Argentina’s convincing win over Croatia was only the third time since 1990 that a World Cup semi has been decided by more than one goal. In 2006 Italy beat Germany 2-0 with two very late goals in the dying embers of extra time the first coming in 119th followed by the second in 120th minute. The other occasion was the incredible Brazilian meltdown in 2014 when they lost by the biggest margin in a semi-final, the 7-1 shellacking by Germany in Belo Horizonte.
France face Morocco in the second semi-final with the French aiming to become only the third side to retain the World Cup after Italy in 1938 and Brazil in 1962. Additionally, only four countries have appeared in successive World Cup finals – Netherlands 1974 & 1978, Germany  1982, 1986 & 1990, Argentina 1986 & 1990 and Brazil 1994 & 1998.
After Croatia’s elimination Morocco are the only unbeaten side left in the tournament. As has been commented upon many times, they have conceded a solitary goal, and that was an Aguerd own goal in a 2-1 win over Canada, coincidentally the only other OG in Qatar was conceded by finalists Argentina in a 2-1 win over Australia. Italy reached the last four in 1990 without conceding a goal and in 2006, like Morocco, the only goal the Italians conceded in their run to the semi-final was an own goal so they are the only teams to get to the last four without an opposition player scoring against them.
Two of Morocco’s four clean sheets have come against the sides who recorded the biggest wins in Qatar – Spain who beat Costa Rica 7-0 and Portugal who beat Switzerland 6-1. Only a few sides have reached the semi-final stage conceding just one goal Italy in 2006 and France in 1998.
France do not have a good record against former colonies – in 2002 they lost 1-0 to Senegal and in 2022 they also lost 1-0 to Tunisia. Several of the Moroccans play in France, Hakimi is at PSG, while both Ounahi and Boufal are at Angers. This is France’s seventh semi-final, having lost their first three in 1958, 1982 and 1986, Les Bleus have won their last three in 1998, 2006 and 2018.
If Morocco win they not only become the first African and Arab country to qualify for the final they will also become the first nation from outside Europe and South America to do so. It will also mean for the first time in World Cup history there will not be a European side in the final.
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
You can still pick up a copy of the World Cup Nuggets book directly from the publishers, Halcyon https://bit.ly/3eXfV2y or via Amazon https://amzn.to/3TKD1J0 – the choice is yours and don’t forget Christmas is coming…