Teams, predictions, schedule and extra

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 staff with key issues to reaching the ultimate, gamers to know and predictions from our ESPN writers.

– World Cup 2022: Information and options | Schedule | Bracket
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, extra (U.S.)


Tuesday

Have they met lately? That 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 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 lots within the aftermath of Croatia’s quarterfinal victory over Brazil on penalties about their “fighting spirit,” and though it is not one thing you may quantify with statistics or information, will probably be the one factor that worries Argentina most.

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

Argentina, even with Lionel Messi, will discover it very laborious 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 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 after which look to take benefit. Their document 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 purpose for Argentina reaching the ultimate over Croatia is that, merely put, they’ve higher gamers. There is a purpose 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 primarily based purely on the depth of expertise every coach has out there.

Apart from placing 4 previous Canada within the teams, Croatia have discovered the online 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’d a marvellous run to the ultimate in 2018, however as soon as there, the ultimate hurdle towards France felt like one sport too far. They conceded 4 targets in 65 minutes. It was hardly a shock given they’d performed the equal of an additional sport within the knockouts after going for 120 minutes within the spherical of 16, quarterfinal and semifinal.

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

Why Argentina will attain the ultimate

Possibly it is nothing extra, or much less, than destiny. That is virtually actually Lionel Messi’s final shot at successful a World Cup, and he has dragged Argentina to this stage by his brilliance and power of persona. 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 towards Mexico and Australia set Argentina on their technique to huge 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 should discover one thing magical once more to beat a Croatia staff that manages event soccer higher than most. The 2018 World Cup finalists are a tricky, proud staff 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 staff 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 a superb event in Qatar, however they aren’t world beaters. How Argentina might use considered one of their former nice strikers, similar to Sergio Aguero or Gabriel Batistuta proper now.

Argentina’s lack of tempo and creativity hasn’t been a significant concern to this point, 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 staff must discover a technique to cease Modric dominating the sport along with his motion of the ball in midfield, however that’s the similar problem for all of Croatia’s opponents and few are in a position to pull it off. This sport will come down as to whether Argentina can cease Modric, but additionally how they will threaten Croatia in ways in which do not contain Messi. — Ogden

One Croatia participant to observe: Luka Modric

Modric is the plain alternative due to his standing and expertise, however RB Leipzig centre-back Josko Gvardiol, 20, has been among the finest younger gamers on the World Cup and Croatia will want him to be in high type once more.

Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic was the star towards Brazil, and you’ll suppose he will need to make a minimum of a few saves towards Argentina if there’s going to be one other shock outcome.

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 prompted Brazil issues along with his runs down the correct 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 since no staff takes video games to penalties as usually, and efficiently, as Croatia, Argentina might have the Aston Villa No. 1 to supply heroics once more.

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

Predictions

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

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

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


Wednesday

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

Have they met lately? 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 staff has the identical momentum, no staff 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 taking part in for themselves right here.

Additionally they match up nicely with France. They’ve conceded simply as soon as all event (and that was an personal purpose), they’ve proven the power to defend stoutly and concede little or no area behind for Kylian Mbappe to run into. They’ve 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 when it comes to 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 purpose, 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 road combat 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 suppose 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 have been outplayed for a lot of the sport and ask your self: who’s extra centered 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 purpose. They will 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 damage towards 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 sport, 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 purpose some stuff solely works in films. Battering ram cult hero supersub Walid Cheddira can be suspended after selecting up two yellows in minutes towards 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 received the final World Cup taking part in primarily counterattacking soccer. This time, France have been slightly extra expansive, however, essentially, they’ve so many one-on-one threats all around the pitch (Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann, Kingsley Coman off the bench, Aurelien Tchouameni from distance) {that a} purpose can come any time, from anyplace.

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

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

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Mark Ogden offers his evaluation on the perfect gamers in Qatar to this point.

Why France will attain the ultimate

France confirmed towards England all their resilience, ruthlessness and psychological power. It will likely be a really totally different sport 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, abilities and methods to beat anybody on a one-vs.-one, which Spain and Portugal lacked. Griezmann will play between the traces, 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 huge video games, in contrast to the Moroccans. The present world champions have the expertise and know-how in these form of video games when the strain is excessive.

They’re additionally match. There are not any damage worries (in contrast to 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 the planet in Mbappe, who will face his greatest 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 staff can get carried away and conceited at occasions, and there’s a danger that they might take this sport a bit frivolously and get stunned by a harmful Morocco facet. We noticed it towards Tunisia, albeit with a B staff. It might occur once more.

The French have been underneath 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 even goal Jules Kounde at right-back, the most important weak point 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 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 towards the perfect defence of the event to this point.

Other than Coman, Didier Deschamps would 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 might be a problem if France cannot break the impasse. — Laurens

One Morocco participant to observe: Achraf Hakimi

He is arguably Morocco’s key attacking risk from deep, bursting down the correct flank, overloading the midfield and delivering crosses. However he may 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 include him for many of the sport, like Kyle Walker did for England. However there might be occasions he will get away from you. And that is an issue. Hakimi might want to monster this sport at each ends of the pitch. An enormous activity for a person who has been big this event. — Marcotti

One France participant to observe: Adrien Rabiot

The Juventus midfielder has been excellent to this point, 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 perpetually, 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 sport.

In a match the place Les Bleus could have plenty of the ball towards a extremely low and compact block, his motion and influence with the ball might be vital. France’s left hand facet is the strongest with Rabiot, Hernandez and Mbappe, and Rabiot should make it work once more. He should 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 towards England, you may anticipate Deschamps to get Les Bleus at their minimalist greatest. Discovering a purpose via considered one of their superstars after which bolting the door. — Marcotti

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