So, here we are. The final four.
Four nations spanning three continents are just two games away from World Cup glory. There’s a GOAT attempting to step out of Diego Maradona’s shadow and complete the ultimate fairytale, the holders looking to go back-to-back, that midfield from the Adriatic, and Africa’s first-ever World Cup semi-finalists.
Each different in style, even if such distinctions are subtle, these two semi-final matchups are poised to intrigue and enthral those who have been treated to an unforgettable tournament in Qatar.
The pinnacle is so close yet so far, and here are 90min’s predictions of the upcoming semi-final fixtures.
Lionel Scaloni opted to match the Netherlands’ back three in the quarter-final in a bid to contain the idiosyncratic Dutch. The ploy worked a treat for the most part before Louis van Gaal’s switch to Wout-ball threw a spanner in the works.
La Albiceleste were stumped by an atypical Dutch approach as Weghorst scored twice in the closing stages to take a once dead-in-the-water tie to extra time. Argentina regained control in the extended period, but their eventual victory came via a dramatic penalty shootout.
You do get the feeling that something magical is occurring within the Argentinian ranks as Lionel Messi goes in search of the prize his career deserves. The magic man is in spectacular form, and he’ll undoubtedly be key in breaking down a stubborn Croatia defence in the semi-final.
Croatia are as blunt as a butter knife up top, but their midfield is the best in the tournament and their defence is playing lights out. They’ll seek to control the contest and frustrate an emotional Albiceleste while pleading for a moment of inspiration in the final third.
You can’t write the Europeans off, that’s for sure, but this Messi-inspired Argentina side should get over the line in a cagey and perhaps bitty affair.
Prediction: Argentina 2-1 Croatia
The unifiers of the Arab world are 90 minutes away from the World Cup final. Morocco’s journey in Qatar has been nothing short of remarkable, but their toughest challenge awaits Walid Regragui’s depleted outfit in the last four as they face the holders.
France were ruthless against an impressive England in a high-quality quarter-final matchup and are attempting to become the first nation to win back-to-back World Cups since Brazil in 1962.
Les Bleus certainly aren’t as imperious as they were four years ago, and there’s no reason why this aggressive and athletic Morocco outfit can’t complete one more miracle. However, Regragui could be without several key players for this historic encounter and the French pose Morocco’s biggest challenge at the tournament thus far.
Didier Deschamps’ canny outfit are built for winning games of this magnitude and after a quiet outing last time out, Kylian Mbappe is poised for yet another World Cup masterclass.
Prediction: France 1-0 Morocco