World Cup 2022 Semifinal: Form Guide for Argentina vs. Croatia, France vs. Morocco

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World Cup 2022 Semifinal: Form Guide for Argentina vs. Croatia, France vs. Morocco

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    LUSAIL,  - DECEMBER 10: Argentina forward Lionel Messi (10) celebrates after defeating the Netherlands in a shootout to win the quarterfinal FIFA World Cup 2022 match at Lusail Stadium in Lusail on Friday, December 9, 2022. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

    Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

    Argentina, Croatia, France and Morocco carved four unique paths to the 2022 FIFA World Cup semifinals.

    Argentina benefited from some magic out of Lionel Messi and calmness in penalty kicks, especially in the quarterfinal classic against the Netherlands, to continue their search for their first World Cup crown since 1986.

    Croatia followed the same formula as its run to the final in 2018. It has won two more penalty shootouts against Japan and Brazil be back in the final four. It won twice on penalties against Denmark and Russia in 2018.

    France has the most overall offensive firepower left in the tournament. Les Bleus scored five times in the last two matches to see off Poland and then England. Their defense is a bit of a concern having not yet kept a clean sheet.

    Morocco has an impeccable defensive mark. The Atlas Lions have held four clean sheets, all against European sides, to become the first African semifinalist at the World Cup. An own goal against Canada is the only time Morocco has conceded in their last 9 matches

    Argentina and Croatia kick off the semifinal round on Tuesday. France and Morocco parlay Wednesday. The winners will face off in Sunday’s final.

Argentina vs. Croatia

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    AL RAYYAN, QATAR - DECEMBER 09: Ivan Perisic of Croatia during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 quarter final match between Croatia and Brazil at Education City Stadium on December 9, 2022 in Al Rayyan, Qatar. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

    Visionhaus/Getty Images

    Argentina’s World Cup run almost did not happen.

    The Albiceleste lost their opening match in Qatar by a 2-1 margin to Saudi Arabia in an all-time shock.

    Argentina rebounded with consecutive 2-0 wins over Mexico and Poland to top Group C.

    The South American side then handled Australia in the round of 16 and beat the Netherlands on penalties in the quarterfinals.

    The two goals allowed to the Dutch on Friday were the first two rallies scored by opposing players against Argentina since the opening match in Qatar. Australia scored through an own goal in the 2-1 win for Argentina.

    Argentina came into the World Cup on a five-game winning streak in which it outscored opponents 19-0. The biggest win of that lot came against Italy in a matchup of UEFA Euro 2020 and Copa Ameríca 2021 winners in the first edition of the Finalissima.

    Argentina won the Copa America last summer by allowing one goal in three knockout-round games.

    Lionel Messi and Co. are in the World Cup semifinals for the second time in three appearances. They are still searching for the elusive World Cup title for Messi. Argentina was the runner-up to Germany in 2014.

    Croatia knows what it feels like to get to the final step and lose as well. The European side was the runner-up to France in 2018.

    Croatia kept the same consistency from four years ago with its performances in Qatar.

    Croatia played to a pair of scoreless draws in Group F with Morocco and Belgium and it throttled the Canadian defense for four goals.

    Croatia methodically worked its way through the first two knockout rounds.

    It beat Japan and Brazil on penalties while following the same game script.

    Croatia went down a goal to Japan in the first half and then answered through Ivan Perišić in the second half. The defense and goalkeeper Dominik Livaković held on to force penalties.

    Brazil scored a fantastic goal in extra time through Neymar, but once again, the Croatians rallied, this time by way of Bruno Petković.

    Five of Croatia’s last six World Cup knockout-round games have gone to extra time and four of those were won on penalties.

    If Croatia wins, do not be surprised if a similar game structure is followed.

    Argentina will try to power through the Croatian defense with Messi and Co. to prevent penalties even being the slightest possibility.

France vs. Morocco

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    France's forward #09 Olivier Giroud celebrates after his team won the Qatar 2022 World Cup quarter-final football match between England and France at the Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, north of Doha, on December 10, 2022. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

    FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images

    France is aiming to become the first repeat World Cup champion since Brazil defended their crown in 1962.

    France has been to the World Cup final three times since 1998. It has two victories in 1998 and 2018 and a loss in 2006.

    Les Bleus are built to reach the championship match and they looked strong against Poland and England.

    France netted multiple goals in all of its wins in Qatar. It put up four goals on Australia, three against Poland and two over England and Denmark.

    Kylian Mbappé and Co. will be tasked with breaking down a Morocco defense that has not conceded a goal to an opposing player.

    Morocco’s only concession in five games was on an own goal to Canada. It held Croatia, Belgium, Spain and Portugal scoreless.

    The Atlas Lions have the lowest knockout-round scoring total of the four semifinalists. It scored once against Portugal and played to a 0-0 draw in 120 minutes against Spain before winning on penalties.

    Morocco will need an attacking punch against France, and it could score against them, especially on the counterattack. France has not held a clean sheet at the World Cup or in 10 of their last 11 games.

    France’s last World Cup clean sheet came in the 2018 semifinals against Belgium, which should inspire Morocco to pull off another seismic shock.

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