ᑕ❶ᑐ World Cup 2022: Messi, France, Morocco historians – semi-final topics

Host country: Qatar Destination: November 20-December 18 Cover: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Daily TV programsFull coverage details

A loss to France on Saturday means the end of England’s World Cup dream.

But four teams – Argentina, Croatia, France and Morocco – remain in Qatar, each hoping to lift the trophy within a week.

It’s a semi-final few could have predicted, but with plenty of interesting storylines to unfold over the next few days…

Is this Messi’s moment?

The most obvious semi-final plot revolves around Lionel Messi and whether the Argentine superstar will win the World Cup for the first time.

Messi has had a stellar career, winning 10 Spanish league titles, one in France, four Champions Leagues, the 2021 Copa America and a record seven Ballon d’Ors, being awarded the world’s best player every year.

But unlike other big names like Brazilian Pele or Argentine Diego Maradona, the 35-year-old athlete failed to win the sport’s biggest prize.

It has been 36 years since Maradona led Argentina to their last World Cup victory, finishing second to Messi in 2014.

Can Messi repeat that feat and in doing so secure his legacy as perhaps the greatest of them all?

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More to promote Morocco?

Morocco has already made history.

They are the first African team to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup and the first Arab team from a Muslim-majority country.

Despite an experienced squad with a number of top-class players such as Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech and Paris Saint-Germain’s Ashraf Hakimi, the Atlas Lions have struggled to reach this stage.

They topped a group that also included Croatia and Belgium before beating Spain and Portugal in the round of 16 and will now be looking to go further.

Their success has been built around a steely defense and relentless work rate. No opposition player in Qatar has ever scored against Morocco – they have only conceded an own goal once, against Canada.

They were also one of the most passionately supported teams throughout the tournament.

The organizers said that this world championship is not only about Qatar, but about the Middle East region and Muslims as a whole. Could they have more to cheer about on Tuesday?

Can France get back-to-back?

But on the road to Morocco, one of the other strongest teams in Europe is France.

The Blues are trying to do what no one has done since Brazil in 1962 60 years ago – successfully defend the men’s World Cup.

In fact, incumbents have struggled in recent years. Italy, Spain and Germany have all gone out early as champions in the last 12 years, but France has banished the curse.

Victory over England on Saturday meant they became the first champions to reach the semi-finals since Brazil in 1998.

Manager Didier Deschamps focused all his attention on Morocco.

“You go ahead,” he said when asked about the prospects of a second straight final.

Can Croatia do it again?

If France beat Morocco and Croatia can see off Argentina, we could still have a repeat of the 2018 final.

Croatia finished in the last four after another incredible display of resilience.

Four years ago, they beat Denmark and Russia on penalties en route to the finals, and this year they had shootouts against Japan and Brazil.

It’s been 24 years since he won a World Cup play-off game in 90 minutes, beating Germany 3-0 in the quarter-finals in 1998.

Croatia’s efforts this year have been all the more remarkable because their midfielder Luka Modric is now 37 years old.

Despite the extra minutes, he looks as good as ever.

Argentina, who lost 3:0 to Croatia in the group stage of the WC-2018, will not consider them bad at all.

How to watch the semi-finals

Wednesday’s France v Morocco match, which kicks off at 19:00 GMT, will be shown live on BBC One and iPlayer in the UK.

Argentina v Croatia is on Tuesday at 19:00 GMT on ITV.

Commentary on both games will also be available on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Sounds, with live text commentary on the website and on the BBC Sport programme, with clips, analysis and social media reaction.

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