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  • Writer's pictureWill Uglow

2022 World Cup Predictions - Round of 16

Updated: Mar 16

48 games down, 16 to go. This tournament is about to get pretty serious, pretty quickly for the remaining teams, with the knockout stages removing any margin for error. After a build-up plagued by controversy and unease, Qatar 2022 eventually exploded into life in the group stages with momentous shocks, goal fests and qualification races that went right to the wire. The result is a knockout stage that looks as open as it is exciting. Anything could happen from here on in, but here's a rough shot at predicting all 8 forthcoming ties anyway...

Netherlands vs USA

The last 16 begins on Saturday afternoon with a clash between the Group A winners and the Group B runners-up. Holland picked up 7 points in a comfortable cruise to the top of their section, whilst the USA were forced to battle to the end to overtake bitter rivals Iran. That easier ride for the Dutch - qualification was already assured before their final group game with hosts Qatar - could count in their favour, not to mention the fact that their game was played several hours before the USMNT kicked off. Cody Gakpo, with three goals for the Orange in the group phase, will be confident of adding to his tally here and although the Americans may make things difficult for a while, this could be a similar story to when they ran out of legs against Wales in their opening game. Only this time, against much fiercer opponents...

Verdict: 3-1 Netherlands win

Argentina vs Australia

After a seismic stutter against the Saudis in their opening game, victories over Mexico and Poland see Argentina march into the knockout stages with some renewed confidence, if not completely restored just yet. A comfortable win over the boys from Down Under will go a long way to achieving this, but it is unlikely to come easily against a Soceroos side who stunned both Tunisia & Denmark in Group C to qualify for their first World Cup knockout stage since 2006. There is clearly a strong team spirit and togetherness in the Aussie camp, with no lack of talent, and they could make things awkward for Messi and co here. The Albiceleste have already been stung by one underdog in this tournament, however, and are likely to approach this one with extreme caution. This one could be low scoring (look forward to the 5-5 draw then...), with the most potential for another nervy but resolute Argentine victory before the opposition begin to crank up a gear in the next round.

Verdict: 2-0 Argentina win

Japan vs Croatia

The wildcard pairing amongst our pack of eight. Whilst Croatia wouldn't have been surprised to qualify in second from their section, they would probably have anticipated a rather foreboding clash with either Spain or Germany in this fixture. Whilst that possibility has been avoided, the reality may be no less daunting given the impressive manner of Japan's dismissal of those two European giants on their way to topping Group E. The Asian side are the most dangerous of banana skins, and the 2018 runners up will hold no fear for them at the Al Janoub stadium. This clash bears similarities to Japan's last World Cup knockout tie, their dramatic 3-2 loss to Belgium in 2018. They will hope that lessons have been learnt from that day, however, and a fading Croatia side that overcame only Canada in Group F are a far cry from that peak Belgian outfit of four years ago. It will be close, but if they display the same tenacious mentality that has seen them through this far, Japan could be the surprise package in the final 8.

Verdict: 2-1 Japan win (after extra time)

Brazil vs South Korea

Any fans with nostalgic feelings towards the 2002 World Cup are likely to have a field day on Monday, as Japan's fellow co-hosts from that tournament go up against its Ronaldo-inspired winners. Brazil, of course, are still awaiting another world title following those heady days, but hopes of another Selecao success remain on track after topping Group G, despite a surprise reverse to Cameroon with qualification already secured. South Korea, meanwhile, were largely out of the driving seat in their section, until a shock defeat of Portugal saw them through at the expense of Uruguay. As impressive as that win was, immediately following it up against the tournament favourites isn't exactly an easy ask, although the Koreans will carry danger through the likes of Heung Min Son and Hwang Hee Chan. Brazil will be happy with this tie, however, and assuming they avoid the complacency that has dogged many big names already in Qatar, their solid defence and multitude of attacking options should see them through with some breathing space.

Verdict: 2-0 Brazil win

England vs Senegal

With the Three Lions safely through the group stage for the second consecutive World Cup, as top scorers no less, the measured optimism that existed a few short days ago at the tournament's outset is already showing the first signs of boiling over into full blown, pint wielding, "coming home" delerium. But for now, there's another football match to win, against the highly rated African champions no less. This always seemed a likely fixture in this area of the draw, with Senegal possessing a real threat to Gareth Southgate's men despite the continued absence of star forward Sadio Mane through injury. England fans will be encouraged by their team's impressive group stage performances, however (USA aside), and will hope that this tie can be negotiated with slightly more ease than their Last 16 clash with Colombia in 2018. Especially seeing as the Senegalese, it appears, are rather good with penalties...

Verdict: 2-1 England win

France vs Poland

For the first time since 2006, the reigning World Cup holders appear in the knockout stage. France made a mockery of the so called 'winner's curse' in Group D, a last gasp defeat to Tunisia in their final game aside, and they will be confident of going at least as far as Brazil's holders of 16 years ago, who were knocked out in the Quarter Finals by...the French. Poland, meanwhile, will feel somewhat fortunate to still be on Qatari soil following a thoroughly disappointing defeat to Argentina that would have surely seen them eliminated had Mexican finishing in the other group game been less profligate. This clash will undoubtedly be billed as 'Lewandowski vs Mbappe', but the reality is if Poland play anything like they did against Messi & Co, Big Rob will be starved of service, whilst the evervescent Kylian could provide the spark for Les Bleus once more...

Verdict: 3-0 France win

Morocco vs Spain

This doesn't seem that outlandish a Last 16 tie, until you realise that Morocco are the group winners and Spain the runners up. The Moroccans put in a sterling effort to top a tough section containing Belgium, Croatia and a tricky Canadian side, but may feel they've drawn a short straw here by still running into a Spain side who appear much stronger than they one they faced in the 2018 group stage. That dramatic defeat to Japan forced the Spaniards into this side of the draw, and they will be relieved to have ended up with this tie. That attitude could breed complacency, however, and undermines a talented Moroccan team who can cause Spain more than a few problems at Education City. If they approach this clash with the right mindset, however, La Roja are clear favourites to progress, but things may not be straightforward.

Verdict: 2-1 Spain win (after extra time)

Portugal vs Switzerland

The final offering of this last 16 stage is an all European affair, a potential clash of styles as the bold and extravagent Portuguese take on the workmanlike Swiss. The Iberians wrapped up qualification with a game to spare in Group H, finishing top despite a rather sloppy final game defeat to South Korea, whereas Switzerland's progression hopes went right to the wire courtesy of a topsy-turvy 3-2 win over near and not so dear neigbours Serbia. There is likely to be relatively little in this clash, as Portugal's star forwards may find their match against a staunch Swiss rearguard that held Brazil to a single deflected goal. Patience will be the key for Ronaldo and co here, not a quality you'd immediately associate with the player or the team, and the knockout stage's first penalty shoot out may be needed to decide matters and set up a potential Iberian derby in the Quarters.

Verdict: 1-1 draw, Portugal win on penalties

Think you have the better of these predictions? Prove it in the comments section below...

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