World Cup semifinals preview: What to find out about every crew, predictions, schedule and extra

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World Cup semifinals preview: What to find out about every crew, predictions, schedule and extra
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World Cup semifinals preview: What to find out about every crew, predictions, schedule and extra
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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 high 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. However 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 features | Schedule | Bracket
Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)


Tuesday

Have they met not too long ago? That is their third assembly at a World Cup, however first within the knockouts. Argentina gained the primary assembly 1-0 in 1998’s group stage, with Croatia successful 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 quite a bit within the aftermath of Croatia’s quarterfinal victory over Brazil on penalties about their “preventing spirit,” and regardless that it isn’t one thing you may quantify with statistics or information, will probably be the one factor that worries Argentina most.

Croatia have a unbelievable skill to remain in a recreation. Their midfield three of Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic have the technical skill on the ball to regulate giant spells and once they must defend, they’re dogged and organised.

Argentina, even with Lionel Messi, will discover it very onerous 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 additional time, beating each Japan and Brazil on penalties throughout their run in Qatar. Additionally they gained two shootouts — in opposition to 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 after which 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 actually do the identical to Argentina. — Rob Dawson

Why Croatia will not attain the ultimate

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

Except for 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 in opposition to Brazil with their solely shot on the right track — and even that wanted a major deflection.

That they had a marvellous run to the ultimate in 2018, however as soon as there, the ultimate hurdle in opposition to France felt like one recreation too far. They conceded 4 targets 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 additional time and penalties in opposition to Japan and Brazil, there’s a hazard Croatia would possibly run out of steam in opposition to Argentina, notably when coach Lionel Scaloni can flip to his bench and throw on a lot of world-class gamers. — Dawson

Why Argentina will attain the ultimate

Perhaps it is nothing extra, or much less, than destiny. That is nearly actually Lionel Messi‘s final shot at successful a World Cup, and he has dragged Argentina to this stage by his brilliance and drive 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 targets in opposition to Mexico and Australia set Argentina on their technique to massive wins, whereas his reverse cross for Nahuel Molina to attain within the quarterfinal in opposition to 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 tricky, proud crew with Modric as influential as Messi. However 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 unbelievable 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, corresponding to Sergio Aguero or Gabriel Batistuta proper now.

Argentina’s lack of tempo and creativity hasn’t been a serious challenge up to now, however because the event approaches its decisive stage, the important thing particulars matter they usually might want to discover one thing additional 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 if 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 look at: Luka Modric

Modric is the apparent alternative 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 high type once more.

Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic was the star in opposition to Brazil, and you’d assume he will must make at the very least a few saves in opposition to Argentina if there’s going to be one other shock consequence.

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

One Argentina participant to look at: Emiliano Martinez

The Argentina goalkeeper has had his critics on this event, however he rose to the event through the penalty shootout win in opposition to Netherlands. And since 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.

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

Predictions

Argentina 2-1 Croatia (AET): It is Croatia, so it should additional time, however this time they will discover Argentina have an excessive amount of firepower and will not have the ability to maintain on for penalties. — Dawson

Argentina 1-1 Croatia (Argentina win on penalties): This recreation appears like will probably be a tense battle for 120 minutes and can ultimately go to penalties. If that occurs, each side know from current expertise methods to win on spot-kicks. — Ogden

play

1:41

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


Wednesday

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

Have they met not too long ago? That is the primary time since 2007, once they drew 2-2 in a pleasant. They’ve 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 regionally and globally as these potential history-makers. This is not simply the primary African nation to succeed in the semifinal, it’s also the first 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’re not just playing for themselves here.

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

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

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

That is proper. It is Morocco. — Gabriele Marcotti

Why Morocco will not attain the ultimate

Let’s reside in the actual world right here. France are the reigning world champions for a motive. They’ll throw up a stinker in opposition to 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 damage in opposition to Portugal and needed to come off. He could grit his enamel 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. Each are unlikely to function, each would give a kidney to be there.

Subsequent man up? Positive. However there is a motive some stuff solely works in films. Battering ram cult hero supersub Walid Cheddira can also be suspended after selecting up two yellows in minutes in opposition to Portugal, which suggests Youssef En Nesyri, additionally banged up, might want to lead the road on his personal.

What’s extra is that France boss Didier Deschamps has no qualms about shutting up store if he must. He gained the final World Cup taking part in primarily counterattacking soccer. This time, France have been a little bit extra expansive, however, basically, 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} objective can come any time, from wherever.

And, on set items, Olivier Giroud, France’s all-time main objective scorer, who bagged the winner in opposition to 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 way narrower. On paper, too slim to squeeze via. — Marcotti

play

1:48

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

Why France will attain the ultimate

France confirmed in opposition to England all their resilience, ruthlessness and psychological energy. It will likely be a really completely different recreation in opposition to Morocco, however they’ve every thing they should beat them.

Morocco beat Spain and Portugal as a result of these two groups had 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 tips to beat anybody on a one-vs.-one, which Spain and Portugal lacked. Griezmann will play between the strains, whilst you can anticipate Hernandez to bomb ahead from his left-back place.

The French have been there earlier than. They’re used to taking part in massive video games, not like the Moroccans. The present world champions have the expertise and know-how in these type of video games when the stress is excessive.

They’re additionally match. There are not any damage worries (not like for the Moroccans), no fatigue, no suspensions, no gamers lacking both. They’re filled with confidence and momentum after the best way they beat England within the quarterfinals. They’ve the perfect participant on this planet in Mbappe, who will face his finest buddy Hakimi, who he is aware of by coronary heart and can need 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’s well-known that this French crew can get carried away and conceited at occasions, and there’s a threat that they may take this recreation a bit frivolously and get shocked by a harmful Morocco facet. We noticed it in opposition to Tunisia, albeit with a B crew. It might occur once more.

The French had been underneath stress in opposition to England. Harry Kane pressured Dayot Upamecano to make some errors that might have confirmed pricey. Morocco and En Nesyri will certainly goal Upamecano with lengthy balls behind his again.They can even 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 can even goal Hernandez and the not-so-keen-to-defend Mbappe. So France might endure a bit defensively and they won’t discover the important thing offensively both in opposition to the perfect defence of the event up to now.

Other than 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 dearth of depth could possibly be a difficulty if France cannot break the impasse. — Laurens

One Morocco participant to look at: Achraf Hakimi

He is arguably Morocco’s key attacking risk from deep, bursting down the appropriate flank, overloading the midfield and delivering crosses. However he can even have the only hardest activity on the day: containing his membership teammate Mbappe, the quickest factor on two legs at this World Cup.

It is an enormous ask for any right-back, not to mention one like Hakimi, a pure wingback who’s extra about approach than flat-out athleticism. You do not shut down Mbappe, however you may comprise him for many of the recreation, like Kyle Walker did for England. However there shall be occasions 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 activity for a person who has been big this event. — Marcotti

One France participant to look at: Adrien Rabiot

The Juventus midfielder has been excellent up to now, and we do not say it sufficient. He’s full. He defends, he assaults, he compensates, he shuffles, he tackles, he presses, he intercepts, he creates, he runs endlessly, he wins headers and he even scores targets 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 quite a lot of the ball in opposition to a very low and compact block, his motion and influence with the ball shall be essential. 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

Predictions

France 1-0 Morocco: After the scare in opposition to England, you may anticipate Deschamps to get Les Bleus at their minimalist finest. Discovering a objective via considered one of their superstars after which bolting the door. — Marcotti

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



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