How the World Cup's four pre-tournament favourites made it to the quarter-finals

By Swindon Link - 8 December 2022

Sport

The stage is set for the quarter-finals of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and it’s shaping up to be a fantastic round of fixtures — with England taking on their cross-Channel rival France, Argentina facing the Netherlands, Brazil going head-to-head with 2018 finalists Croatia and, finally, shock outfit Morocco clashing with Portugal.

Amongst the final eight are the four pre-tournament favourites — Brazil, Argentina, France and England. That has set things up nicely for a cracking finale in the Middle East, and things are certainly starting to heat up now we are at the quarter-final stage of the competition — especially as we have an unexpected twist, with the Atlas Lions featuring — albeit expected to bow out to Fernando Santos’ side according to the Morocco vs Portugal betting odds.

So, as we edge ever closer to those aforementioned encounters, read on as we take a look at how the four pre-tournament favourites made it to the last eight.

Brazil

It seems only fitting to start off with Brazil. The Selecao often find themselves as the outright favourites prior to World Cups kicking off, despite the fact it’s now been 20 years since their last success, and this year was no different.

There was a different feel about the Tite-managed side this year though, as the squad appeared more well-rounded and with stronger depth. Still, they weren’t that inspiring in the group stage — beating Serbia (2-0) and Switzerland (1-0) before a defeat at the hands of Cameroon.

Brazil finally turned on the Samba charm against South Korea in the round of 16, literally dancing their way to a 4-0 lead in the first 40 minutes before taking their foot off the gas — which allowed the Asian outfit the chance to score a consolation. They face Croatia on Friday and should have enough to get past the ageing Europeans.

Argentina

Made second favourites after racking up a 36-game unbeaten run prior to the World Cup, which included silverware success in the 2021 Copa America and the Finalissima in the summer, a lot was expected of Argentina in Qatar — especially as Lionel Messi confirmed it would be his last.

Argentina got off to a nightmare start, however, suffering what is arguably the World Cup’s greatest ever upset as they lost 2-1 to Saudi Arabia. That meant Lionel Scaloni’s men had to dig deep and beat both Mexico and Poland to progress — which they did, dispatching of both with 2-0 wins.

Shock round of 16 outfit Australia were perhaps the easiest of the remaining opponents, and La Albiceleste appeared to have the tie wrapped up thanks to goals from Messi and Julian Alvarez. However, an Enzo Fernandez own goal made them sweat for the last 15 minutes as the Socceroos gained some momentum.

We’re yet to see the best of this Argentina side thus far, and the Dutch could take advantage of that in the quarter-finals.

France

Moving on to the defending world champions, France’s hopes of retaining their crown were cast into doubt when their injury list started to pile up — with important players like Presnel Kimpembe, N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba all out injured, while Lucas Hernandez tore his ACL just minutes into their opener against Australia.

However, when you’ve got someone like Kylian Mbappe on your side you can never be ruled out entirely and the Paris Saint-Germain forward is on a mission to carry his side to glory. The 23-year-old star has five goals and two assists thus far, scoring braces against both Denmark and Poland in the round of 16, and is going to be a real cause of concern for England in the quarters.

England

That brings us nicely on to the Three Lions. Once the second favourites for this World Cup after their displays at Russia 2018 and Euro 2020 18 months ago, England drifted in the outright market due to their lacklustre Nations League campaign — in which they failed to win any of their six games, suffered relegation to League B and recorded their worst run of form in 30 years to say the least.

They have appeared to regain some confidence with the 6-2 win over Iran and the 3-0 victories over Wales and African champions Senegal in the round of 16.

However, it remains to be seen whether Gareth Southgate’s side have merely papered the cracks and will be exposed by a good footballing side like France, or they truly are back to their brilliant tournament form.

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