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Guide to Argentina v Netherlands, Brazil v Croatia, Morocco v Portugal, England v France

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Why you should support Croatia: They’re the smallest team left in the tournament by population (just under 4 million), they’re a nation that has had a massive impact on the Australian game (through sons of migrants like Mark Viduka, Mile Jedinak, Mark Bosnich and so many others), and they’re also trying to send off an absolute legend in Real Madrid maestro Luke Modric, 37, in the right way: with a maiden World Cup.

This is surely Luka Modric’s last World Cup.Credit:Getty

Why you shouldn’t: If you like fast-paced, dynamic football, then you’re probably looking in the wrong place. There’s not a whole lot of toe in this Croatian side, and aside from a 4-1 rout of Canada, they’ve only scored the one goal.

They’ll probably try to slow the game down against Brazil, which for some would be a crime against humanity, much less football.

NETHERLANDS v ARGENTINA

Saturday 6am (AEDT), Lusail Stadium

Why you should support the Netherlands: First off, they’ve never won the World Cup, and have won only one major tournament (1988 Euros) which is insane for a nation that has had such a big impact on the sport historically. But then there’s Louis van Gaal, their coach, who has seemingly come out on top in his battle with an aggressive form of prostate cancer. He didn’t tell his players, undergoing treatment in secret during their qualifying campaign, and now they’re drawing inspiration from him in Qatar. What a guy.

Louis van Gaal kept his cancer battle a secret from his players.

Louis van Gaal kept his cancer battle a secret from his players.Credit:Getty

Why you shouldn’t: The Dutch have had a massive impact on Australian football over the last 20 years, and not in a good way — at least according to some. The mandated 4-3-3 system written into Football Australia’s national curriculum by former technical directors Rob Baan and Han Berger, and the embrace of the ‘Dutch style’ during the late 2000s and early 2010s, has been accused of turning young Aussie footballers into robots. If you’re into robots, by all means get behind the Netherlands.

Why you should support Argentina: Lionel Messi needs to win a World Cup, it’s that simple. He’s arguably the greatest player of all time — if there is even an argument — and he’s still playing incredible football, almost single-handedly guiding his nation past a plucky Australia and into the quarter-finals. It would be an eternal shame if he hangs up his boots without matching Diego Maradona and lifting that trophy for La Albiceleste.

There were worse teams for the Socceroos to lose to than Lionel Messi’s Argentina.

There were worse teams for the Socceroos to lose to than Lionel Messi’s Argentina.Credit:Getty

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Why you shouldn’t: These guys knocked out the Socceroos! How dare they! One of their blokes told Aziz Behich he wasn’t allowed to talk to Messi when they had that tangle that led to their first goal against Australia — that’s a bit arrogant, isn’t it? And heaps of their fans were super dismissive of Australian football in the lead-up.

Or maybe you’re just more of a Cristiano Ronaldo guy, and you want to see Messi suffer. (We’re battling to come up with reasons here, obviously – pretty much everyone wants them to win.)

MOROCCO v PORTUGAL

Sunday 2am (AEDT), Al Thumama Stadium

Why you should support Morocco: Looking for the feel-good narrative? Here it is. Morocco is the first Arab team to have made it this far at a World Cup and only the fourth African side to reach the quarters. Their fans are absolutely insane – definitely the loudest and most passionate of all those who have gathered in Doha, and their diaspora is far-reaching, so if they win, there’s probably going to be a party near you to gatecrash.

Morocco fans celebrate in Marseille.

Morocco fans celebrate in Marseille.Credit:AP

Why you shouldn’t: It’s all well and good to be the underdog, but for most people, the way the Atlas Lions go about it can be quite grating. They are ultra-pragmatic, playing a 4-3-3 with three defensive-minded midfielders, sitting back in a compact block at all times, throwing their bodies on the line and springing forward with energy on the counter. It’s parking the ute, if not quite parking the bus, and while there’s an art to it, it’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea.

Why you should support Portugal: A bit like the Netherlands, this is another of football’s traditional powerhouse nations which has never won the World Cup. In fact, this is their deepest run since finishing fourth at the 2006 edition in Germany. They also have some cracking young talent in Benfica striker Goncalo Ramos, who looks ripe to take the baton from some other guy who we’ll get to in a moment. Plus they’re captained by a 39-year-old Pepe, the king of shithousery, if you’re into that sort of thing.

This guy’s losing admirers, fast.

This guy’s losing admirers, fast.Credit:AP

Why you shouldn’t: Two words: Cristiano Ronaldo.

Just when you thought he couldn’t possibly be more petulant, he goes ahead and lowers the bar yet again. Had his Manchester United contract torn up for an unauthorised interview with Piers Morgan, of all people, in which he tipped on the club – then came to Qatar amid frosty relations with Bruno Fernandes, tried to claim a goal his former United teammate scored as his own, then spat the dummy when he was subbed off against South Korea, earning a rebuke from his coach.

The universe should not reward this behaviour, and nor should you.

ENGLAND v FRANCE

Sunday 6am (AEDT), Al Bayt Stadium

Why you should support England: Gareth Southgate seems like a nice dude, and he’s assembled a group of genuinely likeable blokes who you can’t help but pull for. England’s men have not won anything since 1966, they’ve got one of the world’s best young midfielders in Jude Bellingham (he’s 19 – can you believe it?) and they’ve had to deal with a bit of adversity after Raheem Sterling rushed back to England to be with his rattled family after his house was broken into by thieves.

Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud.

Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud.Credit:Getty

Why you shouldn’t: Aside from the natural Australian reflex to want to see England do poorly in all possible sporting arenas … do you remember what they were like when they got to the Euros final last year? Have you ever had to deal with a happy England fan? Blimey. They were singing ‘It’s Coming Home’ after scoring two goals against Iran, for goodness’ sake. There’s even a new version, because of course there is. Imagine if they beat France! Can’t happen.

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Why you should support France: No team has gone back-to-back at the World Cup since Brazil in 1958 and 1962, and it’s about time that ended. It would also help make Australia’s 4-1 defeat feel a bit better in retrospect if it was against the eventual champions. Plus, the much-maligned Olivier Giroud is having a great tournament, overtaking Thierry Henry as France’s all-time top goalscorer, so he’s an easy redemptive figure to get behind.

Why you shouldn’t: Kylian Mbappe is mind-bogglingly good, and an absolute delight to watch, but his career to date has been far too easy, so the guy needs to know how it feels to be humbled. He’s only 23 but already has as many World Cup goals as Lionel Messi, and has won at least one trophy every single season since becoming a professional. Time he knew what pain felt like. That, and these blokes are on record with their blatant ignorance of Australian football, so stuff ’em.

Watch every match of the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League on Stan Sport. Returns for the Round of 16 in February 2023, with all matches streaming ad-free, live and on demand.



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