We are past the most exciting group play stage in World Cup history.
We are also through the round of 16.
With just eight teams left standing, we now have a much better view of how each squad looks in advance of the World Cup Quarter-finals.
Has our thinking changed?
We had Brazil as the pre-tournament favorite as well as the favorites after the Round of 16. They’ve done nothing to diminish themselves, but our voters now feel as though France is the co-favorite as they ended up with the exact same average ranking among our soccer writers.
Here’s how the rest of the rankings played out:
Brazil’s Round of 16 demolition of South Korea was a statement win to those watching Seleção Canarinho. After a disappointing loss in their final group stage game with a heavily rotated squad, Brazil reminded everyone why they should be considered the favorites to lift the World Cup come Dec. 18. Neymar scored a goal and notched an assist in his return from injury, and Brazil had their quarterfinal fate wrapped up before the halftime whistle. Their goals were easy on the eye and oozed quality. It’s fair to say that Brazil’s “stumble” in the group stage was just that, and they are still the favorites to win it all. – Kyle Soto
The defending champions are through to the quarterfinals on the strength of a quality performance against Poland. Kylian Mbappé is in top form, as he has his sights on both a World Cup, and the Golden Boot. Olivier Giroud, once a question mark for this World Cup, chipped in with a goal of his own against Poland, becoming France’s male all-time leading goal scorer, and Les Bleus look on path for a deep run. But they will be tested in the quarterfinal, matched against an English side that is also playing at a high level. Will their midfield and defense hold up in their biggest test to date? – Mark Schofield
Lionel Messi and Co. passed the first test of the knockout stage with their 2-1 win over Australia. Messi’s opener, a classic Messi goal that encapsulated how important his quality is to the team, and Julian Alvarez’s stunner revealed that Argentina has a lot of fight left in them. Since stumbling against Saudi Arabia in their opening group-stage game, Argentina hasn’t looked back. Argentina fans (and Messi fans) will of course look to Messi to lead the way, but players like Alvarez and Angel di Maria — should he recover from his injury in time for tomorrow’s match against the Netherlands — will need to step up as we approach the business end of the tournament. – Kyle Soto
If it is truly “coming home”, Gareth Southgate’s squad will need to swat away one of the most dangerous sides at the World Cup. Reigning champions France are flying right now, and Kylian Mbappe is leading that charge with five goals and two assists in four games. The Three Lions should be confident in their own abilities, though. They scored nine goals in the group stage and maintained the best goal differential (+7) of any team in the group stage. England’s 3-0 win over Senegal should give the Three Lions a confidence boost. With players like Jude Bellingham, Harry Kane, and Bukayo Saka, England has quality all over the field to go toe to toe with France. This is definitely the match up to watch in the Quarterfinals. – Kyle Soto
When word leaked that Cristiano Ronaldo was not in the starting lineup for Portugal in their Round of 16 match against Switzerland, the initial reaction was one of surprise. That quickly gave way to understanding as his replacement, Gonçalo Ramos, scored the first hat-trick of this World Cup in a 6-1 victory, with Ronaldo only providing a cameo when the matter was already settled. Could that lead to Ronaldo being a “super sub” the rest of the way? Time will tell, but the matchup between their attack, and the Moroccan defense, will be fascinating. – Mark Schofield
If one team is flying under the radar a bit, it seems to be Croatia. Despite being a defending World Cup finalist, the buzz around this team has been relatively muted and it’s not like their win over Japan in a penalty shootout is going to change that. Further hurting their chances is a quarterfinal showdown with Brazil, a team that looks like an absolute machine right now. But if anyone has a chance of slowing them down, it’s this Croatia team that has only allowed two goals in their four games and has a bunch of veterans they can lean on. – Jeremiah Oshan
After a rather uninspiring run through their group, the Netherlands finally looked explosive in their Round of 16 match with the United States. Memphis Depay and Denzel Dumfries were in top form against the United States, with both players finding space to operate against the United States back line. With strong options on defense, such as Virgil Van Dijk, Nathan Ake, and Jurrien Timber — along with perhaps Matthijs de Ligt? — they have the talent to contain the Argentine attack. But as we saw in the round of 16, there are scoring chances to be had against this squad. – Mark Schofield
The Cinderella story continues, as Morocco is through to the final eight. Can the run continue? Following their victory over Belgium in group play, and in the wake of their upset over Spain, you cannot think Morocco will be overwhelmed taking on Portugal. Given that they have conceded just once in this World Cup — and it was an own goal — you can think their back line will hold. As we saw against Spain, that was enough. – Mark Schofield