We are one step closer to finding out who will lift the 22nd edition of the World Cup as 32 teams have now been reduced to four, including two former winners. Here’s our final power rankings of the tournament ahead of the last four matches:
4. Morocco: Much has already been achieved. Morocco are the first African team to make the semi-finals of a World Cup, just the second country outside of Europe and South America to reach the final four and they are incredibly difficult to break down but the Atlas Lions face their toughest test yet against defending champions France. A lack of experience at this level may come back to haunt Morocco but scoring past the Moroccans has seemingly been impossible in this tournament and the fact that the only goal the North Africans have conceded came from one of their own players, shows just how hard France will have it on Wednesday.
3. Croatia: Finalists four years ago, Croatia are at this stage for the third time in six World Cups since breaking away from Yugoslavia. With still several players in the squad that were part of their incredible run in 2018, the old guard has one last shot at claiming the ultimate prize. The semi-final meeting with Argentina is a repeat clash from the last World Cup, where the Croats ran out 3-0 winners. These are very different times, however. Zlatko Dalic’s men haven’t taken the lead in any of their five games in Qatar but are an incredibly difficult team to break down, evidenced by the fact they have only conceded three goals, a record only bettered by Morocco. However, if they go behind this time, it is very possible they won’t be able to recover.
2. Argentina: It’s funny what a defeat can do for you. Following a shock 2-1 reverse to Saudi Arabia in their opening game, La Albiceleste have roared back to life, winning three of their next four in normal time. They nearly threw away qualification against the Dutch on Friday, yet the CONMEBOL representatives are still kicking. Croatia are up next for the two-time champions, who have scored exactly two goals in each of their last four games. Finding the next two just might do the trick here, as their European counterparts have scored multiple goals in a game just once in the tournament. Looking for their first world title in 36 years, for Argentina, runners-up to Germany eight years ago in Brazil, getting past Croatia would put them into their fifth World Cup final. Only (West) Germany (8), Brazil (7), and Italy (6) have more.
1. France: Winners in 2018, Les Bleus have had little problem in reaching this stage again, their fourth semi-final in the last seven editions. With Morocco to come, the holders have already lost to North African opposition, albeit with a second string, and they still topped Group D. Morocco, like Australia and Poland before, will soak up pressure and be hard to break down but France have already handled this type of opponent at the tournament. The only issue is their inability to keep clean sheets in Qatar, conceding once in every single match to this point. It’s quite possible that, should they keep a clean sheet against the North African side, they’ll make Sunday’s final.
David Parkes | GWFN