FIFA World Cup 2022: Decoding the four semi-finalists
We have the four semi-finalists raring to set the stage ablaze at the FIFA World Cup 2022. Two-time winners Argentina will face 2018 runners-up Croatia at Lusail Stadium on December 14 (12:30 AM IST). Meanwhile, defending champions France will cross swords with sturdy-looking Morocco at Al Bayt Stadium on December 15 (12:30 AM IST). We decode the four semi-finalists.
Here are the top performers for these sides in Qatar
Kylian Mbappe tops the scoring charts in the Qatar World Cup, having netted five goals in as many matches. He also has two assists. Messi is Argentina's leading goal scorer in the tournament. He holds joint-second-most goals in Qatar alongside France's Olivier Giroud (4 each). Andrej Kramaric and Youssef En-Nesyri are the top scorers for Croatia and Morocco, respectively (2 goals each).
Croatia’s indomitable run in the 2022 WC
Croatia sneaked out of Group F comprising Morocco, Belgium, and Canada. Zlatko Dalic's men tasted a goalless draw against Morocco, before trouncing Canada 4-1. Croatia played out a 0-0 draw against a seasoned-looking Belgium, thereby knocking the latter of the WC. In R16, Croatia beat Group E winners Japan in the penalty shoot-out. In the quarter-finals, Croatia ousted Brazil in penalties to advance further.
Croatia stay unbeaten in WC penalty shoot-outs
As per Squawka, Croatia have been unbeaten in each of their four World Cup penalty shoot-outs. They beat Japan and Brazil in succession in the 2022 edition. Croatia have reached at least the last four of the World Cup on all three occasions that they have made it out of the group stages (1998, 2018, and 2022).
France seek their third World Cup honor
France dealt an emphatic 4-1 win to Australia in their opening fixture. Kylian Mbappe's second-half brace helped the 2018 winners beat Denmark 2-1. Didier Deschamps' men suffered a shocking 0-1 defeat to Tunisia but found the top spot in Group D standings. Mbappe starred yet again as France downed Poland 3-1 in R16. France prevailed 2-1 against England to reach the semis.
Underdogs Morocco can win it all
Under Walid Regragui, Morocco have turned up as a side to beat in Qatar. Morocco held Croatia to a 0-0 draw, before an astonishing 2-0 win over Belgium. The Atlas Lions bested Canada 2-1 to finish atop Group F standings. Morocco pulled one of the biggest upsets by knocking out Spain in R16 in the penalty shoot-out. Morocco stunned Portugal to enter the semis.
Distinct feats scripted by Morocco
As per Squawka, Morocco have conceded only one goal in their last nine games, and that was scored by their own player (Nayef Aguerd in a 2-1 triumph over Canada). Morocco have become the first African team to qualify for the semi-final of a World Cup tournament. The three sides were eliminated in quarter-finals: Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002, and Ghana in 2010.
Distinguishable records by France
France have reached the WC semi-final for the seventh time, and this is the first time they have done so in successive editions of the tournament since 1982/1986. Notably, France manager Deschamps secured his 13th World Cup win in his 17th game in charge (D2 L2). Only Felipe Scolari (14) and Helmut Schon (16) have won more matches in the competition.
How have Argentina fared in the 2022 WC?
Argentina made a remarkable turnaround since the 1-2 defeat to Saudi Arabia in their tournament opener. With the 36-match unbeaten streak broken, Argentina bullied Mexico 2-0, followed by beating Poland 2-0 to finish atop Group C. Coming to R16, Argentina beat Australia 2-1 in what marked Lionel Messi's 1,000th career appearance. In the quarter-finals, Argentina overcame the Netherlands in penalties to progress further.
Notable records for Argentina
Argentina have now won the most penalty shoot-outs of any side in the WC history (5 wins from 6). Only Spain (4) have lost more penalty shoot-outs at the WC than the Netherlands (1 win from 4). Argentina have progressed from the WC quarter-final for only the fourth time. They have reached the final in each of the previous three instances (1986, 1990, and 2014).