Ready to go again?

The briefest of pauses in the World Cup allowed some time to pause, reflect and hope that nobody noticed your pre-tournament predictions. In fairness, it's notoriously difficult to call the trajectory of these tournaments but we're back again to give it another go anyway.

The quarter-final ties commence on Friday and there are some real blockbusters in store over the weekend. Over the next few days we have Brazil vs Croatia, Netherlands vs Argentina, England vs France and Morocco vs Portugal. After a slow start to the group stage, there's been some real drama coupled with customary shocks to reach the final eight.

Who could've called Morocco knocking out Spain, who looked so formidable in opening with a 7-0 win over Costa Rica? Elsewhere, Croatia continue to punch above their weight as they too join the big guns in the latter stages once more.

Portugal, meanwhile, announced their arrival in emphatic fashion by beating Switzerland 6-1 in the last 16 to position themselves as real contenders. And it feels like there's hardly a neutral not rooting for Lionel Messi as he attempts to add the one trophy missing from his rather outrageous collection in what is likely to be his final World Cup appearance.

Here, our writers give their predictions for what will unfold next...

Matthew Lindsay

I backed Brazil to win Qatar 2022 and tipped France to reach the final before the tournament got underway and I stand by those predictions.  The five-time winners have been sensational at times as have the defending champions.

The prospect of them meeting at the Lusail Iconic Stadium on Sunday week is an enticing one.  Both Tite, in Neymar, Richarlison and Vinicius Jnr, and Didier Deschamps, in Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe, have outstanding individuals who can turn a game with a single moment of magic.

But Argentina, England, the Netherlands and Portugal have all shown they are more than capable of triumphing. Portugal in particular impressed in their last 16 win over South Korea and will be hard to beat if they maintain that form from here on in. 

Graeme McGarry

My initial tip for the World Cup was Argentina, inspired in no small part by a longing to see the little magician Messi lift that trophy to crown off his remarkable career.

After a stuttering start, La Albiceleste have been hauled back on track by Messi, and go into their tricky quarter-final against The Netherlands full of confidence as they appear to be gaining in strength as the tournament goes on. A common trait among previous winners of the World Cup.

It would be a stretch though to make Argentina favourites now based upon what we have seen in Qatar to date, with perhaps only the defeat of Poland really impressing in terms of their overall performance level. Instead, it was their bitter South American rivals Brazil who dazzled as they pummelled an admittedly reckless South Korea in a first-half blitz, and you would have to fancy them now to go all the way.

In terms of a dark horse, France, England and Portugal could hardly be described as such despite their own strong claims for glory, so I’ll tip Morocco to run the Portuguese all the way and perhaps pull off another almighty upset. 

Liam Bryce

I initially backed Argentina and while they remain in the mix it'd be downright shameful not to stick to my pre-tournament guns. They haven't overly impressed, mind you, and you feel it will take a herculean effort to prevail at this point against some very impressive and strong opponents.

However, a statement victory over the Netherlands could just generate enough momentum to get them over the line. Messi has proven predictably inspirational so far but he'll need more help from those around him if he's to finally capture the biggest prize of all. My shout that Lautaro Martinez would be top goalscorer has aged like milk and I do have a suspicion that the man set to claim that accolade, Mbappe, could be about to lead France to a second consecutive World Cup, or at least take them very close to doing so.

But I would also not write off Portugal, who are probably the most interesting team at the minute given how they completely transformed without Cristiano Ronaldo. A 6-1 win at this stage of the competition builds some serious momentum and they're a side who can clearly turn anyone over on their day.