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The 2022 World Cup semifinals are right here. After an exciting spherical of 16 and quarterfinals, we’re into the enterprise finish of the event with 4 groups remaining. There’s loads of star energy, nice matchups and prime gamers who all have their eyes set on hoisting the trophy on Dec. 18.

The motion begins Tuesday with Croatia and Argentina kicking off, then defending champions France tackle underdogs Morocco a day later. But earlier than the video games start, preview every crew with key issues to reaching the ultimate, gamers to know and predictions from our ESPN writers.

– World Cup 2022: News and options | Schedule | Bracket
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Have they met not too long ago? This is their third assembly at a World Cup, however first within the knockouts. Argentina received the primary assembly 1-0 in 1998’s group stage, with Croatia profitable 3-0 in 2018.

Odds to win World Cup (by way of Caesars Sportsbook): Argentina +155; Croatia +650.

Argentina are -150 to advance from the semifinal, whereas Croatia are +450.

Why Croatia will attain the ultimate

Coach Zlatko Dalic spoke loads within the aftermath of Croatia’s quarterfinal victory over Brazil on penalties about their “fighting spirit,” and regardless that it isn’t one thing you’ll be able to quantify with statistics or knowledge, will probably be the one factor that worries Argentina most.

Croatia have a implausible capability to remain in a recreation. Their midfield three of Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic have the technical capability on the ball to manage giant spells and after they need to defend, they’re dogged and organised.

Argentina, even with Lionel Messi, will discover it very arduous to interrupt them down and the longer the sport stays even, Croatia will solely develop in perception. Eight of their previous 9 knockout matches at main tournaments have gone to further time, beating each Japan and Brazil on penalties throughout their run in Qatar. They additionally received two shootouts — towards Denmark and Russia — on their technique to the ultimate in 2018.

Croatia will hope to disrupt Argentina and Messi lengthy sufficient for panic to set in and then look to take benefit. Their report on the previous two World Cups suggests it is a well-formulated plan. If they will knock out Brazil, they will definitely do the identical to Argentina. — Rob Dawson

Why Croatia will not attain the ultimate

The most evident cause for Argentina reaching the ultimate over Croatia is that, merely put, they’ve higher gamers. There’s a cause that Argentina and Messi arrived in Qatar aiming to carry the trophy whereas Croatia and Modric turned up hoping to make it via the group levels — expectation primarily based purely on the depth of expertise every coach has obtainable.

Aside from placing 4 previous Canada within the teams, Croatia have discovered the web simply twice of their different 4 video games and scored within the 116th minute towards Brazil with their solely shot on the right track — and even that wanted a big deflection.

They had a marvellous run to the ultimate in 2018, however as soon as there, the ultimate hurdle towards France felt like one recreation too far. They conceded 4 objectives in 65 minutes. It was hardly a shock given they’d performed the equal of an additional recreation within the knockouts after going for 120 minutes within the spherical of 16, quarterfinal and semifinal.

After further time and penalties towards Japan and Brazil, there’s a hazard Croatia would possibly run out of steam towards Argentina, significantly when coach Lionel Scaloni can flip to his bench and throw on a variety of world-class gamers. — Dawson

Why Argentina will attain the ultimate

Maybe it is nothing more, or much less, than destiny. This is nearly definitely Lionel Messi’s final shot at profitable a World Cup, and he has dragged Argentina to this stage by his brilliance and power of character. He is not the participant he was in his prime, with that electrical burst of tempo, however at 35, he has proven he’s nonetheless able to making the essential distinction.

His objectives towards Mexico and Australia set Argentina on their technique to large wins, whereas his reverse move for Nahuel Molina to attain within the quarterfinal towards Netherlands was one of many moments of this World Cup.

Messi must discover one thing magical once more to beat a Croatia crew that manages event soccer higher than most. The 2018 World Cup finalists are a troublesome, proud crew with Modric as influential as Messi. But there does really feel a way of future about Argentina this time round. — Mark Ogden

Why Argentina will not attain the ultimate

Take Messi out of the crew and Argentina are a restricted facet. For a rustic that has produced some unimaginable gamers, there’s a actual scarcity of world-class help for Messi. Julian Alvarez, Enzo Fernandez and Alexis Mac Allister have all had event in Qatar, however they don’t seem to be world beaters. How Argentina might use considered one of their former nice strikers, equivalent to Sergio Aguero or Gabriel Batistuta proper now.

Argentina’s lack of tempo and creativity hasn’t been a serious subject up to now, however because the event approaches its decisive stage, the important thing particulars matter and they might want to discover one thing further to beat Croatia.

Lionel Scaloni’s crew have to discover a technique to cease Modric dominating the sport together with his motion of the ball in midfield, however that’s the identical problem for all of Croatia’s opponents and few are in a position to pull it off. This recreation will come down as to whether Argentina can cease Modric, but in addition how they will threaten Croatia in ways in which do not contain Messi. — Ogden

One Croatia participant to observe: Luka Modric

Modric is the apparent selection due to his standing and expertise, however RB Leipzig centre-back Josko Gvardiol, 20, has been probably the greatest younger gamers on the World Cup and Croatia will want him to be in prime type once more.

Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic was the star towards Brazil, and you’d assume he will need to make at the least a few saves towards Argentina if there’s going to be one other shock end result.

If Croatia wish to damage Argentina, Celtic right-back Josip Juranovic is an efficient outlet. Argentina have not settled on their full-backs and Juranovic precipitated Brazil issues together with his runs down the best flank. — Dawson

One Argentina participant to observe: Emiliano Martinez

The Argentina goalkeeper has had his critics on this event, however he rose to the event throughout the penalty shootout win towards Netherlands. And as a result of no crew takes video games to penalties as usually, and efficiently, as Croatia, Argentina may have the Aston Villa No. 1 to supply heroics once more.

But Martinez’s position goes past his capability with penalties. He is a commanding presence and one who will attempt to dominate the penalty space, so Argentina at the least know they’ve a keeper they will depend on. — Ogden


Argentina 2-1 Croatia (AET): It’s Croatia, so it may further time, however this time they’re going to discover Argentina have an excessive amount of firepower and will not be capable to maintain on for penalties. — Dawson

Argentina 1-1 Croatia (Argentina win on penalties): This recreation seems like will probably be a tense battle for 120 minutes and will finally go to penalties. If that occurs, each side know from latest expertise learn how to win on spot-kicks. — Ogden



Craig Burley is stuffed with reward for Morocco’s efficiency and resilience after they grow to be the primary African crew to make it to a World Cup semifinal.


Morocco vs. France
Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor; 2 p.m. ET

Have they met not too long ago? This is the primary time since 2007, after they drew 2-2 in a pleasant. They have by no means met at a World Cup.

Odds to win World Cup (by way of Caesars Sportsbook): France +120; Morocco +1000.

France are -200 to advance from the semifinal, whereas Morocco are +625.

Why Morocco will attain the ultimate

No crew has the identical momentum, no crew has as a lot help domestically and globally as these potential history-makers. This is not simply the primary African nation to achieve the semifinal, it is also the primary Arab nation and solely the second Muslim nation. In a sport that has historically been a closed affair between Europe and South America, a lot of the remainder of the world is cheering them on … they don’t seem to be simply enjoying for themselves right here.

They additionally match up effectively with France. They’ve conceded simply as soon as all event (and that was an personal aim), they’ve proven the flexibility to defend stoutly and concede little or no area behind for Kylian Mbappe to run into. They have the World Cup’s excellent keeper to this point (Yassine Bounou), they’ve two midfielders in Sofyan Amrabat and Azzedine Ounahi who’re on hearth by way of amount and high quality, and they’ve wingers in Sofiane Boufal and Hakim Ziyech who can invent one thing out of nothing to get you a aim, which is usually all it takes at this stage of the competitors.

Most of all, they’re gritty and they’re hungry. You’d again them in a road struggle and, let’s face it, that is knockout soccer. Games are tight and it is so usually about depth, chutzpah and psychological toughness.

Now, who do you assume has more in that division? Morocco or France, who wanted Harry Kane to blast a penalty over the bar and some barely doubtful calls to get previous England? Look on the penalties Les Bleus conceded within the quarterfinal (particularly the Theo Hernandez one), have a look at the best way they have been outplayed for a lot of the sport and ask your self: who’s more targeted proper now?

That’s proper. It’s Morocco. — Gabriele Marcotti

Why Morocco will not attain the ultimate

Let’s dwell in the actual world right here. France are the reigning world champions for a cause. They can throw up a stinker towards England and nonetheless win. Morocco’s complete first-choice again 4 are bodily hurting.

Achraf Hakimi is battle-scarred and hurting. Romain Saiss performed carrying an harm towards Portugal and needed to come off. He might grit his tooth and play, however he is held collectively by masking tape and adrenaline proper now. Nayef Aguerd, the opposite excellent centre-back missed the Portugal recreation, as did Noussair Mazraoui, the opposite fullback. Both are unlikely to function, each would give a kidney to be there.

Next man up? Sure. But there is a cause some stuff solely works in motion pictures. Battering ram cult hero supersub Walid Cheddira can also be suspended after choosing up two yellows in minutes towards Portugal, which implies Youssef En Nesyri, additionally banged up, might want to lead the road on his personal.

What’s more is that France boss Didier Deschamps has no qualms about shutting up store if he must. He received the final World Cup enjoying primarily counterattacking soccer. This time, France have been a bit more expansive, however, essentially, they’ve so many one-on-one threats everywhere in the pitch (Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann, Kingsley Coman off the bench, Aurelien Tchouameni from distance) {that a} aim can come any time, from wherever.

And, on set items, Olivier Giroud, France’s all-time main aim scorer, who bagged the winner towards England, plus the big Dayot Upamecano are severe threats. There are a ton of the way France can win this recreation.

For Morocco, the trail is much narrower. On paper, too slender to squeeze via. — Marcotti



Mark Ogden offers his evaluation on the perfect gamers in Qatar up to now.

Why France will attain the ultimate

France confirmed towards England all their resilience, ruthlessness and psychological energy. It can be a really completely different recreation towards Morocco, however they’ve every little thing they should beat them.

Morocco beat Spain and Portugal as a result of these two groups have been too one-dimensional. Les Bleus have a lot selection. Giroud is the old fashioned centre-forward at all times within the field. Mbappe and Dembele have the tempo, expertise and methods to beat anybody on a one-vs.-one, which Spain and Portugal lacked. Griezmann will play between the strains, when you can anticipate Hernandez to bomb ahead from his left-back place.

The French have been there earlier than. They are used to enjoying large video games, in contrast to the Moroccans. The present world champions have the expertise and know-how in these type of video games when the strain is excessive.

They are additionally match. There are not any harm worries (in contrast to for the Moroccans), no fatigue, no suspensions, no gamers lacking both. They are stuffed with confidence and momentum after the best way they beat England within the quarterfinals. They have the perfect participant on the earth in Mbappe, who will face his finest buddy Hakimi, who he is aware of by coronary heart and will wish to beat so he can return to scoring methods to clinch the Golden Boot award. — Julien Laurens

Why France will not attain the ultimate

It is well-known that this French crew can get carried away and conceited at instances, and there’s a danger that they might take this recreation a bit frivolously and get shocked by a harmful Morocco facet. We noticed it towards Tunisia, albeit with a B crew. It might occur once more.

The French have been beneath strain towards England. Harry Kane pressured Dayot Upamecano to make some errors that might have confirmed expensive. Morocco and En Nesyri will certainly goal Upamecano with lengthy balls behind his again.They may also goal Jules Kounde at right-back, the most important weak spot within the French defence. Boufal, the Morocco winger, is in nice type this event and could have a go at Kounde.

On the opposite facet, the pair of Ziyech and Hakimi may also goal Hernandez and the not-so-keen-to-defend Mbappe. So France might undergo a bit defensively and they won’t discover the important thing offensively both towards the perfect defence of the event up to now.

Apart from Coman, Didier Deschamps does not have an choice off the bench who’s as robust because the starters. He has good younger forwards (Marcus Thuram, Kolo Muani) and midfielders (Youssouf Fofana) however nobody who can realistically change the sport. So the shortage of depth might be a difficulty if France cannot break the impasse. — Laurens

One Morocco participant to observe: Achraf Hakimi

He’s arguably Morocco’s key attacking menace from deep, bursting down the best flank, overloading the midfield and delivering crosses. But he may also have the only hardest process on the day: containing his membership teammate Mbappe, the quickest factor on two legs at this World Cup.

It’s an enormous ask for any right-back, not to mention one like Hakimi, a pure wingback who’s more about approach than flat-out athleticism. You do not shut down Mbappe, however you’ll be able to comprise him for a lot of the recreation, like Kyle Walker did for England. But there can be instances he will get away from you. And that is an issue. Hakimi might want to monster this recreation at each ends of the pitch. An enormous process for a person who has been large this event. — Marcotti

One France participant to observe: Adrien Rabiot

The Juventus midfielder has been excellent up to now, and we do not say it sufficient. He is full. He defends, he assaults, he compensates, he shuffles, he tackles, he presses, he intercepts, he creates, he runs without end, he wins headers and he even scores objectives and assists, too. He has been a revelation and such an asset for France in each single recreation.

In a match the place Les Bleus could have lots of the ball towards a extremely low and compact block, his motion and influence with the ball can be vital. France’s left hand facet is the strongest with Rabiot, Hernandez and Mbappe, and Rabiot must make it work once more. He must play excessive to carry a numerical benefit for the French to unlock the tight Moroccan defence. — Laurens


France 1-0 Morocco: After the scare towards England, you’ll be able to anticipate Deschamps to get Les Bleus at their minimalist finest. Finding a aim via considered one of their superstars and then bolting the door. — Marcotti

France 2-0 Morocco: Morocco have been excellent up to now, however France can be a step too excessive. I do not assume they will recreate a 3rd miracle in a row. The French can be too robust. — Laurens


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