Depending on who you’re rooting for, this tournament has delivered delight and disaster. Whatever the outcome, history is going to be made, so you won’t wanna miss either of these semi-final fixtures!
On Tuesday at 7:00pm, Argentina and Croatia meet at the Lusail Iconic Stadium to battle it out for a spot in the final. The following day, current champions, France play the first African side to reach a semi-final, Morocco.
As ever, Argentina was considered one of the favourites going into this tournament – no surprise when the godlike Lionel Messi is your captain.
An Early Shock
The South American’s first group game was against Saudi Arabia. Football fans expected Argentina to breeze past their opposition, and but for a few offside calls, the match might have been wrapped up at halftime.
Tournament football is unpredictable, and the full-time result is testament to that. Despite an early Messi penalty, Saudi Arabia gritted their teeth and miraculously emerged 2-1 victors.
What seemed impossible was now a frighteningly realistic outcome. Could Argentina really be packing their bags early?
Mexico was up next and three points were imperative. Sparing their blushes and keeping their hopes alive, Messi scored a goal from range with typical pinpoint accuracy. Ensuring victory, Enzo Fernández curled an effort late on in the game to secure a 2-0 victory.
A 2-0 win against Poland meant Lionel Scaloni’s men topped Group C. Standing in their way of a quarter final spot was Australia.
Messi put his team ahead in the first half and Manchester City’s Julián Álvarez doubled their lead in the second. An own goal in the second half put Argentina under pressure, but they were able see the game out and grab a 2-1 win.
Up next was the Netherlands. Louis van Gaal, with a wealth of experience, is considered a tournament specialist. Coupled with a quality squad and one of the competition’s top performers, Cody Gakpo, this would be a stiff test for Argentina.
A Rivalry Born?
This game could arguably be the greatest of the tournament so far. There were dramatic scenes late on, Ake fouled Parades who responded by smashing the ball into the Dutch bench. This prompted an angry reaction and added needle to an already tense affair.
Straight from the training ground, a very late and masterful freekick found Wout Weghorst in the penalty area. The forward had the composure to slot it past Emiliano Martínez and snatch a 2-2 draw.
A penalty shootout would be needed to separate the two sides. Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martínez dispatched the deciding penalty, but the drama continued when his club teammate Denzel Dumfries was sent off following an altercation.
After all the commotion and jubilation, Argentina will go up against Croatia in the semi-final. Croatia’s group stage was mostly uneventful. They drew 0-0 with Morocco, coasted past Canada 4-1, and drew 0-0 with Belgium.
It was in the knockout stages and quarter-final where Croatia’s journey became turbulent. Fans of Croatia will hope their nerves are never tested like that again!
To reach the quarter-final, Croatia had to get the better of Japan. They’re no walkover, this was clear after shock 2-1 wins over Germany and Spain.
Japan put up a good fight, but proving their mettle and talent in competition football, Croatia came from behind to take the match to penalties.
Mario Pasalic booked their spot in the quarter final; the tournament favourites, Brazil, would fancy their chances against Croatia.
Croatia’s resilient spirit was typified in this game. In extra time, a goal from Neymar looked as though the South American side would be progressing.
But this is the biggest tournament of all, and you can’t ever write anyone off, especially not Croatia. Bruno Petkovic scored an equaliser deep into extra time, yet another penalty shootout would determine the winner.
Paris Saint-Germain’s Marquinhos struck the post to confirm Croatia’s spot in the semi-final. Prior to the tournament, Croatia’s ability in midfield was no secret, but it’s their determination that’s been the difference. It’s the type of attitude that, despite being underdogs, can win you tournaments.
France v Morocco
Morocco, the surprise package, have defied odds to reach the semi-final. Sharing a group with fellow semi-finalists, Croatia, the African side managed to top Group F.
Two late goals against Belgium, two early goals against Canada and a draw meant Morocco were unbeaten in the group stages.
They’re unbeaten run was extended when they met Spain in the knockout phase. Spain couldn’t lay a glove on Morocco in 90 minutes, nor could they find the net when it came to penalties. Morocco won 3-0 in the shootout and would now face Portugal.
Much like Spain, Portugal couldn’t breach the Moroccan defence. A late first half goal from Youssef En-Nesyri bagged his side a 1-0 win and a famous semi-final place.
History’s been made. Could more be made? Could Morocco beat the holders France and go all the way to the final?
Champions For A Reason
Along with Brazil, France was tipped to be one of the favourites to lift the trophy. The champions stamped their authority with a 4-1 win over Australia.
Their attacking options were on full display. AC Milan’s forward, Olivier Giroud scored twice, Kylian Mbappé got one and Juventus’ midfielder Adrien Rabiot got the other.
France’s starlet, Mbappé, scored a brace against Denmark in a 2-1 victory. Didier Deschamps could afford to make several changes against Tunisia, so much so, his side succumbed to their first defeat.
Thanks to goal difference, France topped their group and played Poland in their knockout game. Both Giroud and Mbappé added to their goal tally. Deschamps’ side won 3-1 with Mbappé bagging another brace.
England was the next challenge for France on their conquest for a consecutive trophy. Gareth Southgate had a superb squad at his disposal. That was evident when they topped their group and brushed aside Senegal in the knockout stages.
Sadly for England, they met their match when crossing paths with France. Les Bleus took an early lead with a rocket from Real Madrid’s Aurélien Tchouaméni.
Harry Kane was able to equalise from the penalty spot, expertly putting it beyond the reach of club teammate Hugo Lloris.
It was a tight game that would need a moment of brilliance to gain the advantage. That came when Antoine Griezmann whipped in a sumptuous cross that found the head of Olivier Giroud. Such was the quality of the ball; it was a routine finish for a man of his capabilities.
A lifeline was handed to England in the 84th minute. Theo Hernández clumsily collided into Mason Mount in the penalty area, leaving little choice but for the referee to award a penalty.
To the dismay of England fans, Harry Kane blazed his penalty over the bar. France saw the game out and were 2-1 winners.
The best in the world?
Out in the desert, our resident footy expert Kyle Walker has been doing his thing in Qatar, chatting to the fans on the regular post and pre match.
Whether it’s quick-fire quizzes or the hottest topics in football, he was finding out whether the fans thought Kylian Mbappé was the best ‘baller about right now. ⬇
View this post on Instagram
Over at Love Factory
As you know by now, JD are always on hand to put on a show for the loyal Three Lions fans. This time round, we were back at Love Factory where fans were joined by JD regular PK Humble and England legend Emile Heskey.
To get fans in the mood for the big game, we had a massive screen for the action, as well as free food and drinking flowing on our exclusive JD balcony, where we were joined by plenty of familar faces.
After all the drama unfolded, PK went back down on the ground to get the fans’ reaction to the game, finding out who their man of the match was and if they want Southgate to stay on as coach…
View this post on Instagram
We think Croatia’s fighting spirit will continue and force their match with Argentina to go to extra time. Unfortunately for Croatia, we’re gonna say that the South Americans’ quality will just be a bit too much for it to go to penalties. Argentina to win 2-1 after extra time.
Whatever the result, Morocco can hold their head high. We know they’ve proven themselves against better opposition than themselves, but we believe this step up in class will be too big an ask. We think France will win 2-0.
Still gotta’ side you’re backin’? Shop our range of international kits right here!
How do you think it’s gonna’ go? Follow us on @JDFootball for exclusive content and loads more!
More Articles Like This
JD Football | November 21, 2023