World Cup Viewer’s Guide: Quarterfinalists bid for title

Dec 6, 2022, 2:37 PM | Updated: Dec 7, 2022, 4:40 am
Brazil's Neymar celebrates scoring his side's second goal during the World Cup round of 16 soccer m...

Brazil's Neymar celebrates scoring his side's second goal during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Brazil and South Korea, at the Stadium 974 in Al Rayyan, Qatar, Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

(AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

              Japan's Hidemasa Morita, left, and Croatia's Luka Modric go for a header during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Japan and Croatia at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
              Morocco's team makes a group photo on the pitch, holding the Palestinian flag, after winning the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Morocco and Spain, at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
              Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates winning the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Argentina and Australia at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
              Brazil's Neymar celebrates scoring his side's second goal during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Brazil and South Korea, at the Stadium 974 in Al Rayyan, Qatar, Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
              England's Harry Kane celebrates scoring his side's second goal during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between England and Senegal, at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
              Denzel Dumfries of the Netherlands, bottom, is congratulated after scoring his side's 3rd goal during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between the Netherlands and the United States, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — After non-stop soccer for the past two weeks, the World Cup is taking a small break.

There will be two days of rest before the quarterfinals start in Qatar with at least one surprising team still in contention to win soccer’s biggest prize.

Morocco produced the latest upset in a tournament that has had its share of them, beating Spain in the round of 16 on Tuesday to become the first Arab nation to reach the World Cup quarterfinals. The Moroccans, who also became only the fourth African team to reach this stage, beat the 2010 champions in a penalty shootout.

“What they’ve done today is extraordinary,” Morocco coach Walid Regragui said after the match.

In the group stage, Saudi Arabia caused one of the biggest upsets in tournament history by beating Argentina in its opening match. Japan beat both Germany and Spain. The Germans and 2018 semifinalist Belgium both were eliminated before the knockout rounds.

Argentina, with Lionel Messi still looking to win a World Cup title, still made it through and then beat Australia to get into the last eight. Brazil, which had Neymar back in the lineup after an ankle injury, is there as well.

And so is defending champion France, with Kylian Mbappe seemingly unstoppable, England, Croatia, the Netherlands and, of course, Portugal — with or without Cristiano Ronaldo in the starting lineup.

CROATIA vs. BRAZIL (Friday, Education City Stadium)

Five-time champion Brazil looks ready to go deep at this year’s World Cup, with Neymar recovered from an ankle injury and the country’s greatest player, Pele, an inspiration as he watches from his hospital bed.

The 82-year-old soccer great is receiving treatment in Sao Paulo as he recovers from a respiratory infection that was aggravated by COVID-19, but his presence can be felt among Brazil’s players and fans, with banners, flags and T-shirts bearing his image.

On the field, Neymar and Co. are serious contenders, beating South Korea 4-1 in the round of 16.

“They are bold, they try one-on-one moves, feints, they are aggressive. It’s impressive,” Brazil coach Tite said.

Croatia is an aging team but has the knowhow at the World Cup after reaching the semifinals four years ago.

NETHERLANDS vs. ARGENTINA (Friday, Lusail Stadium)

Argentina has recovered from one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history and now faces the Netherlands for a place in the semifinals.

For Argentina to win its third World Cup, expect Messi to provide the magic.

The problem is, however, Messi is no longer at his peak — even if his country remains as reliant on him as ever and he has managed to score three goals so far in Qatar.

Argentina’s fans have also played a part in inspiring the team.

“This is a unique moral boost. I’d like (it if) everybody could experience what a player feels when he sees all these people and thinks his country is behind him,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said. “They make you want to go out and celebrate.”

The Netherlands has been quietly effective in reaching the quarterfinals, winning Group A and then beating the United States 3-1 in the round of 16.

These teams have plenty of history in the World Cup, with Argentina beating the Netherlands in the final in 1978 and in the semifinals in 2014.

MOROCCO vs. PORTUGAL (Saturday, Al Thumama Stadium)

Portugal has shown what it can do without Ronaldo after the five-time Ballon d’Or winner was benched in the 6-1 rout of Switzerland in the round of 16.

His replacement, Goncalo Ramos, scored the first hat trick of this year’s World Cup.

It’s not clear if Ronaldo will be recalled for the quarterfinal match against Morocco or if he will be asked to accept a reduced role.

“I will use what I believe is the right strategy, as I have done my entire life,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said.

That doesn’t bode well for Ronaldo, given the fluidity the team showed against Switzerland without him on the field.

Standing in Portugal’s way is the surprise team of the World Cup, Morocco.

“No one is giving up. Everyone’s playing with bandages, everyone is trying to raise their level of play and mentality,” Regragui said. “We succeeded in creating a family, and we feel there’s a whole country behind us.”

ENGLAND vs. FRANCE (Saturday, Al Bayt Stadium)

Two of the best strikers in the world go head-to-head in the last of the four quarterfinal matches.

Harry Kane, the leading scorer at the last World Cup, finally got off the mark in England’s 3-0 win over Senegal. But he has some catching to do if he wants to get close to Mbappe, who has scored five goals in the tournament.

“I think we still have not seen the best of Kylian,” France forward Olivier Giroud said of his teammate. “I hope (his best) is going to come soon and he will beat all the records. He is amazing and he is still young, which is scary because he still can improve his game.”

England has been getting its goals from a variety of places. Eight different England players have scored for the team in Qatar so far.

“They,” England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford said, “have got to be worried about us as well, our threat in attack.”


James Robson is at


AP World Cup coverage: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE -Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, center, celebrates with teammates after Game 7 of b...
Associated Press

Memorable LeBron James moments as he closes in on NBA record

As LeBron James closes in on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and is about to become the NBA’s career scoring leader the journey has included several memorable moments. And there have been many. Many. Through 20 seasons and four NBA championships, the list of James’ unforgettable nights is immeasurably long. But here are five that stand out. THE […]
1 day ago
Tottenham's Harry Kane greets supporters after the English Premier League soccer match between Fulh...
Associated Press

Harry Kane has records in sight, but trophies elude him

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Harry Kane will become Tottenham’s all-time leading scorer with a goal against Manchester City on Sunday. The striker’s wait for a major trophy, however, will go on. Kane is set to surpass the late Jimmy Greaves’ club record of 266 goals, which has stood for 53 years. He is also tied […]
1 day ago
FILE- Gene Sykes claps after City Council voted 12-0 to endorse documents at the heart of its plan ...
Associated Press

USOPC: Russian pathway possible, but sanctions must remain

The new leader of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee reiterated the federation’s support for exploring a way for Russian athletes to compete at the Paris Olympics as neutrals, while insisting the current sanctions against the country remain in place. Gene Sykes, who took over for Susanne Lyons as USOPC chair on Jan. 1, wrote […]
1 day ago
Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin (26) celebrates his goal during the second period of an NHL...
Associated Press

All-Star festivities showcase next generation of NHL stars

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — New Jersey Devils players watch from the bench often and marvel at some of the things Jack Hughes can do on the ice. “Every game, at least a couple times, I’ll be like, ‘Oh my God, that guy’s amazing,'” forward Michael McLeod said. “He just gets it done every night.” […]
1 day ago
Youth team players warm-up ahead of the Black star water polo competition held at the University of...
Associated Press

Ghana water polo grows as sport looks for more diversity

Back at the very beginning, right when the idea of water polo in Ghana started swimming into reality, Asante Prince got out a couple of balls and caps in front of a handful of curious kids. He decided to try a scrimmage, but he had no nets. So they put a soccer bench on each […]
1 day ago
FILE - Austria's Katharina Liensberger speeds down the course during the first run of an alpine ski...
Associated Press

Austrian ski team aims to rediscover its magic at worlds

VIENNA (AP) — Only one skier in the 24-member Austrian squad for the upcoming world championships has won on the Word Cup circuit this season. A star coach left the women’s team mid-January. And “crisis” has become a common word on the ski-mad nation’s sport pages. Has the once dominating “Wunderteam” from Austria lost its […]
1 day ago
World Cup Viewer’s Guide: Quarterfinalists bid for title