FIFA World Cup 2022: Winners and losers from the round-of-16 stage in Qatar

The FIFA World Cup 2022 is reaching the business end of the tournament as the number of countries has been reduced from 32 to eight. It wasn’t long before the group stages concluded, with half the teams eliminated from the tournament. The exit of former champions Germany and Belgium at the first hurdle was the biggest shock of this World Cup. An action-packed final round of matches saw some surprising nations make it to the knockout stages with Asian sides Japan and South Korea topping the list.

Next came the round-of-16 stage. It featured a total of eight games between the remaining 16 teams. The first knockout round, however, did not live up to the edge-of-the-seat thrillers set by the final group game. It went along the predicted route. The teams that were expected to win won their games. Except for Spain’s result, in which the 2010 World Champions were knocked out in the penalty shootout by Morocco, the rest of the results went as expected.

round of 16 match Result
Netherlands beat USA 3-1
Argentina beat Australia 2-1
France beat Poland 3-1
England beat Senegal 3-0
japan lost to croatia 1-1 (1-3 on pen)
Brazil beat South Korea 4-1
Morocco beat Spain 0-0 (3-0 on pen)
Portugal beat Switzerland 6-1

Perhaps the effortless nature in which some teams win their games may have caused some supporters to drop their jaws to the ground. Portugal and England fall into this bracket. Otherwise, the favorite won all but one match. This is not really a bad thing, as football fans can now prepare themselves for the mouth-watering contests in the quarter-finals and beyond. Regardless of the expected results, the results matter more to some countries than others. Let us take a look at which countries have emerged as the real winners and losers from the round-of-16 stage:



It goes without saying that Portugal is the biggest winner from the round of 16 results. Not only did they win the eight last-16 games by the biggest margins, but the results were in their favor in other fixtures as well. Morocco’s stunning penalty shootout win over Spain means Portugal will now escape the European heavyweights through to the quarter-finals. Instead, they will face the African country in the last-8 match. Make no mistake that Morocco will not be an easy encounter for either side if their current form is taken into account.

In a file photo, Portugal’s players. (Image: Twitter/FIFA World Cup)

Having said that Fernando Santos and Portugal would – any day – prefer Morocco over Spain. Portugal’s defeat to Spain in their last Nations League group encounter in September is still fresh in Santos’ memory. As a result, he would happily pass by the chance not to face them. At one point, Portugal’s qualification for the World Cup was in great doubt, as they had a long way to go to reach Qatar. Fast forward a few months and now they have a good chance of reaching the semi-finals for the first time since the 2006 World Cup.


The dream continues for Moroccans in Qatar. Morocco has now become only the fourth African side to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup, after Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002), and Ghana (2010). It’s all thanks to their impressive penalty shootout win over European heavyweights Spain. It was a shock round-of-16 stage. Spain were expected to go deep into the competition, however, they stumbled against the spirited African nation.

It is safe to say that Morocco has deservedly reached the last-eight stage. They are one of the few remaining unbeaten nations in the competition. After starting the World Cup with a goalless draw against Croatia, they beat a big shot in Belgium and followed it up with a narrow win over Canada. Then, they defeated Spain in a one-sided penalty shootout. Morocco have conceded only one goal so far and that too was an own goal against Canada. Upcoming opponents Portugal will have to be extra careful when playing a tough African side, as Morocco aim to become the first African nation to qualify for the World Cup semi-finals.


Lionel Messi dreams of winning his first World Cup with Argentina. He came so close to accomplishing this in 2014, however, that he was beaten by Germany in the final. Eight years later, Messi is in the last eight of the competition and has a good chance of going all the way. Their 2–1 victory over Australia in the Round of 16 didn’t go well, as the South American team had to survive some nervy moments towards the end of the match to secure the win.

Argentina will play Poland in their final Group C match on Wednesday;  Credits: Twitter/@argentina
Angel Di Maria (L) and Lionel Messi; Credits: Twitter/@argentina

As long as the team keeps producing results, it won’t matter to the Argentine faithful. When their long unbeaten run came to an end in their first match against Saudi Arabia, few people gave up on the South American nation. However, they won their next three games on the bounce to reach the quarterfinals. They will now have a tough test against the Netherlands in the coming round. If anyone remembers, in the semi-finals of 2014, Argentina defeated the Dutch nation to make it to the championship match. Eight years later, Messi and co will be backing them to repeat the result.


From failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup to reaching the quarter-finals of the current World Cup in Qatar, the Netherlands’ progress has been immense. Much credit must be given to Louis van Gaal for bringing back the winning mentality in the team. They are not putting off the results either, as the Dutch nation has played some beautiful football during the tournament. They are one of the few unbeaten teams still in the competition.

After finishing the group as leaders with two wins and a draw, the Netherlands defeated the United States 3–1 in their round-of-16 contest. The result has allowed Van Gaal to take another crack at Lionel Messi and the Argentine. Van Gaal was their head coach in 2014 when Argentina defeated them via penalty shootout in the semi-finals of the World Cup. Eight years later, they now have a chance to exact their revenge at the quarterfinal stage. It will not be an easy game as both the sides maintain a solid defensive approach about themselves. Nevertheless, there will be no better opportunity for the high-flying Netherlands to secure victory over Argentina and possibly lift their first World Cup trophy.

quarterfinal fixtures Day
Croatia vs Brazil Friday
Netherlands vs Argentina Friday
morocco vs portugal Saturday
england vs france Saturday



Sadly for their Spanish supporters, their national team crashed out of the World Cup at the round-of-16 stage for the second time in a row. It was in the same round that they had lost in a penalty shootout to then hosts Russia four years earlier. Fast forward four years and the Spaniards have crashed out of the tournament in almost identical fashion to Morocco at the last-16 stage. The setback will hurt his supporters, as they expected his national team to be deep in the competition after their semi-final run-in at last year’s Euro.

Significantly, Spain has failed to win a knockout match for the third consecutive World Cup. After entering the 2014 World Cup as the defending champions, Spain were knocked out in the group stage. After this, he made it to the last-16 twice in a row. Even though this may not be their golden generation, Spain still have a squad full of exciting quality from top to bottom. It would be hugely disappointing for Luis Enrique’s side to leave the tournament at this stage.


For all the promise Switzerland had shown in the World Cup group stage, they must have been extremely disappointed by the manner of their elimination. Portugal and their talented young forward Goncalo Ramos – in particular – burst through the Swiss defense in the last round-of-16 encounter. The final scoreline was an emphatic 6–1 victory for Switzerland. Not many expected a result from him, as Switzerland is known for its compact defence. However, their defense was all over the place as Portugal overcame them with ease. This would have hurt their coach and players.

Ahead of the round-of-16 competition, Switzerland impressed not only in the group stage of the World Cup but also in this year’s Nations League. They defeated Spain and Portugal in that competition. They registered six points to finish second in Group G. Even Brazil had to work hard to beat them in the group stage. However, they looked like a shadow of themselves against an on-song Portugal side in the Round of 16.


It seems unfair to criticize Japan after their heartbreaking elimination from the World Cup. They also produced some memorable results, including come-from-behind victories over Germany and Spain in the group stage. This saw the Asian side ahead of Spain in the group of death, which saw Germany make an early exit from Qatar. With fans finally believing that this could be the tournament where Japan could go deep, they were trapped in the round of 16 stage.

Japan’s players celebrate their victory against Spain (Image: Twitter/FIFA)

Compared to some other countries, Japan had a reasonable last-16 encounter against last year’s finalists Croatia. The European nations were favorites in this encounter but the Asian side would have been happy to avoid the heavyweights. Therefore, Japan’s dream of reaching its first quarterfinal in the World Cup remained intact. However, a heartbreaking penalty shootout defeat brought their campaign to an abrupt end. They will still have to wait another four years to try to reach their first quarterfinal in the competition.

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