2022 World Cup – Sunday 11 December 2022
Morocco 1 (1) – (0) 0 Portugal (Al Thumama Stadium, Doha)
Morocco scorer: En-Nesyri (42′)
History was made in another Quarter Final of high drama. Morocco became the first African side to reach a World Cup Semi Final. As in their previous fixtures they have been tenacious in defence and quick on the counterattack. This is no fluke, they topped their group, beating Canada, Belgium and drawing with Croatia, seeing off Spain on penalties and now ending Ronaldo’s last shot at World Cup glory. It will have been even more galling for him given Argentina’s and Messi’s progress to another Semi Final.
The winning goal came just before the break with Youssef En-Nesyr heading home a cross that Portugal’s ‘keeper Diogo Costa was never likely to get to. Talking of goalkeepers, Morocco’s No:1 Yassine Bounou yet again made some vital saves to keep Portugal at bay, including a late effort from Ronaldo who come on as a substitute. The noise at the whistle was unbelievable even for those of us watching from home.
Pele once famously said that an African side would win the World Cup before 2000. That didn’t come to pass, but could Morocco be about to deliver a first African World Cup win? Morocco march on to meet France. This will no doubt be an interesting clash, given that Morocco was a French Protectorate from 1912, until gaining independence from France in 1956.
England 1 (0) – (1) 2 France (Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor)
England scorer: Kane (54′ pen). France scorers: Tchouameni (17′), Giroud (78′)
It’s always difficult to be objective about your club or country when they lose. Much was said last night about the refereeing and certain incidents, and it will rumble on for a few days yet.
Today in the cold light of day, I still believe the referee had a poor game and at this level and stage of the biggest competition that is plainly unacceptable. However, despite all that, had Harry Kane converted his second penalty, England would still have had a chance to go on and win. I hope there isn’t a backlash against the Three Lions skipper who has served his country well down the years.
Going into this tournament I had called for Gareth Southgate to be replaced despite his record and how he turned around the fortunes of the England team. His tenure can only be seen as a success, but one that has been unable to take any of the big prizes. It will be interesting to see whether he stays on.
Congrats to France. Good sides win even when not performing at their best and it maybe we have a repeat of the 2018 Final yet against Croatia.
And so we are down to the final four teams with the line-up as follows:
Tuesday 13 December – Argentina v Croatia (Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail)
Wednesday 14 December – France v Morocco (Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor)