SPORTS A weekly review of World Cup Qatar 2022 (12/05-12/12)

SPORTS

A weekly review of World Cup Qatar 2022 (12/05-12/12)

By Lu Dong | People's Daily app

18:59, December 12, 2022

The quarterfinals are over and four teams remain as the third quarter of the 29-day FIFA 2022 World Cup draws to an end.

For anyone who did not follow the tournament game by game, here are some takeaways in the past week of the tournament that will conclude on December 18:

Croatia survived in dying moments at cost of Brazil

For Croatia, Friday's match against Brazil was a source of justified national pride.

A finalist at the World Cup four years ago in Russia, Croatia stunned tournament favorite Brazil in Qatar to reach the semifinals for the second straight time.

Zlatko Dalic's men won 4-2 on penalties after a nail-biting last-eight tie finished 1-1 at the end of extra time.

Croatian players celebrate after defeating Brazil in the World Cup quarterfinal round in Al Rayyan, Qatar, December 9, 2022. (Photo: CFP)

Brazil had looked set for victory when veteran Neymar opened the scoring with a wonderful strike midway through extra time that gave the South American powerhouse the lead. But Bruno Petkovic cancelled out Neymar's solo opener in the dying minutes.

Croatia converted all four of their penalties, while Rodrygo and Marquinhos missed their spot kicks, denying the need for the fifth penalty that was reserved for Neymar to deliver brilliance.

Dominik Livakovic was vital to his team's progress to the semifinals. He produced a series of key blocks to keep the Brazilians at bay as the teams drew 0-0 in regulation and 1-1 in extra time.

Croatia captain Luka Modric's quest for the trophy continues. But for Neymar, the World Cup dream has slipped away again.

Brazil's Neymar (L) scores the first goal in his team's World Cup quarterfinal match against Croatia in Al Rayyan, Qatar, December 9, 2022. (Photo: CFP)

Neymar tied legendary Pelé's international scoring record of 77 goals for the national team in Friday's match, but still he failed to lead Brazil to go further, and has not helped the team take home a major title.

The football's most expensive player was reduced to tears on the field at Education City Stadium, in sharp contrast against wild celebrations from the red-and-white clad Croatians.

Brazil's Neymar cries at the end of the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Croatia and Brazil, at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar on December 9, 2022. (Photo: AP)

Four years ago in Russia Neymar and Brazil suffered elimination at the same stage at the hands of Belgium.

Regarded as the most successful team in the history of World Cup, Brazil last won the World Cup twenty years ago in South Korea and Japan. But Friday's painful loss means the South American giant will have to wait at least another four years before winning a record-extending sixth title.

Argentina into semis after surviving Dutch fightback

Lionel Messi's World Cup dream was kept alive as Argentina beat the Netherlands 4-3 on penalties following a thrilling 2-2 extra-time draw on Saturday.

Argentina players celebrate at the end of the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina, at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar on December 10, 2022. (Photo: AP)

Nahuel Molina gave Argentina a first-half lead from Lionel Messi's brilliant pass before Messi added a second from the penalty spot in the 73rd minute. But Argentina let that two-goal lead slip in the final minutes of normal time, with Dutch substitute Wout Weghorst scoring twice to force extra-time.

Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was Argentina's hero in the shootout, saving two spot-kicks as they won 4-3 on penalties.

An emotional Emiliano Martinez (L) is embraced by Lionel Messi after their team, Argentina, beat the Netherlands on penalties in the World Cup quarterfinal round in Lusail City, Qatar, December 9, 2022. (Photo: CFP)

For the Netherlands, Saturday night was incredibly painful as Dutch men repeated the fate they suffered eight years ago in the semifinals at Brazil 2014, where they failed to grasp penalties to score and eventually came short of topping Argentina.

Morocco downed Portugal to make African World Cup history

This was a shining moment for Africa, as Morocco emerged as a surprise winner.

For the first time ever in the 92-year history of football's biggest tournament, a team from the African continent will be featured in the semifinals.

Youssef En-Nesyri (C) of Morocco celebrates after scoring a goal in the FIFA World Cup quarterfinals against Portugal at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, December 10, 2022. (Photo: CFP)

Morocco saw off superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugal team 1-0 Saturday in another shocking result in Qatar. The Atlas Lions took a 42nd-minute lead through En-Nesyri's header and managed to keep the marginal lead till the end thanks to a resolute second-half performance.

It was another famous day for the North African side, after previous upset wins over Belgium and Spain, on penalties, in this year's tournament.

As much as it was a historic win for Morocco, it was a heart-breaking loss for Ronaldo. As soon as the final whistle blew, he left, heading down the tunnel in tears.

Portugal's forward #07 Cristiano Ronaldo reacts during the Qatar 2022 World Cup quarter-final football match between Morocco and Portugal at the Al-Thumama Stadium in Doha on December 10, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

At 37, the Portuguese forward may never have another chance to win the game's biggest trophy, and his World Cup exit was especially bitter as he started the game as a substitute.

France edged England in bid to retain glory

French men are staying well on track to lift the trophy as they did four years ago in Russia, as the defending champion edged past England 2-1 on Saturday at the Al Bayt Stadium.

France's forward #09 Olivier Giroud celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Qatar 2022 World Cup quarter-final football match between England and France at the Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar on December 10, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

Aurelien Tchouameni drilled France ahead in the first half but Kane leveled from the spot after the break. Giroud's deflected header at 78 minutes sent France through, as Kane missed a late chance to equalize with a crucial second penalty of the match.

England's Jude Bellingham (2nd R) consoles Harry Kane after the latter missed a penalty during the World Cup quarterfinal match against France in Al Khor, Qatar, December 10, 2022. (Photo: CFP)

Les Bleus is now just two games away from becoming the first side since Brazil 60 years ago to successfully defend the World Cup, while for the Three Lions, Saturday's elimination was another agonizing chapter in the team's decades-long psychodrama revolving around major tournaments and penalty heartaches.

What to watch in the coming week

With only four matches to be played, the coming week of Qatar 2022 will be all about seeing how this year's winner is produced. Argentina, Croatia, Morocco and France are the only teams left at this years’ tournament and are just two games from the ultimate glory.

Picture: Courtesy of FIFA

Lionel Messi and Argentina's World Cup dream remains alive but an indefatigable Croatia side inspired by the enduring brilliance of Luka Modric stands in Argentina's way in a semi-final showdown. The two teams will lock horns against each other unleashing Messi and Modric magic at the Lusail Stadium on Tuesday.

Morocco will play a semifinal clash against the reigning champion France for a place in the final on Wednesday. France wants to move one step closer to becoming the first team to retain the trophy in 60 years, yet there is no reason to stop believing Morocco as the African side has proved that anything is possible in football over the past weeks.

The two winning sides will meet at the final that is scheduled for December 18 at Lusail Stadium.

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