|Morocco's players carry coach Walid Regragui after beating Portugal in the Qatar 2022 World Cup quarter-final. AFP Photo|
Three usual suspects and one… and an extremely unusual one, have made it through to the semi-finals of the World Cup. And what a wild ride it has been.
Three weeks ago, the tournament began in Qatar and we’ve been treated to a roller coaster ride of ups, downs, highs, lows, thrills and spills. And now we are left with just four nations fighting for the ultimate prize in world football.
It’s really no surprise that France, Croatia and Argentina make up three-quarters of the semi-finalists. France and Croatia of course were the last two standing in 2018.
But what of Morocco? How on earth has that happened? Not only have the north Africans made it to the semis for the first time in their history, but this is the first time ever a team from Africa have reached this far.
A continent is behind them, but surely they cannot repeat their amazing giant-killing antics against world champions France, or can they? Time will tell.
In the other semi this week, Argentina’s Lionel Messi believes their team has a secret weapon, one from beyond the grave.
Messi went as far as to suggest that there could have been some divine intervention involved in their win against The Netherlands – from Argentina icon Diego Maradona.
"Diego is watching us from heaven, he is pushing us," Messi said of Maradona, who led Argentina to its last World Cup title, in 1986.
Maybe he’s right. Maradona was nothing short of a God on the football pitch, so perhaps the late legend is still pulling the strings from heaven above.
But beating Croatia will be no easy feat for the South Americans. The Europeans are quietly going about their business with little fuss. An interesting encounter awaits.
But what of those that haven’t made it this far? England will be disappointed, once again, so near…. but so far.
And not a night will go by for the rest of Harry Kane’s life when he won’t think about his penalty miss before he goes to sleep.
Germany, Belgium and Spain, well they are all going to have to go back to the drawing board after a poor showing in the Middle East.
Brazil, they were my tip for the top, I genuinely thought they would triumph. Shows how little I actually know.
The Netherlands lost out on penalties in an extremely fiery quarter-final against Argentina and Portugal, without Cristiano Ronaldo in the starting eleven, fell to the Moroccans. The tears in Ronaldo’s eyes as he left the pitch were telling. He knows that was his last chance to will the ultimate prize.
So there you have it. 32 becomes four. And by this time next week, we will know the winners of the World Cup 2022.
My guess? Argentina have God on their side, apparently, France are current world champions and are desperate for back-to-back success, and Croatia have unfinished business from 2018.
Any one of those can win it, for sure. But I’m a romantic, so if you ask me to nail my colours to the mast, I’m going to go for Morocco.
Why not? Stranger things have happened. VNS