Croatia 1 (0) – (0) 1 Brazil AET. Croatia won 4-2 on penalties (Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan)
Croatia scorer: Petkovic (117′). Brazil scorer: Neymar (105’+1’)
Well, well, well. Europe 1, South America 0. So Brazil might have been favourites and five-time World Champions but the Croats care little for reputation and just went about their business to dump out Neymar and his samba dancing pals.
After a quiet first-half, Brazil totally dominated the second forty-five and but for numerous saves from Dominik Livakovic they would have cruised through. However, there was no panic from Croatia even when Neymar scored an excellent goal in extra time. He started the move, played two one-two’s, riding a challenge before rounding the ‘keeper to fire home – a special goal indeed. Croatia though just kept going and with three minutes left, broke down the pitch where Petkovic swept home with a slight deflection taking it beyond Alisson.
And so to penalties. Livakovic having starred again Japan in the shoot-out in the last sixteen, once again was the hero, saving Rodrygo’s first spot kick. Croatia were perfect with all of their first four which put the pressure on Marquinhos. However, when he struck the post, it was adeus Brazil with Croatia into a second successive World Cup Semi-Final.
Netherlands 2 (0) – (1) 2 Argentina AET. Argentina won 4-3 on penalties. (Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail)
Netherlands scorers: Weghorst (83’minutes, 90’+11minutes). Argentina scorers: Molina (35’minutes), Messi (73’minutes pen)
Europe 1, South America 1…another drama filled game, dominated by an over officious referee with 17 yellow cards and one 1 red issued, with ugly confrontational scenes between the teams and their benches at the end of extra time and penalties.
When Messi stroked home a penalty with seventeen minutes remaining the game looked done and dusted at 2-0 to Argentina. The Dutch had nothing to lose and went more direct, and even though they got one back with seven minutes reaming through a lovely Weghorst header it seemed as if it was just a consolation. Then deep into time added on, a quite brilliantly worked free-kick move saw Netherlands draw level through Weghorst’ s second goal. Extra time was dominated by Argentina in the second fifteen, but it was penalties once more.
Aston Villa’s ‘keeper Emi Martinez has a great record saving penalties and proved it once again, making saves from the first two Dutch spot-kicks which was enough to see Argentina through 4-3. The celebrations were all the greater knowing that their South American rivals Brazil has exited earlier.
Morocco v Portugal (Al Thumama Stadium, Doha)
The third World Cup meeting between these sides, with the first at the finals in Mexico. It was a group stage game with Morocco winning 3-1. Portugal gained some revenge with a 1-0 win in 2018 with Ronaldo getting the vital goal.
After the drama of the opening two Quarter Finals, who knows what this one will bring. Will Ronaldo be back in the starting line up or do they stick to the side that demolished South Korea? Morocco should not be taken lightly as they have shown resilience and no little skill to make it this far. They will be hoping it’s not a game too far.
England v France (Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor)
For me this tie will take me back to Spain 1982. The glorious sunshine, the weird echoey commentary and crowd noise, a squad number system based on surname (Trevor Brooking wore No:3, Tony Woodcock No: 21) and no makers logo on the Three Lions legendary Admiral kits.
Against the French in the group stages Bryan Robson scored after 27 seconds, only for France to level, but a second goal from Robson and a volley from the late great Paul Mariner sealed a 3-1 win. Oh that today will be as comfortable! Les Bleus are a team of many talents – from Lloris in goal through to Mbappe up front. This is a real tester for England and go into the game as underdogs.
But as this tournament has shown anything can happen.
PS. Did anyone mention England beat France 2-0 with a Roger Hunt brace on the way to winning the 1966 World Cup?