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The World Cup quarterfinal watchability rankings

Which are the best games to watch in the next round of the World Cup?

Brazil v Mexico: Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Eight teams remain. Our next round has four matches. We’re getting close to the end of the World Cup, and I’m already getting emotional about it. (How can we say goodbye to a World Cup as brilliant as this one?)

To gear up for the quarterfinal matchups, we wanted to rank them by how excited we are to watch them. These are all must-watch. It’s just that some are must-watchier.

Here are the quarterfinal matchups, ranked:

4. Croatia vs. Russia

Russia will be committed to sitting back and defending like crazy, countering with one solid skill player (Golovin) and a big ole beefy striker (Dzyuba most likely). Croatia will spend the match cautiously probing forward, knowing they have the more talented players going forward (Modric, Rakitic, Mandzukic) but not wanting to put themselves at too much risk. Unless we get an early goal or two, it’s probably going to be cagey.

3. Sweden vs. England

Take the above description, plug in Sweden into the Russia part, England into the Croatia part, and I’m guessing that’s how the game is going to play out. Sweden will sit back, defend like crazy, try to counter with Emil Forsberg and Marcus Berg. England will be careful not to throw too many men forward, relying on Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli, and Jesse Lingard to create a moment of magic. I’ll repeat: Unless we get an early goal or two, it’s probably going to be cagey.

2. Uruguay vs. France

Eh, so take everything I wrote about the last two games, and apply it here. It’s just that this is going to be the elevated form of the above two games. Uruguay don’t just sit back and defend, they’re the best team in the world at sitting back and defending. Their skill players they send forward aren’t Aleksander Golovin or Emil Forsberg, it’s freaking Luis Suarez (and possibly Edinson Cavani, though it’s not looking good).

France will play carefully. Blaise Matuidi is out with a yellow card suspension, so France manager Didier Deschamps may have to attack more than he’s comfortable with, which probably is a good thing! France will send Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, and breakout star Kylian Mbappe forward. If Deschamps is feeling saucy, he’ll toss Ousmane Dembele out there. One last time: Unless we get an early goal or two, it’s probably going to be cagey. But this one will be entertainingly cagey.

1. Brazil vs. Belgium

This match is going to be brilliant. It has to be brilliant. Roberto Martinez is too sure of himself to change the way Belgium play, so it’s going to be Kevin De Bruyne in holding midfield with wingbacks bombing forward and Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Dries Mertens trying to pick people apart.

Brazil is missing Casemiro due to yellow cards, but they’re Brazil, so they’ll just plug Fernandinho in there and probably not miss a step. (It must be nice to be Brazil and, when you lose the second or third best holding midfielder alive, you can just plug like the fourth best holding midfielder alive in off the bench.)

Neymar is finding his swagger. Phillipe Coutinho is on fire. They can just bring in Roberto Firmino whenever they want a moment of magic. Their outside defense has looked shaky with Marcelo battling injury, which means there’s just enough doubt there to create some opportunities for Belgium. Both teams are going to go for it, you’d think, meaning this game is going to be entertaining. I don’t see caginess here. I see fireworks.