The four teams are still riding high after their respective wins in the World Cup quarter-finals, but anticipation is already building ahead of the next step: the semis on Tuesday and Wednesday. Croatia will attempt to reach its second World Cup final in as many competitions, and Morocco is looking to continue its historic run after it became the first African team and the first Arab team to ever make it to the final four.
Defending champions France edged England 2-1 on Saturday as Harry Kane missed a late penalty in the World Cup quarter-finals, after Morocco became the first African team ever to reach the semi-finals.
France will face the surprising North Africans on Wednesday, earning their place when Olivier Giroud’s header proved the difference at Al Bayt Stadium.
In a tense match, Aurélien Tchouaméni’s strike opened the scoring with 17 minutes gone, but Kane brought England level from the penalty spot early in the second half.
England were the best side for large parts of the match but Giroud scored when it mattered most, rising above Harry Maguire to nod the ball into the net on 78 minutes for his 53rd goal for France.
As England desperately searched for an equaliser, they were thrown a late lifeline when Theo Hernandez needlessly shoved over Mason Mount and the referee gave a spot-kick following a VAR review.
But Kane blasted his kick high over the crossbar, spurning the chance to send the game into extra time. He was the first England player to sink to his knees at the final whistle, his head in his hands.
“We gave them a little ammunition with two penalties, but it is with hearts and guts that we held on to this result,” France manager Didier Deschamps said. “It’s fabulous because it was a big match against a very good English team.”
“We responded once again, it’s wonderful to reach the last four again, you have to savour it, a World Cup semi-final is quite something.”
England manager Gareth Southgate said he had told his players, “I don’t think they could have given any more”.
“They’ve played really well against a top team. It’s fine margins and things at both ends that have decided the game,” Southgate added.
Morocco make World Cup history
Only the most fervent Morocco fan would have bet on their side reaching the World Cup semi-finals before the tournament kicked off.
On Saturday, they beat Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal 1-0 thanks to Youssef En-Nesyri’s first-half header to go further than any African team ever has at a World Cup.
Morocco, ranked 22 in the world before the tournament started, have surpassed the three other African sides to reach the quarter-finals – Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010.
Ronaldo, who came on as a second-half substitute, was unable to rescue his side and at the final whistle walked off down the tunnel wiping away tears without acknowledging either his teammates or the victorious Moroccans.
Ronaldo, 37, who with Lionel Messi has dominated world football for the past two decades, has likely played his last World Cup match after making a world record-equalling 196th international appearance at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha.
The Moroccans have wildly surpassed expectations in Qatar and coach Walid Regragui lauded the battling spirit of his injury-hit side.
“We’re drawing on all we have, we still have guys injured. I told the guys before the match we had to write history for Africa. I’m very, very happy,” Regragui said.
As their national team made history, crowds gathered in Casablanca and chanted “Qualified! Qualified!”
There were also celebrations across the Arab world and in Europe as Morocco are also the first Arab team to reach a World Cup semi-final.
“My heart will stop, what a team, what stamina, what an achievement,” Ilham El Idrissi, a 34-year-old woman, told AFP in Casablanca.
Argentina and Croatia go head-to-head on Tuesday
Argentina and Lionel Messi will face 2018 finalists Croatia in the other semi-final after the Croatians dumped out pre-tournament favourites Brazil on Friday.
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The five-time champions crashed out in dramatic fashion, losing on penalties after a 1-1 draw, while Argentina survived a fightback from the Netherlands to also win in a shootout.
Brazil star Neymar said he was contemplating retiring from international football after the crushing loss, but on Saturday Brazilian legend Pele urged him to “keep inspiring us”.
“I’m 82 years old, and after all this time, I hope I’ve inspired you in some way to get this far… Your legacy is far from over,” Pele wrote on Instagram.
Neymar had equalled Pele’s official Brazil scoring record of 77 international goals in Friday’s match.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
The Qatar 2022 semi-finals are upon us, with Argentina, Croatia, France and Morocco the only teams left standing.
In the quarter-finals, Croatia pulled off a surprise penalty shootout win over tournament favourites Brazil, while Argentina also needed spot-kicks to overcome a spirited Dutch side.
Cristiano Ronaldo went off in tears as Morocco shocked Portugal with a 1-0 win, while Gareth Southgate’s England were dumped out by world champions France after Harry Kane missed a crucial equalising penalty.
The 22nd edition of the quadrennial tournament, which began way back in 1930, is also the first to be held in an Arab country. The State of Qatar is the smallest country in size (11,600 km2) and population (2.7 million) ever to host.
The World Cup featured eight groups of four teams before the top two from each went through to the knockout round of 16, which is followed by the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.
This format will be changed for the World Cup 2026 when the tournament will be expanded to 48 teams as the USA, Mexico and Canada co-host.
Argentina vs Croatia, Tuesday 13th December (7pm, BBC/ITV)
France vs Morocco, Wednesday 14th December (7pm, BBC/ITV)
When did the knockout stages start?
The knockout stages of this year’s World Cup began on Saturday, December 3 with the round of 16, before moving through to the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.
A total of 16 teams progressed to the knockouts. They were Netherlands, Senegal, England, USA, Argentina, Poland, France, Australia, Morocco, Croatia, Japan, Spain, Brazil, Switzerland, Portugal and South Korea.
The teams to have reached the quarter-finals were Netherlands, England, Argentina, France, Croatia, Brazil, Morocco and Portugal.
What date is the World Cup 2022 final?
The last match of the World Cup will take place on Qatar National Day – Sunday, December 18. It will kick-off at 3pm UK time (6pm in Qatar, 10am ET, 9am CT and 7am PT) at the 80,000-seater Lusail Stadium.
Where is the next World Cup taking place?
The World Cup 2026 will be held across three host countries – America, Canada and Mexico – in a tournament first after the trio’s bid fended off a strong proposal from Morocco. The competition matches will be played across 16 different cities – 11 from America, two in Canada and three in Mexico.
|Fifa World Cup|
|Host nation: Qatar Dates: 20 November-18 December Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Day-by-day TV listings – Full coverage details|
England manager Gareth Southgate and his players nursed a familiar sense of missed opportunity as that elusive major tournament triumph escaped them once more.
Watching the post-match scene at the Al Bayt Stadium brought flashbacks – to the World Cup semi-final defeat against Croatia in Moscow in 2018, to the European Championship final loss to Italy at Wembley 16 months ago.
Amid the pain of their latest defeat, Southgate offered consolation to devastated England players who inspired hope, only to see potential glory wrenched from their grasp.
A 2-1 World Cup quarter-final loss to holders France, here in Qatar, was a brutal outcome. England’s display deserved at least to drag the game into extra time.
Perhaps this is why it felt different, even more painful, for England this time. A genuine opportunity to win this World Cup had opened up for Southgate’s team, an emerging blend of youth and experience.
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The prize for the winners here was a semi-final against Morocco. And for all the World Cup surprise packages have to offer, their brilliant defending and potent counter-attacking style, England would have gone into that match as hot favourites to make next weekend’s final in Lusail.
This is why Southgate clasped Harry Kane’s face in his hands and offered words of consolation; the captain’s uncharacteristically wild late penalty had been England’s best chance to force extra time.
Kane’s tearful expression revealed what a cruel game this can be; his was the face of a man shouldering the responsibility after giving England so much. Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford made his way down the length of the pitch to offer more comfort to the desolate captain.
The old question will be asked as to why England cannot force their way past elite opposition at major tournaments. But on this occasion, at least, there can be no complaints about the approach.
Southgate spoke of “fine margins” – and they proved decisive. One team took their chances and the other could not. England had no cause for reproach about their efforts.
In the past, England have been justifiably criticised for timid World Cup and Euro exits, and Southgate has not been immune from that – but this was not the case here.
Southgate, who gazed to the skies in disappoinment at the final whistle, refused to alter his line-up or formation, or opt for conservatism in an attempt to combat Kylian Mbappe. France’s superstar always carried the hint of menace but England managed to keep him relatively subdued.
England had the majority of the chances but fell foul to France’s more clinical finishing, accompanied by some justified frustration with Brazilian referee Wilton Sampaio.
The official appeared to miss two fouls on Bukayo Saka by Dayot Upamecano in the build-up to Aurelien Tchouameni’s 17th-minute strike, the start of an erratic display, but England were deservedly level shortly after the break when Kane rammed a spot-kick past Tottenham team-mate Hugo Lloris after a foul on Saka.
England had the force with them and Harry Maguire’s header glanced the outside of the post. So near.
While they could not beat Lloris, danger lurked. And so it proved when 36-year-old Olivier Giroud, having just been denied superbly by Pickford, stole in ahead of Harry Maguire to head in Antoine Griezmann’s cross with only 12 minutes left.
And then came Kane’s penalty miss.
England have suffered penalty pain before in World Cups and Euros. Here it was again, only in a different form – inside the regulation 90 minutes instead of in a shootout.
Was it the fact it was a second penalty against a keeper who knows him so well? Was it simply the pressure of the situation, even for such a consummate penalty expert? Whatever the reason, Kane’s penalty was awful, skied into disbelieving England fans behind the goal.
It was all over. England were coming home early again.
So how will this campaign be reflected upon?
The irony is that while a quarter-final exit represents a regression from the last-four place achieved in 2018, this squad carries much more promise for the future than the one in Russia.
Saka and Declan Rice were truly outstanding and while Bellingham and Phil Foden were not as influential as in previous games, especially against Senegal, this quartet will be an integral part of England’s long-term future.
The arguments will be pushed forward that England won against those they should have beaten and lost to the first elite team they met but this was a different performance to those that have fallen into that category before. Southgate’s team were not hiding behind the door here. They were the primary attacking force. Their fault was a failure to take chances.
Kane’s penalty was the decisive moment. This was a night when it was not to be for this high-class striker. He was denied twice by Lloris in the first half, once at his feet and then again from a deflected long-range effort. He may be level with Rooney’s record but history must wait for another day.
England were impressive against Iran, Wales and Senegal but drab against the USA. Their 13 goals came from eight different players. It was their highest number at a World Cup.
Sadly, other statistics do not make as comfortable reading.
England have been knocked out of the World Cup quarter-finals seven times, more than any other country. Kane’s penalty record for his country is not perfect – 17 conversions from 21. What he and England would have given for that to read 18.
There are elements of a bright future for England – but will their manager be part of it?
The Football Association would like Southgate to serve every day of the contract that takes him to December 2024 but ultimately the decision rests with him. Will he feel a three-tournament span is enough? Will he want another crack at club management?
He was keeping his counsel as he told BBC Sport: “These tournaments take a lot out of you and I need a bit of time to reflect. We’ve done that after every tournament and I think that’s the right thing to do.”
Once again, England and Southgate will be reflecting on what might have been, as a very good chance to win the World Cup slipped agonisingly through their clutches.