32 teams came to Qatar with the goal of winning the world cup but only 4 remain. History beckons Argentina, Croatia, Morocco and France. Who will go all the way? Let’s find out as we preview the two semi-final encounters.
Semi Final 1: Argentina vs Croatia
Argentina will face Croatia in a World Cup semi-final on Tuesday evening, pitting the competition's past two finalists against each other. Both countries had to undergo physically and emotionally exhausting quarter-finals that were decided on penalties.
A Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina had one foot firmly in the semi-finals thanks to Nahuel Molina and the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner's cool penalty, but a late brace from Wout Weghorst - including a 100th-minute equaliser - triggered the unlikeliest of extra-time situations. The outcome of the match would be decided by yet another penalty shootout, and despite numerous fights, rough play, and an astounding 17 yellow cards, Argentina maintained calmness to win and move on to the semifinals.
The match against Croatia will be missed by fullbacks Marcos Acuna and Gonzalo Montiel as they are both suspended. Angel Di Maria's fitness will be the main concern for Argentina going into this game. The 34-year-old winger was only used as a last-second substitute against the Netherlands as he attempted to recover from a muscle injury sustained at the Round of 16 match against Australia. Prior to the Netherlands game, Rodrigo de Paul's health was a concern, but he was able to start.
Neymar scored a beautiful goal to give Brazil the lead in the 106th minute as Croatia's defence was famously tough to penetrate. However, Bruno Petkovic's effort in the 117th minute found its way into the corner via a deflection to force penalty shootouts. Livakovic denied Brazil 11 times before saving from Rodrygo in the shootout, and the Selecao dream was crushed when Marquinhos' shot struck the post, prompting jubilation to take over for fans in red and white as they celebrated their second World Cup semi-final in a row.
There are no notable injury concerns for Croatia going into this game. After suffering a facial injury during a gym practise, Mateo Kovacic caused concern prior to the quarterfinal game, but he was healthy enough to play. Despite suffering a muscular injury during the group stage, Nikola Vlasic is now healthy, and Marcelo Brozovic, who had a hamstring problem prior to the tournament, is now an integral part of Croatia's midfield.
Argentina 2-1 Croatia
The game will be tense affair as both teams will make sure that their defence is air-tight. As a result, the game is likely to be a low scoring encounter and individual brilliance could decide the fate of the game.
Semi-Final 2: France vs Morocco
On Wednesday evening, France will face its former colony Morocco in the World Cup semi-final. Morocco overcame Portugal while France defeated England to reach the final 4.
The French team has maintained the same stout performance that helped them win the previous World Cup. They have so far established themselves as one of the best teams in the competition. Their victory in the quarterfinal against England was secured by Aurelien Tchouameni's thunderbolt and Olivier Giroud's header either side of a Kane penalty, though Le Bleus supporters were both relieved and shocked when the England captain blazed a second spot kick over the bar.
Deschamps made just one substitution in France's 2-1 victory over England at the Al Bayt Stadium on Saturday. It's highly unlikely that the World Cup-winning coach will tweak the starting lineup of players who have avoided injury and suspension.
Whatever happens on Wednesday at the Al Bayt Stadium, the current Moroccan crop has already solidified their position in both national and continental folklore as the first ever African country to advance to the World Cup semifinals. Youssef En-Nesyri header against the favourites Portugal was all it took for the Atlas Lions to make history.
Going into this historic semifinal, Morocco are suffering from a lot of injuries. While Romain Saiss miraculously made it through 50 minutes before being taken away on a stretcher, Noussair Mazraoui and Nayef Aguerd didn't feature at all. Aguerd is also aiming to recover from a groyne injury. According to reports, the West Ham centre defender wanted to play against Portugal but wasn't deemed fit enough. Since Walid Cheddira received two yellow cards in stoppage time, he will not play.
Morocco's outstanding defensive grit versus Portugal was unaffected by their injury worries. They will be heavily relying on their defence to keep the likes of Mbappe and Giroud out. However, a second straight final should be on the menu for Les Bleus given that Regragui's injured warrior