FOOTBALL – The first of the 2022 FIFA World Cup quarter-finals kicked off yesterday at 4.00 pm with Croatia v Brazil at the Education City Stadium in Qatar.
Croatia progressed from the round of 16 after winning against Japan on penalties. Meanwhile, Brazil pulled off a stunning performance to win 4-1 against South Korea.
Brazil had reached the semi-finals on 8 previous occasions. However, Croatia had only reached the quarter-finals twice before. That was in 1998 and 2018.
Real Madrid´s Luka Modric lined up for his 17th World Cup appearance for Croatia.
Croatia v Brazil
Five minutes into the game, and Vinicius Junior tried to curl the ball in from 25 yards back, but the Croatian goalkeeper, Livakovic managed to get to the ball after initially fumbling to catch it.
Then, 5 minutes later, Neymar made a good pass down the left to Vinicius. However, it was intercepted inside the box.
A few minutes further on, and the first real chance came for Croatia. Juranovic raced through the Brazilian defence and sent the ball to Pasalic who passed to Perisic in the 6-yard box. But Perisic´s shot went wide.
Croatia were not allowing the Brazilian side any space. However, at the 20-minute mark, Vinicius once again found some space and aimed directly at goal. But his shot was blocked by Gvardiol.
The game continued to be played at a furious pace when a minute later, Livakovic saved an attempt by Neymar.
Then it was the turn of chances for Croatia. Modric, Perisic, and Kramaric all had good attempts. But nothing turned into a goal.
Although both sides had impressive performances, at half time, it was goalless.
At the start of the second half, there was almost an upset for Croatia. However, Livakovic got to the ball, and saved what could have been an own goal by Gvardiol.
Brazil appeared to have the upper hand at the start of the second half with a couple of chances for Neymar saved. But by half way through the second half, Croatia were back in the game.
Four minutes were added for stoppage time, but the game ended 0-0. Livakovic had made 9 saves denying Brazil their chance to progress, and therefore, the game went to extra time.
Just before the end of the first half of extra time, Neymar´s chance finally came. With this goal, it also meant he drew level with Pele´s all time goal scoring record for Brazil.
With 15 minutes remaining, Croatia had to give it their all, and more! Three minutes to go, and Croatia managed to equalise. Petkovic put the ball in the bottom corner of the net, and sent the game towards penalties.
Vlasic stepped up first for Croatia and scored. Rodrygo missed Brazil´s first attempt.
Majer got the second for Croatia. Casemiro brought one back for Brazil.
Modric hit the spot next. Pedro also scored. It was now 3-2 on penalties.
Orsic got Croatia´s fourth, but Marquinhos missed.
Croatia were going to the semi-finals of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Netherlands v Argentina
The second quarter final took place at 8.00 pm in the Lusail Stadium in Qatar.
It was now the turn of Netherlands v Argentina to decide the next country to go to the semi-finals and face Croatia.
The last times these countries met in a World Cup were in 2006 and 2014. At that time, both matches ended goalless, with the latter, Argentina going on to win by penalties.
The first chance for Argentina came as Messi sent the ball just over the net. This was immediately followed by a chance for the Netherlands as Depay and Bergwijn linked up but Bergwijn´s shot at goal went wide.
Neither side looked to be the better, until the first goal came 35 minutes in. Messi ran through the Netherlands defence before somehow managing to pass the ball to Molina in the box. Molina sent it home. It was 0-1 to Argentina. This was his first goal for Argentina, and what an important goal it was.
Five minutes later, and Messi almost scored. With his back to the goal and in a seemingly hopeless position, he turned and aimed at the goal, but Noppert was there with the save.
Then, just into stoppage time of the first half, a chance came for the Netherlands to equalise. Gakpo aimed a free kick into the box, but Matinez got to it. There was a claim for penalty after the Netherlands side claimed Ake was fouled. But VAR ruled, and no penalty was given. A second chance came for Gakpo in the first half stoppage time when he met the ball from De Jong, and headered it towards goal. Once again, Martinez got to it. The first half ended with Argentina one goal in the lead.
Messi came close to scoring Argentina´s second goal when, in the 63rd minute, he took a free kick and sent it over the Netherland´s wall and beyond Noppert, but it just went over the bar.
Then in the 71st minute, Acuna was brought down in the box. With just under 20 minutes of the game remaining, Argentina were awarded the penalty. Messi stepped up. With Noppert rooted to the spot, Messi aimed and scored. Argentina were leading 0-2.
It looked like the Netherlands chances were failing as time was running out. But 10 minutes later, Weghorst scored for the Netherlands. Suddenly, they were back with a chance as Weghorst´s header reached the far corner of the net.
Tensions were high as the clock ticked to the final minutes. Ake fouled Paredes. In turn, Paredes slammed the ball into the spectator area at the Netherland´s bench. Players from the Netherlands side faced up to Ake in an angry confrontation and had to be separated by the referee in the final minute of normal time.
Ten minutes stoppage time were added. The full stadium were on the edge of their seats. Then in the dying seconds of stoppage time, Weghorst did it for the Netherlands. It was 2-2. The game was going to extra time.
Despite frantic efforts from both sides, extra time did not produce any goals. The game was going to be decided by penalties.
Van Djik took the first shot and missed for the Netherlands. Messi was first for Argentina, and scored.
Berghuis also missed for the Netherlands, and with Paredes scoring, it was 0-2 on penalties for Argentina.
Next up for the Netherlands was Koopmeiners. He scored, as did Montiel of Argentina.
Weghorst scored, but then Argentina´s Fernandez missed. Once again, the Netherlands were back in the game with a chance.
De Jong scored, but Martinez also scored. Chances for the Netherlands had finally run out.
The game ended 2 (3) – 2 (4).
2022 FIFA World Cup Semi-final
Both quarter final matches of the 2022 FIFA World Cup were fought hard. The winners deserved their sport in the semi-finals, but Brazil and the Netherlands could hold their heads high as they played right to the end.
Argentina will now face Croatia in the first of the semi-finals on Tuesday December 13 at 8.00 pm
The next quarter-finals take place today (Saturday) when Morocco take on Portugal at 4.00 pm and England take on France at 8.00 pm.