Down to just four teams, the FIFA World Cup heats up further in the semifinals as a handful of teams remain vying for the 2022 crown. France, Argentina, Croatia and Morocco. It is more likely that we are going to witness a final between Argentina and France on the 18th of December.
All remaining teams have proven battle tested. Favourites Brazil are no longer in the mix, ousted by Croatia in a penalty shootout. Their CONMEBOL rivals Argentina, however, are still kicking. Lionel Messi and company have taken their lumps this tournament, but thus far have survived to remain alive in the last four.
The other semifinal will feature France and Morocco in a clash of two French-speaking nations. The Europeans saw their way past England in an entertaining affair, while Morocco stunned Spain and Portugal to reach this stage. The Atlas Lions are the first African nation to reach the semifinals of a FIFA World Cup in the competition's history, and are the fairytale story of the tournament.
Argentina survived 12 rounds of heavyweight boxing against the Netherlands, unlike their CONMEBOL rivals Brazil, who bowed out at the hands of Croatia.
Lionel Messi produced a magical moment early, but the Netherlands scored twice in the final 10 minutes to force extra time and penalties. Still, Messi advanced after shootout heroics from goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.
They'll face Croatia, who are also led by an elder statesman in Luka Modric. Their midfield dominated the quarterfinal against Brazil, and a 117th-minute goal earned a chance in the penalty shootout. There, goalkeeper, Dominik Livakovic, shone again as Croatia moved on and the betting favorites dropped out.
After the way Croatia played against Brazil, it's hard to see why they can't muster the same performance against a similar opponent in Argentina.
Croatia's midfield played compact via possession against Brazil, with Marcelo Brozovic, Luka Modric, and Mateo Kovacic producing a masterclass. That could be a winning formula against Argentina, as they hope to cut off the line-breaking passes that Argentina love to deliver.
Croatia have managed to reach extra time in five of their last six World Cup knockout matches, only failing to do so in the 4-2 defeat to France in the 2018 final. Argentina do not look inspired in the final third, and seeing as they'll miss a couple of players due to yellow card suspensions, Croatia could do the business again here with a pragmatic performance.
It was far from easy, but France outlasted European rivals England to reach the semifinals of the 2022 World Cup. Their survival was largely thanks to a penalty miss from Harry Kane, who had a chance to level the score in the 83rd minute but sailed his spot-kick over the crossbar, leaving Olivier Giroud's goal moments earlier as the eventual winner.
Morocco, meanwhile, stunned yet another European side, knocking Portugal out of the World Cup quarterfinals just days after dumping Spain from the Round of 16. They rode their backline and goalkeeping yet again, and Youssef En-Nesyri's first-half goal proved the difference.
France and Morocco are both teams that have worked hard to seize on opponents' mistakes and find ways to win without their best performances or players. It's a trait that serves teams well in the World Cup, an environment where mistakes must be punished and squad depth has to rise to the challenge.