More than a few World Cup brackets possibly had Argentina, Croatia, and France penciled in as semifinalists in 2022. But Morocco? If you had the Atlas Lions among the final 4 teams standing in Qatar, well…never mind, you didn’t.
It’s no disrespect to Morocco, though. It’s just that African teams have never made it this far in the tournament. Only Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002, and Ghana in 2010 have represented the continent in the final 8; all 3 teams lost. Adding to the intrigue, of course, is Morocco’s past geopolitical ties to France.
That’s not to say the other 3 countries don’t present their own storylines.
Days after Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal walked off the field on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline against Morocco in what could be the enigmatic 37-year-old forward’s final shot at the big prize, Lionel Messi, at 35, will hope that the same fate doesn’t befall him and Argentina on Tuesday in his final go. La Albiceleste have won the World Cup twice: in 1978 and 1986. They lost in the final in 1990 and again in 2014, when Messi and his teammates were forced to watch Germany lift the trophy in Brazil after Mario Götze struck with the match’s lone goal with just minutes remaining in extra time.
Croatia, with a icon of its own in Luka Modrić in the twilight of his career at age 37, already know what it feels like to have come close but yet so far: 4 years ago, in fact, it fell to France in the final in Russia. Revenge is clearly on the great midfielder’s mind, as well as that of his countrymen. But to have another shot in the final, they must first deny Messi and the Argentine side their own opportunity while extending what’s been a far-too-long wait for the South American country of nearly 46 million.
France, really, need no introduction: It won the thing 4 years ago. It came into the tournament with a massive target on its back and so far haven’t been caught. Sure, there was the loss to Tunisia on the final day of Group D, but outside of that, Kylian Mbappe and company have hardly put a foot wrong. Les Bleus will hope for very few dramatics against Morocco as they look to become the first country since Brazil in 1958 and 1962 to repeat as champions.
And now, Morocco. Morocco have essentially been playing with house money since qualifying out of Group F. Beat Spain? Check, and in penalties, at that. Beat Portugal? No worries. Just take a 1-0 lead right before the 1st half and ultimately see the match out after playing a decent chunk of stoppage time down a man. Next up? France. No matter what happens on Wednesday, Morocco, who have qualified just 5 times for the tournament and had only made it out of the group stage just once before this year, will receive a heroes’ welcome upon its return home. But it will hope that its trip home is put on hold for at least a few more days.
How To Watch the FIFA 2022 World Cup Semifinals
Argentina vs. Croatia: Tuesday, 2 p.m. ET
France vs. Morocco: Wednesday, 2 p.m. ET
TV: FOX (English), Telemundo (Spanish)
Streaming: FOX Sports app (English), Peacock Premium (Spanish)