So we already know one semi-final after both quarter-finals went the distance to be decided on penalties as Luka Modric’s Croatia take on Lionel Messi’s Argentina and what an absolute cracker that is going to be. The massive question is who is going to join them in the last four.
MOROCCO – PORTUGAL Surely Morocco are now everyone’s favourite second team. The fact that they have conceded only one goal – that an unlucky own goal – and Bono did not even let one of Spain’s penalties get past him in the Last 16 shoot-out. Walid Regragui has already secured the manager of the tournament award. Having only taken over at the end of August he has steered them to becoming the fourth African country to qualify for the last eight , following in the footsteps of Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010. They also will become the first north African team to reach this stage.
Of course Morocco’s defence will be sorely tested by the only hat-trick scorer in 2022 so far 21 year-old Gonçalo Ramos. Ramos starred in a side who recorded the biggest victory in a Last 16 match, eclipsing their Iberian neighbours Spain who beat Denmark 5-1 in 1986. When Ramos started his first ever match at a World Cup on Tuesday most of the attention was focused on the man he replaced. That changed in the following 70 minutes and now Portugal whose four games have produced sixteen goals face a side whose games have generated a paltry five. Something has to give.
ENGLAND – FRANCE England have met France twice at a World Cup, beating them both times 2-0 in 1966 and 3-1 in 1982. So much for history this is now and Kylian Mbappé is almost certainly best player in the world currently. He is the leading scorer in Qatar and his five goals in 2022 added to his four in Russia also means nobody has scored more in the last two tournaments. Alongside Giroud, who has scored three, this pair are responsible for eight of the nine they have scored. England are not so reliant with eight different scorers (seven of whom had never scored at a World Cup before) and only one for the 2018 Golden Boot winner, Harry Kane.
France’s record in quarter-finals is daunting, having lost just two out of seven, the first back in 1938 and the other in 2014 against Germany, a 71% success rate. By contrast England have a 33% success rate, having lost six of their nine quarter-final ties, with their three wins in 1966, 1990 and 2018. But as I mentioned above history is bunk, right?
Have a listen to the World Cup Nuggets Group round-up podcast with special guest Kate Mason right here and check out how predictions can go awry – https://bit.ly/3us3PT7