By Habeeb Kuranga
Going back to when the whistle was blown 24 days ago at the Al-Bayt stadium when Qatar played against Ecuador in the first game of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the adrenaline was high, and every fan, both in the stadium and outside was excited that the world cup is here again. The pain, relief, anguish, joy, happiness, delirium, and surprises in the first game are still present till now. What a world cup this has been, a one-of-a-kind in its rich history, the one that would be talked about for years to come.
Now, the semifinals are up to us, and it will definitely not cease to bring the excitement levels other stages have brought to us, even more than that. Just like the saying, “the higher you go, the tougher and more adventurous you become.”
The Ravens NG sports reporter has yet again brought you the preview of the two fixtures in the penultimate round of the World cup in Qatar.
Argentina vs Croatia
After the hard-fought victory against the Netherlands on Friday, Argentina would be aiming to reach the final of the FIFA world cup for the sixth time. Although they’ve been left heartbroken on three occasions (1930, 1990 and 2014), they were world champions in 1978 and 1986.
The Albiceleste were two goals up before the 80th minute, then Louis van Gaal’s masterstroke ensured the Oranje boys restored parity before the end of the regular time. Nothing to show for in the extra time as both team didn’t hit the ball into the back of the net throughout the thirty minutes.
It was a déjà vu for the Dutch side in the penalty shootout as they lost to the Albiceleste in a similar fashion as they did in the semifinals of the 2014 world cup against the same opponent.
Lionel Sacloni and his boys have a stern test against a dogged Croatian side who were impressive against Brazil in the quarterfinals.
Croatia was up to par against the Seleçao of Brazil on the pitch, and they gave everything to keep their opponent at bay, not until when Neymar Jr gave Brazil the lead in the first half of the extra time only for Petkovic to restore parity in the second half of the Extra time.
Zlatsko Dalic’s side will be aiming to advance to the final of the world cup, making it back-to-back finals for the country in the Balkan region. Although, they lost embarrassingly against the Les Bleus of France in the last final.
France vs Morocco
The reigning world champions are at it again in Qatar. Before the commencement of this competition, France was hit with injuries virtually in all departments. Notable mentions are Paul Pogba, Ngolo Kante, Karim Benzema and Christopher Nkunku. Tongues were wagged before the tournament started properly, and France would find it difficult in Qatar. And only a few would have given them a chance to get to this stage. This is major because of the injury crises they suffered. But that’s not the case in football; you never know what will be what.
The Les Bleus were not really at their best in their quarterfinal tie against England, but they still went on to overcome the Three Lions, no thanks to the second penalty Harry Kane blazed over the crossbar.
France would be aiming to win the world cup two times in a row (the first team to do so since Brazil in 1962). Didier Deschamps would also be hoping he become the first manager since the Italian manager, Vittorio Pozzo, who inspired Italy to the 1934 and 1938 world cup triumphs.
But they face a tricky test against the Atlas Lions of Morocco, who has so far been the underdogs in this year’s competition.
Morocco is one of the two teams who are still unbeaten in this competition alongside Croatia. It is still surprising they’ve conceded just a solitary goal in this tournament after facing the likes of Belgium, Canada, Spain, Portugal and fellow semifinalists Croatia.
They were excellent against Portugal in the quarterfinal by winning with a solitary goal, after soaking up the pressure up until the final whistle, and you could see what it meant for the Atlas Lions as they became the first African nation to play in the semifinal of a world cup. According to the great Pele, “The more difficult the victory, the greater the happiness in winning.”
Morocco will be the first nation outside Europe and South America to play in the final of the FIFA world cup if they shock the world by eliminating the defending champions in France.
What teams are you backing to face each other in the 2022 FIFA world cup final in Qatar?