The semifinals of the 2022 World Cup start on Tuesday, with Argentina and Lionel Messi looking to make a World Cup final for the first time since 2014. On Wednesday, Morocco will look to continue its miracle run at this World Cup by upsetting France and advancing to the final. Here’s everything you need to know about the semifinals, including expert picks, odds and storylines for every team.
The winners of the semifinals will advance to Sunday’s final, while the losers will play in a third-place game on Saturday.
Argentina vs. Croatia
Going into the World Cup, Lionel Messi and Argentina were in the spotlight as one of the favorites and the ongoing storyline of whether or not Messi could guide his country to a World Cup title. So far, Messi has delivered, but Argentina faces an experienced and irrepressible Croatia side in a semifinal on Tuesday.
Argentina is favored in this match, but Croatia thumped Argentina 3-0 in the group stage in 2018. How much will that match play in the minds of the players?
Kickoff time: Tuesday 2 p.m. ET/7 p.m. GMT
Venue: Lusail Stadium, Lusail
How they got here:
- 1-2 L vs. Saudi Arabia
- 2-0 W vs. Mexico
- 2-0 W vs. Poland
- 2-1 W vs. Australia (Round of 16)
- 2-2 D (4-3 W on penalties) vs. Netherlands (quarterfinal)
- 0-0 D vs. Morocco
- 4-1 W vs. Canada
- 0-0 D vs. Belgium
- 1-1 D (3-1 W on penalties) vs. Japan (Round of 16)
- 1-1 D (4-2 W on penalties) vs. Brazil (quarterfinal)
|Team||To advance||Goal total|
O 2.5 (+145)
U 2.5 (-210)
All odds from BetMGM.
We don’t get a Brazil-Argentina World Cup semifinal, but this is a meeting of the last two World Cup runners-up. They’ve taken different paths to get this far, but both are coming off penalty shootouts in the quarterfinals.
Argentina has rebounded since that shocking loss to Saudi Arabia and survived a late two-goal comeback from the Netherlands. Argentina has had two-goal leads in both knockout matches and then struggled to close out matches.
Messi has led the way with four goals and two assists. He had a world-class assist and converted two penalty kicks, one in the second half and one in the shootout, in the quarterfinal.
Croatia has managed to make it to a semifinal with just one win (shootouts are classified as draws) and while leading for just 46 minutes the entire tournament (all 46 of which came in that win against Canada). Croatia has come from behind in regular time to win in penalty shootouts in both knockout matches eventually.
The other factor to watch is fatigue. While both teams played extra time in the quarterfinals, Croatia has now done that for two matches in a row. Croatia did win two shootouts and an extra-time match en route to the final in 2018.
Argentina has already played in Lusail Stadium three times. The loss to Saudi Arabia was there as well as a group match against Mexico and the quarterfinal against the Netherlands. The final will also be in this stadium.
Argentina full backs Marcos Acuña and Gonzalo Montiel will be out for this match while serving yellow card suspensions. Montiel has made only one start, but Acuña has started every match since starting on the bench in the opener.
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France vs. Morocco
Morocco has already taken out the Iberian Peninsula at this World Cup. Now, the African nation faces an opponent a bit further north in Europe. France continues its quest to win a second straight World Cup.
The French are massive favorites to advance and are also the favorites among the four semifinalists to win the tournament.
Kickoff time: Wednesday 2 p.m. ET/7 p.m. GMT
Venue: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
How they got here:
- 4-1 W vs. Australia
- 2-1 W vs. Denmark
- 0-1 L vs. Tunisia
- 3-1 W vs. Poland (Round of 16)
- 2-1 W vs. England (quarterfinal)
- 0-0 D vs. Croatia
- 2-0 W vs. Belgium
- 2-1 W vs. Canada
- 0-0 D (3-0 W on penalties) vs. Spain (Round of 16)
- 1-0 W vs. Portugal (quarterfinal)
|Team||To advance||Goal total|
O 2.5 (+120)
U 2.5 (-165)
All odds are from BetMGM. Click here for live odds.
It’s hard to get more of a David vs. Goliath matchup in a semifinal than this. France won the last World Cup and has arguably the most talented team on the planet. Morocco is the first African team to make a World Cup semifinal.
That’s not to say Morocco hasn’t played well in this tournament. The Atlas Lions have been particularly stout on the defensive side. Morocco has given up just one goal in five matches (which was an own goal against Canada) and has been dangerous on the counter sometimes.
Morocco’s defensive performances against Spain and Portugal were incredibly impressive, but France’s attack is next level. Kylian Mbappe was quiet against England, but the French attack has plenty more options. Olivier Giroud came up big against England, and there’s also Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann.
On the flip side, France has not been as convincing at the back. Les Bleus don’t have a clean sheet yet and gave England every opportunity to stay in Saturday’s quarterfinal.
These two teams are completely different, but they have been nothing if not consistent this tournament. France has given up one goal in all five of its matches at this World Cup and has scored more than one in the four matches it started with its first-choice lineup. The French rested starters in a 1-0 loss to Tunisia. Morocco has been the same defensively solid team that doesn’t have the ball much but occasionally creates fast sweeping counters.
Morocco left-back Noussair Mazraoui and center-back Nayef Aguerd missed the Portugal match, but Morocco’s defense still held strong. Mazraoui is a big part of the team’s counterattacking ability though, so those injuries will be watched leading up to Wednesday’s match. Forward Walid Cheddira will miss the match after getting a red card (two yellows in second-half stoppage time) in the quarterfinal. Cheddira has only made two appearances off the bench at this World Cup.
The last defending champion to make a semifinal (or final for that matter) was Brazil in 1998. That Brazil team lost to the host French in the final in 1998. France is seeking its fourth appearance in a World Cup final.
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Spare a thought for France – the team everyone will want to see lose in the semi-finals
Hakim Ziyech’s Morocco redemption is the result of hard work as much as skill
Boufal, Bono and Hakimi’s ‘bad’ penalties – stories of Morocco’s unlikely heroes
(Photo of Hakim Ziyech and Azzedine Ounahi: Matthias Hangst / Getty Images)
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