cup quarterfinals. The White and Sky Blues are 5-4 all-time in World Cup quarterfinal matches, with their most recent trip here resulting in a 1-0 victory over Belgium and an eventual second-place finish at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Lionel Messi’s team was eliminated by eventual champion France in the Round of 16 in 2018, and in 2014 it lost to Germany 1-0 in the finals. Argentina has two World Cup titles to its name (1978 and 1986), as well as three runners-up finishes in 1930, 1990, and 2014. “La Albiceleste” of Argentina is 50-11-24 in 85 all-time World Cup matches and 17-3-6 overall since the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Messi leads the way for Argentina with 23 World Cup all-time matches played, and teammate Ángel Di María isn’t too far behind, sitting in sixth place on Argentina’s all-time list with 16 matches played. Messi needs just one more goal to move into a tie for first place in all-time World Cup goals scored for Argentina, as the current record-holder Gabriel Batistuta sits at 10.

Netherlands World Cup history: The Dutch have been oh-so-close to supreme glory in recent World Cup tournaments, finishing third in 2014 after losing on penalty kicks to Argentina in the semifinals and finishing second in 2010 after a 1-0 loss to Spain in the finals. The Netherlands holds the record for playing the most World Cup finals without ever winning the finals, with three second-place finishes coming in 1974, 1978, and 2010, losing to West Germany, Argentina, and Spain, respectively. The Netherlands are 30-12-12 in 53 all-time World Cup matches, although they didn’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The Dutch have also impressively never lost a World Cup match in regular time by more than one goal.

What to expect: All eyes will surely be on the veteran Lionel Messi to start Friday’s quarterfinal match, but don’t be surprised to see the day end with new household names emerging from both sides via the likes of Depay, Gakpo, and Argentina’s Álvarez. Messi has said publicly that he expects 2022 to be his last World Cup appearance, and despite being 35 years of age, he’s still performing like one of the top forwards in the world. Argentina will surely need more of Messi’s brilliance if they hope to advance to yet another semifinals here. The Dutch defense has given opponents fits all tournament long, led by the likes of Frenkie De Jong, Jurrien Timber, Virgil Van Dijk, Daley Blind, and Denzel Dumfries. Don’t underestimate the coaching and strategy of Dutch manager Louis van Gaal, who turned a stout USA defense upside down with its wide attacking angles in a commanding 3-1 win in the Round of 16. Argentina might have the best overall player and more World Cup lore to its nation’s name, but the Netherlands isn’t too far behind. The Dutch have more balance on both sides of the ball, as well as the coaching edge in this match, and I expect that to be enough to win.

Chris Dell’s Prediction: Netherlands 1, Argentina 1 (Netherlands win 4-3 on PKs)

Quarterfinals/Knockout Stage Schedule

Friday, Dec. 9

  • Who: Brazil (No. 1) vs. Croatia (No. 12)
  • When, where: 9 a.m. CT, Education City Stadium (Doha, Qatar)
  • Who: Netherlands (No. 8) vs. Argentina (No. 3)
  • When, where: 1 p.m. CT, Lusail Iconic Stadium (Lusail, Qatar)

Saturday, Dec. 10

  • Who: Portugal (No. 9) vs. Morocco (No. 22)
  • When, where: 9 a.m. CT, Al Thumama Stadium (Doha, Qatar)
  • Who: England (No. 5) vs. France (No. 4)
  • When, where: 1 p.m. CT, Al Bayt Stadium (Al Khor, Qatar)

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