IN a quartet of captivating games, World Cup 2022 progressed along its entertaining journey – for the neutrals and the winning countries of the quarter-finals.
Do you play in the world cup finals to entertain or win at all costs?
At this tense do-or-die stage, if you adopt the latter mindset, you’re more likely to progress.
That certainly proved to be the case with Croatia — again — as the 2018 losing finalist continued on the road to a possible repeat encounter with reigning champs, France.
Luka Modric and his band of crafty Croats played out a cagey game against the freewheeling, dancing Brazilians. In the end, it had to go to penalties, where the unerring Croatians killed the dancing music — was that a smile on Roy Keane’s face? — and sent a weeping Neymar and company packing.
Lots of tears, too as Portugal took on Morocco. The big story should have been the African nation’s 1-0 win to take them into the semi-finals; the first from the continent to reach this stage. But the cameras were inevitably trained on a weeping Cristiano Ronaldo trudging off the field and down the tunnel towards what must be the end of an unfulfilled international career. Shrewdly played, the Moroccans won it with a header from Youssef En-Nesyri, with a leap that matched Ronaldo’s remarkable ability in that sector, but which also meant the likely end of the Portugal star’s quest to win the medal to complete his trophy cabinet.
England’s promising run was halted by a well-measured and talented French team. A 2-1 win was marked by Harry Kane’s penalties — one scored as the other soared over the crossbar into the darkness, along with England’s dreams of progressing. With Antoine Griezmann pulling the strings and Kylian Mbappe always shadowed, it was left to Aurelien Tchouameni and Olivier Giroud to complete the proceedings.
The game that will be remembered for a long time is the remarkable Netherlands – Argentina bruising quarter-final. An ill-tempered affair, it saw Argentina race to a 2-0 lead, only for Holland to pull back a couple and send the game to extra time and eventually spot kicks.
Argentina prevailed and the desire on the part of both sides to win spilled over into the pushing, shoving, arguing and general thuggery that ensued.
A World Cup record of 18 yellow cards were flashed, and both teams have been hauled up by FIFA for disciplinary hearings.
With sharpshooters and goalkeepers in form, the Croatia – Argentina semi-final on Tuesday (3am, Wednesday SGT) should be a tense affair. If it goes to penalties, it might take forever to be completed. The France – Morocco semi-final the following day will be an interesting spectacle and hard to call given how upsets seem to deservedly dominate this tournament.