Football fans all over the world have spent the last two days debating the World Cup quarter-final match-ups.
We want to throw one final spanner in the works before the action gets underway by attempting to predict the outcome of all four fixtures using Dream Team World Cup points.
For each game we’ll simply add up the total points earned to date by all players from each nation and the team with the highest total progresses to our imaginary semi-finals.
That’s the methodology and let’s all agree not to question it.
CROATIA v BRAZIL
Croatia: 147 points
Half of the 2018 finalists’ games in Qatar have finished 0-0 so it’s no surprise that its the defenders and Dominik Livakovic propping up the total.
The Dinamo Zagreb goalkeeper has 21 points to his name after collecting the Star Man award for his efforts against Japan in the round of 16.
But it’s Dejan Lovren who leads the way for Croatia with 22 points, three more than his centre-back partner, the highly-rated Josko Gvardiol.
Zlatko Dalic’s side are light in midfield, however, with Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic combing for just seven points.
Brazil: 162 points
Perhaps not as comfortable a victory as most would have predicted – an omen for this afternoon’s meeting perhaps?
Surprisingly, only two of Tite’s troops have more than 20 points at this stage but leader of the pack, Richarlison, is comfortably above the threshold on 33 points having scored three goals in as many games.
Alex Sandro is the Selecao’s next-best performer on 21 points which makes his race to regain fitness even tenser.
Thiago Silva (18 points) completes the podium have bolstered his total with a neat assist against South Korea.
RESULT: BRAZIL WIN
NETHERLANDS v ARGENTINA
Netherlands: 191 points
A solid total from Louis van Gaal’s orange army.
As you would expect, top scorer Cody Gakpo heads up his side with 32 points and the rising star from PSV will hope to cause plenty of problems for Nicolas Otamendi and company this evening.
Impressively, the Oranje have four players on 20+ points at this stage with Denzel Dumfries (22), Frenkie de Jong (25) and the unexpected hero of the last 16, Daley Blind (28), proving to be valuable assets.
Some supporters have been underwhelmed by the Dutch so far but their Dream Team World Cup returns tell a different story – don’t underestimate them.
Argentina: 160 points
The primary concern among fans of the Copa America champions is that they are too reliant on Lionel Messi and this exercise suggests those fears are justified.
With 36 points to his name the legendary No10 is the second-best player overall but he’s desperately lacking in support.
The aforementioned Otamendi is the only other Argentina asset with more than 15 points to show for his efforts ahead of the quarter-finals.
Lautaro Martinez is yet to register a single point having picked up a case of the yips in front of goal.
RESULT: NETHERLANDS WIN
PORTUGAL v MOROCCO
Portugal: 170 points
Prior to the round of 16, Fernando Santos’ side was very much a one-man team when viewed through the prism of Dream Team World Cup.
Bruno Fernandes took 29 points from Ghana and Uruguay in his first two outings and by the time the group stage had ended, none of his team-mates had even reached double figures.
But then came the swaggering 6-1 victory over Switzerland where several players cashed in, not least hat-trick hero Goncalo Ramos who bagged 30 points in one fell swoop!
Raphael Guerreiro, Pepe, Joao Felix and Rafael Leao all boosted their tallies as the Swiss wilted in the desert heat.
Morocco: 195 points
What an upset!
Fittingly, it’s a strong team performance that has helped the Atlas Lions topple another European giant here with no fewer than nine players on double figures.
No team has worked harder or been more disciplined in defence at this World Cup and so it won’t surprise you to learn that it’s Achraf Hakimi, Romain Saiss and Noussair Mazraoui at the top of the pile – the three defenders have a whopping 78 points between them.
Can Morocco really upset the odds again to become the first ever African team to reach the World Cup semi-finals?
RESULT: MOROCCO WIN
ENGLAND v FRANCE
England: 273 points
Yes, you read that right, 273 points!
Perhaps we should have expected this imposing total given the Three Lions have kept three consecutive clean sheets while also being the current top scorers in Qatar.
Harry Maguire leads the way with 33 points, followed by Bukayo Saka (26 points) and Luke Shaw (25 points).
Marcus Rashford, Harry Kane, Phil Foden and John Stones are all on 20+ points too – it’s an all-you-can-eat feast!
France: 156 points
It’s a mauling!
Kylian Mbappe is the game’s outright best performer with 48 points but his tally accounts for over 30% of Les Blues’ total – the defending champions are even more reliant on their No10 than Argentina are on Messi.
The numbers make for decent reading going forward where Olivier Giroud (21 points), Antoine Griezmann (16 points), Adrien Rabiot (16 points) and Ousmane Dembele (13 points) have given good accounts of themselves.
But Didier Deschamps’ side have found clean sheets hard to come by.
Hugo Lloris, Raphael Varane, Jules Kounde and Dayot Upamecano have mustered just eight points between them.
RESULT: ENGLAND WIN
There you have it, it’ll be Brazil v Netherlands and Morocco v England in the semi-finals according to our 100% reliable* method.
*no evidence suggests this is correct