Chaos at FIFA World Cup 2022 : semi-final matchups set


Argentinian players celebrate penalty shootout victory over the Netherlands. Photo from “The Telegraph”

Amir Mehrtash, Contributer

The FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar has been nothing short of incredible since its kickoff on Nov. 20. Upsets, blowouts and intense finishes have been the theme of the tournament as it moves on to the semi-final round. Following an unbelievable quarter-final round, the final four teams that will compete for the trophy are Argentina, Croatia, Morocco and the defending champions, France. 

In the first semi-final match, Argentina—led by superstar forward Lionel Messi—will go head-to-head with Croatia, who became the smallest country to reach a World Cup Final when France defeated them  in 2018. Both Argentina and Croatia advanced to the semi-finals through dramatic penalty kick shootouts after their games were tied following regulation and extra time. 

Argentina was tied 2-2 with  Netherlands after Netherlands scored twice in the last 15 minutes until the match went to extra time— ultimately ending with Argentina squeaking out the victory after a penalty kick shootout by a score of 4-3. 

Tensions were incredibly high during this matchup as referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz handed out 18 (!!!) yellow cards, doubling the previous record of nine. Although Argentina won the match, they will be without starters Marcos Acuña and Gonzalo Montiel against Croatia as a result of FIFA rules regarding multiple yellow cards in the knockout stages. Longtime footballers Lionel Messi and Angel di Maria will look to fill the holes in the lineup with a tough matchup ahead.

Croatia advanced to the semi-finals by upsetting the favored Brazil in penalty kicks by a score of 4-2. Croatia’s goalkeeper Dominik Livaković has been the star of the tournament for the team, with only three goals conceded through six games. Along with this impressive statline, Livaković also had 10 saves in one game alone against Brazil– with perhaps the most significant save coming in the penalty kick shootout. He will have his hands full with forward Lionel Messi, challenging him for the full 90 minutes of play. 

Flipping the script to the other matchup, Morocco solidified themselves as a powerful contender—although almost no one predicted them to make it out of the group stage, let alone all the way to the semi-final. A victory will be no easy task as the team faces a star-studded French lineup headed by the undisputed top player of recent years, Kylian Mbappe. Morocco’s path to the semi-final round has simply been special, as it has come out on top against some of the world’s best, including Spain, Belgium and Portugal, whom they beat in the quarter-finals to advance to the next round. A massive test is up ahead for the Moroccan national team, but with the way the tournament has gone so far, there is no telling what could happen by the time the final whistle is blown.

France, the defending champion of the FIFA World Cup, has coasted through the group and knockout stages to give themselves yet another shot at a world title. Forward Kylian Mbappe, the 23 year-old Parisian superstar, has already racked up five goals in this year’s World Cup—the most out of any player. In France’s Dec. 10 quarter-final matchup against England, Mbappe was neutralized by the stingy English defense, forcing other players needing to step up. Midfielder Aurélien Tchouaméni did exactly that, giving France a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute. England was able to equalize via penalty just after halftime, and this tie lasted roughly 25 minutes until French striker Olivier Giroud broke the deadlock with a header to give France the winning goal. France will open up as heavy favorites over Morocco, but Morocco has shown time and time again that they can go toe-to-toe with anyone.

After a spectacular weekend of quarter-final chaos, there is no doubt that the final and semi-final round of the FIFA World Cup 2022 will be yet another display of magnificent football that will keep the millions watching around the world on the edge of their seats.