Thirty two teams travelled to Qatar and now we’re down to four, as the World Cup semi-finals pits two solid favourites against two very different underdogs.
Argentina v Croatia, Wednesday 6:00am (AEDT)
- History: Argentina 2, Croatia 2, Draws 1
- Most recent: Croatia 3 – 0 Argentina (2018 World Cup, Group Stage)
We’ve only just caught our breath from Argentina’s quarter-finals win over the Netherlands in what was, without doubt, the spiciest affair we’ve seen thus far in Qatar. The picture of the victorious Argentines taunting Dutch players after a penalty shootout victory will be one of the more enduring photos of the 2022 World Cup. While controversial, the celebrations spoke to just how fired up the Argentines are. They’re playing on emotion — especially for legend Lionel Messi in what will surely be his last World Cup. If channelled properly, they will win this huge encounter, one in which they start as $1.80 favourites.
But Lionel Scaloni’s men are yet to truly impress this World Cup, and appear vulnerable against a well-oiled Croatia side. Arriving into Qatar with a 35-game unbeaten run (and as second-favourites behind now eliminated Brazil), they’re yet to string 90 minutes together. But none of that matters now. They’re here, in a semi-final, and have a huge chance to make a second final in three World Cup campaigns.
What a brilliantly framed image. Argentina gloating over broken Dutch players.
In awe of photographers who tell such powerful stories in one snap.
This one by @paulmjchilds of @ActionImages / Reuters. pic.twitter.com/gND8hTW4zT
— Nick Harris (@sportingintel) December 9, 2022
No one doubted the star quality of Croatia’s squad heading into this World Cup. Almost everyone doubted, however, whether they could back up their 2018 exploits and go deep again such was the average age of their squad. Key members of the team arrived in Qatar very much on the wrong side of 30. None typify that more than heartbeat midfielder Luke Modric, who at 37 continues to stun the footballing world with his influence on just about every contest. Given they’ve just beaten World Cup favourites in Brazil — a side which played more devastating football than any other side in Qatar — there’s no reason Croatia have to fear Argentina.
Despite the fact they start as $5.00 underdogs, Zlatko Dalić and the rest of Croatia have every reason to believe they can make a second successive World Cup Final. Let’s be frank, if Croatia have it their way it mightn’t be pretty. They will maintain their well-drilled, compact defensive lines and hope to convert few chances they create deep in Argentina’s final third. But it’s worked before, and there’s no reason it can’t again. Everyone keeps asking when this ageing side will tire. Perhaps they won’t…
Tip: Croatia +1.0 @ $2.00
Never. Give. Up. pic.twitter.com/Rv3C6bZrB6
— Luka Modrić (@lukamodric10) December 9, 2022
France v Morocco, Thursday 6:00am (AEDT)
- History: France 7, Morocco 1, Draws 3
- Most recent: France 2 – 2 Morocco (November 2007, International Friendly)
If ever there was a moment that encapsulated why France are reigning World Champions, and are $2.10 favourites to become the first side since Brazil in 1962 to win back-to-back World Cups, it was their against-the-run-of-play goal against England in the quarter-finals. After withstanding a dominant England period for 20 minutes, France hit back in clinical fashion as Olivier Giroud scored what turned out to be the winner. It was symbolic of where this well-oiled French side are at. While they mightn’t have been the better team on the night, they remained the better team overall. And that matters. They’ve been here before, and it shows.
Antoine Griezmann remains their heartbeat, and the player of the tournament to date. If he is allowed to pull strings again through the midfield, France will waltz their way to another World Cup Final.
France’s winner vs England – stunning trajectory on Antoine Griezmann’s cross. (🎥@FerasAlD) pic.twitter.com/b8OKuejAnj
— Get French Football News (@GFFN) December 11, 2022
Morocco are, by some margin, the story of the tournament so far. Becoming the first ever African team to reach the World Cup semi-finals, Walid Regragui’s side have done it their own way, and with a clear game plan. Stoic, well-drilled defensively, Morocco have the weapons to hurt you on the counter. And that’s exactly how they’ll try and overcome France, despite being considerable $7.50 underdogs. Morocco have held both Spain and Portugal goalless in the knockout stages of a World Cup — which is no mean feat.
But France are a cut above those fellow two European nations. And, should Morocco go a goal down at any stage, will struggle. While their defensive structure is sound, they have after all scored just one goal in their last 300 minutes in Qatar.
Tip: France -1.0 @ $2.50
Morocco making history at the World Cup is being celebrated all over the world 🇲🇦 pic.twitter.com/0MaKQVojId
— B/R Football (@brfootball) December 11, 2022
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