England Out, Morocco Through, And Messi’s Dream Still Alive: World Cup Quarter Final Roundup

Vinay Patel

Four teams are left, and England isn’t one of them. Only Argentina, Croatia, Morocco, and France remain. There’s been some incredible storylines so far in this World Cup… is there still time for a couple more to be written? First, though, Vinay Patel writes about the quarter-finals so you can relive the games!  

Brazil vs. Croatia 

After a 4-1 drubbing of South Korea in the Round of 16, which epitomised their iconic “joga bonito”, tournament favourites Brazil looked poised to book their place in the semi-finals. Stood in their way were the 2018 finalists Croatia, who had used their experience to overcome a spirited Japan on penalties.  

With the odds stacked against them, Croatia managed to contain Brazil in the first third of the match, but La Seleção soon grew into the game. Both Vinicius Jr. and Neymar went close but Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic produced yet another sublime performance to take the game to extra time.  

Whilst this was familiar territory for this Croatian side, Brazil were eager to put the game to bed as they continued to probe their opposition’s box. A piece of brilliance from a previously subdued Neymar saw him fire Brazil into the lead before the interval in extra time.  

Brazil were four minutes away from their first World Cup semi-final in 8 years, when a Croatian counterattack saw Bruno Petkovic’s deflected strike sail past a helpless Alisson.  

Penalties awaited.  

Marquinhos needed to score, or his country were eliminated and in the cruellest fashion

As Real Madrid youngster Rodrygo saw his penalty saved, Brazil found themselves 2-1 down, before composed penalties from Casemeiro and Luca Modric set up a tense finish. Marquinhos needed to score, or his country would be eliminated. And in the cruellest fashion… his penalty struck the post and gave way to Croatian ecstasy.  

Dominik Livakovic emerged as Croatia’s hero once again as Modric will lead his country to their second consecutive World Cup semi-final. Heartbreak for Neymar and Brazil, sheer joy for Croatia. 

Argentina vs. Netherlands 

Following dominant performances from both sides against Australia and the USA respectively, Argentina were to play the Netherlands in the tournament for the first time since their semi-final in 2014. With many doubts surrounding Argentina’s status as contenders, Lionel Scaloni’s men were keen to silence their critics.  

What the team lacked in World Cup winning quality, they made up for with Lionel Messi. His bright start to the game saw him brilliantly assist Nahuel Molina to give Argentina an early lead.  

The Netherlands offered little to no goal threat in the first half but this began to change after half-time. A sloppy challenge from Denzel Dumfries gave the Argentines a penalty and a subsequent 2-0 lead, thanks to Messi.  

A carefully executed Dutch free kick resulted in Weghorst bundling in their equaliser

As Louis van Gaal’s side had it all to do, he began to pile men forward, including former Burnley striker Wout Weghorst, who headed in their reply. The whopping ten minutes of stoppage time saw the Argentines recoil, as a carefully executed Dutch free kick resulted in Weghorst bundling in their equaliser, with the 100th minute spelling extra time.  

As both sides prepared for penalties in the dugout, a goalless extra time meant their fates rested on the shootout. The goalkeeping heroics of Emi Martinez suddenly saw Argentina 2-0 up in the shootout.  

With Enzo Fernandez failing to seize their victory, Lautaro Martinez carried the pressure well on his shoulders, firing his country to a semi-final against Croatia. In what was arguably the game of the tournament so far, Messi’s ‘last dance’ continues, and he has no plans for it to end before the final chorus.   

France vs. England  

England’s latest attempt to end 56 years’ worth of hurt involved a clash against the current title holders, France. The main question on the minds of most was whether right back Kyle Walker would be able to stop the irresistible Kylian Mbappe, the leading tournament goal scorer.  

As both sides named unchanged teams, France started the game positively, pushing England back into their own half before Aurelien Tchouameni’s long range strike gave Les Bleus the lead. The goal was not without controversy however, as England players appealed the foul on Bukayo Saka in the lead up to the goal, but the decision stood, nonetheless.

The brilliant Saka won a penalty, converted emphatically by Harry Kane

They went into half time feeling hard done by, especially after Dayot Upamecano’s sloppy challenge on Saka on the edge of the box was dismissed by the referee. However, the Three Lions started the second half on the front foot, causing problems in both flanks. Their efforts were rewarded as the brilliant Saka won a penalty, converted emphatically by Harry Kane, levelling his England record with Wayne Rooney.  

As England continued to look for an opening, a bit of magic from the boots of Antoine Griezmann saw him deliver a precise cross into the box which was nodded in by Olivier Giroud. England had to pick themselves up quickly and were soon awarded another penalty after an unnecessary barge from Theo Hernandez on Mason Mount.

England fans will be wondering how they have managed to lose a game that they dominated

As captain Kane stepped up to the spot, he uncharacteristically blazed his effort over the bar, much to the celebrations of Mbappe and co. In a final roll of the dice, Gareth Southgate introduced Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish, but it was all too late as heads began to drop and Rashford fired England’s final chance onto the roof of the net.  

England fans will be wondering how they have managed to lose a game that they dominated for large periods, as will Southgate, who remained tight-lipped about his future following the game. As for France, they surely enter the semi-finals as favourites to win the World Cup, as the tournament draws to a close.  

Portugal vs. Morocco 

Like Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo sought the one major trophy that has evaded him throughout his career. But while the Argentines leaned heavily on their captain, Portugal seemed to be doing just fine without theirs, thumping Switzerland 6-1, as Ronaldo made a mere cameo off the bench. 

However, their opponents Morocco boasted the best defensive record in the tournament, conceding just one goal and were coming off the back of an astounding penalty shootout victory over Spain. The opening phase was end to end action, but Morocco soon began to sit deep and frustrate the Portuguese. Their narrow defensive shape proved difficult to penetrate, as the Moroccans waited for their opportunity.  

Their patience paid off as a brilliant cross from Yahia Attiat-Allah was converted by Youssef En-Nesyri’s leaping header. Portugal did their best to muster a response, with João Felix and Bruno Fernandes coming close but they went into the break trailing Morocco.  

Morocco dug deep to claim a historic victory, becoming the first African country to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup

Fernando Santos soon turned to his captain as Ronaldo hoped to rescue his country yet again but to no avail. Felix arguably came closest to scoring as he forced a brilliant save from Yassine Bounou. The game saw late drama as the Morocco substitute Walid Cheddira was sent off after receiving two yellow cards within just minutes of each other. With the hopes of a continent on their backs, Morocco dug deep to claim a historic victory, becoming the first African country to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup. Both players and fans were delirious as their raucous celebrations starkly contrasted a tearful Ronaldo, exiting the pitch at the full time whistle.  

In a result that felt like the culmination of decades worth of anguish for Africans, they could finally rejoice as this Moroccan side have written their names into the history books, with France awaiting them in the semi-finals.  

Vinay Patel

Featured image courtesy of Thomas Serer via Unsplash. Image use license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In article image 1 courtesy of @fifaworldcup via Instagram. No changes were made to this image.

In article image 2 courtesy of @fifaworldcup via Instagram. No changes were made to this image.

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