Morocco reaching the semifinals and becoming the first African country to do so has to be the story of the tournament so far.
The excitement at the FIFA World Cup 2022 is at its peak, as football supporters are just days away from finding out the new world champions. The quarter-finals were the latest round to happen in Qatar, with a total of four matches taking place amongst the best in business. This round did not fail to live up to the hype, with a lot of surprises being produced across the two days. From an African country reaching the semifinal for the first time, to Brazil being dumped out of the World Cup, plenty of twists and turns were witnessed in Qatar.
Morocco reaching the semifinals and becoming the first African country to do so has to be the story of the tournament so far. The North African country continued their giant-killing act as they followed up their victory over Spain with another upset over Portugal. They indeed have made a lot of people believe in fairytales once again. With not many giving them much hope prior to the start of the competition, Morocco’s impressive run is undoubtedly one for history books.
|Croatia beat Brazil||1-1 (4-2 on pens)|
|Netherlands lose to Argentina||2-2 (3-4 on pens)|
|Morocco beat Portugal||1-0|
|England lose to France||1-2|
Morocco were not the only one who caught the attention in the last round but so was Croatia. Last World Cup’s finalists defied all odds to dump the favourites Brazil out of Qatar. This stunning result has helped Croatia have another dig at getting their hands on the elusive World Cup trophy. There were also two more exciting encounters happening in the last-8 of the competition, with supporters being treated to a feast by the giants of the world. Let us take a look at the winners and losers from the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Cup 2022:
It goes without saying that Morocco have been the surprise package of this World Cup. What they have achieved with a squad of their size and quality is incredible beyond imagination. They have made the fairytale dreams of every single Morocco fan come through. Their success does not only belong to their country but it resonated across the African continent with a loud cheer. Morocco have now become the first African nation to qualify for the World Cup semifinal.
إلى نصف النهائي 🤩#DimaMaghrib 🇲🇦 #TeamMorocco #FIFAWorldCup @pumafootball pic.twitter.com/vPZvLnRUtY
— FRMF (@FRMFOFFICIEL) December 10, 2022
It is no easy feat when one takes a look at history. When Morocco defeated Spain in the round of 16 via penalties, they became only the fourth African side to reach the World Cup quarterfinals, following Cameroon (1990), Senegal (2002), and Ghana (2010). Now they have gone one step further by beating Portugal in the last-8 stage to reach the semifinals where they will face the defending champions France.
Even though the Europeans will be the clear favourites in that fixture, one cannot underestimate the African side. Morocco are one of the few unbeaten countries still remaining in the competition. They have conceded just one goal till now and that was also an own goal against Canada. Having already defeated Belgium, Spain and Portugal, Morocco cannot be taken lightly by anyone in this World Cup.
Croatia have another shot at getting their hands on the World Cup trophy after reaching the semifinals in sensational fashion. Their penalty shootout victory over mighty Brazil in the quarter-finals sent shockwaves across the world. The South American country were expected by the vast majority to go all the way in the competition. Brazil had the squad and depth to beat anyone on a given day. However, that was not enough against a spirited Croatian side that stood in their way in the last-eight encounter.
— HNS (@HNS_CFF) December 11, 2022
After huffing and puffing, Brazil finally took the lead in the extra time through a beautiful goal by Neymar. However, Croatia did not let their heads drop down. Bruno Petkovic scored with only a few minutes left from the final whistle to drag the game into a penalty shootout. Under pressure, Brazil crumbled, while Croatia prevailed. Agony for Brazil and joy for Croatia, as the world was shaken by the latest giant-killing act in Qatar.
Croatia wouldn’t mind though, as they are in the World Cup semifinals for the second consecutive time – their golden period in history, without a doubt. They will next battle Lionel Messi and Argentina for a place in the final. Four years ago, Croatia lost to France in a largely one-sided World Cup final. Now they are only two games away from rewriting history. It is time for the world to start taking Croatia seriously in the discussion for lifting the coveted trophy.
|Semi-final Matches||Date & Time|
|Argentina vs Croatia||Tuesday (13th December) 12:30 am IST|
|France vs Morocco||Wednesday (14th December) 12:30 am IST|
The dream remains for Lionel Messi to lift his maiden World Cup trophy. That is the only piece of silverware missing from his glittering trophy cabinet. The path to the semifinals was not an easy one for Argentina. They went two goals up against the Netherlands before being pegged back by the Europeans with a late fightback, as the match dragged on to the extra time. Undeterred by letting a two-goal lead slip, Argentina regrouped and found the A-game back on track.
#SelecciónMayor Último entrenamiento de la Selección Argentina antes de enfrentarse a Croacia
📋 https://t.co/f9b7d3kaFX pic.twitter.com/9QVpYDVoQ3
— Selección Argentina 🇦🇷 (@Argentina) December 12, 2022
However, they were not able to affect the scoreboard, as the game went into the dreaded penalty shootout. But, Messi & Co survived a thrilling shootout to reach the semifinals of the World Cup. Messi has won almost every trophy that is available at both the club and international levels. The only trophy that eluded him has been the much-sought-after World Cup. In 2014, Mario Gotze and Germany denied his dream in the final. Eight years later, this could finally be the year when Messi gets his hands on the World Cup trophy.
For all the pre-tournament hype, Brazil have fallen considerably short in Qatar. The South American giants entered the competition as one of its clear favourites to go all the way. They had the squad quality, depth and form on their side when they traveled to Qatar. In patches, Brazil also showed their brilliance, most notably in the 4-1 thumping of South Korea in the round of 16. However, things did not go according to plan in the quarter-finals for them.
Edging out. 💪 #CROBRA
📸 Cropix#FIFAWorldCup #Qatar2022 #Family #Vatreni❤️🔥 pic.twitter.com/rcKILlsO9V
— HNS (@HNS_CFF) December 11, 2022
They were not able to play at their usual level – something that Croatia should be given the credit for. Brazil did score the opener midway through the extra-time period via Neymar. However, Bruno Petkovic’s late equaliser took the game into a penalty shootout. Brazil failed to hold their nerve, as Croatia went through. Not the ending many anticipated for Brazil.
World Cup is unpredictable and anything can happen in this competition. Even if Brazil had not won the World Cup, they were still expected to advance to the semifinals at the very least. However, a quarter-final exit against a team to whom Brazil were utterly superior in squad quality and depth would have hurt their supporters. Neymar and Co have to wait four more years to get their hands on the coveted trophy.
The dream is over for Cristiano Ronaldo to get his hands on the World Cup trophy in Qatar. With the striker already 37 years old, it is unlikely that he will be playing football at the top level in four years’ time. Thereby, this could mean that Ronaldo might very well have to retire without ever winning the World Cup trophy. However, their elimination from the quarter-finals stage in Qatar was not Ronaldo’s fault.
He came onto the pitch only in the 51st minute as a substitute. By then Morocco were already leading. Gone are the days when Ronaldo used to dance his way past defenders to score spectacular solo goals. At his age, he needed the service from his teammates to break down the African nation’s defence. Sadly though Ronaldo did not get sufficient backing from his teammates on the pitch.
Uma equipa que deu tudo em campo. Adeptos que nunca se cansaram de puxar pela Seleção, em qualquer parte do mundo. Queríamos todos chegar mais longe, mas vamos continuar juntos a orgulhar Portugal. 🇵🇹 pic.twitter.com/UAmMNgPN3o
— Portugal (@selecaoportugal) December 10, 2022
Portugal were a shadow of the team that defeated Switzerland 6-1 in the round of 16. That game was all about Goncalo Ramos’ hat-trick. However, he did not do much either in the quarter-finals. On paper, Portugal were superior than Morocco in every department. However, this game showed how anything can happen across 90 minutes on the pitch. Heading into this World Cup, Portugal finally had the quality in their squad to go deep and they also got a favourable draw till the semifinals. However, they failed to make the most of the glorious opportunity in front of them.
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