World Cup semi-finals preview: analysis and predictions for Argentina v Croatia and France v Morocco

And then there were four… The Offside Rule Podcast co-founders Lynsey Hooper and Kait Borsay are back with their thoughts on this week’s big showdowns and who will make the glittering final on Sunday at Lusail Stadium.

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Argentina v Croatia

Otherwise known as the Messi v Modric semi-final as two football legends go head to head tomorrow night. Both superstars are being driven by powerful forces: Luka Modric, his grandfather and Croatia’s historic battle for independence; while for Messi, it’s none other than Diego Maradona. This is deeply personal for the ageing captains — we just hope their emotions don’t get the better of them.

It might look like Lionel Messi’s name is on the cup, but Croatia are a force to be reckoned with and beat Argentina 3-0 in their last meeting at the group stage in 2018. Real Madrid star Modric is still pulling the strings in midfield at 37 years old and aiming to reach a second straight final, although we don’t think he’ll score the opener here. While Celtic right-back Josip Juranovic had the game of his life in the quarter-final against Brazil, helping a robust backline, that also includes impressive centre-back pairing Dejan Lovren and Josko Gvardiol, to reduce the Samba stars to a solitary Neymar goal in extra time.

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But if Croatia’s game plan is stop Messi, stop Argentina, it’s a risky strategy against a team that also contains the experience of Angel Di Maria, rising stars Enzo Fernandez and Julian Alvarez, and hero keeper Emiliano Martinez, who pulled off stunning saves to secure their shootout victory over the Netherlands in the quarter-finals. The Aston Villa goalie has a fantastic record at penalties so they are well equipped if this one goes the distance as we’re predicting.

They are right to be worried about Golden Boot contender Messi, of course, who has scored four goals this tournament, and showed his omnipresent threat with his spellbinding assist for Nahuel Molina’s opener in their ill-tempered clash with the Dutch. We predict the 35-year-old little genius will do it again and help the two-time champions reach Sunday’s showpiece after extra time.

Argentina v Croatia predictions:

Correct score in 90mins
Lynsey Hooper:
1-1. Kait Borsay: 1-1.

How many shots in total will Croatia have? (includes extra time)
LH:
5. KB: 9.

Will Lionel Messi register an assist in this game? (includes extra time)
LH:
Yes. KB: Yes.

Will Croatia score first? (includes extra time)
LH:
No. KB: No.

Do you think Messi will register an assist in this semi-final including in extra time? Or do you reckon Croatia will score first for a change? What do you think the overall score will be in 90mins? Make your own predictions to win a cash prize in the Opta Challenge ahead of Argentina v Croatia…

France v Morocco

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The holders made it through to the last four after inflicting more penalty heartache on England and now take on this tournament’s surprise package. France have never lost to Morocco but, then, they’ve only faced off previously in friendlies and not a high-pressure World Cup semi-final. Still, we reckon Les Bleus will ease their way to the final by scoring three goals.

You can expect another Golden Boot contender, former Arsenal and Chelsea star Olivier Giroud, 36, to get on the scoresheet on Wednesday night as the penalty-box predator continues his rich goalscoring form in Qatar. Morocco will need to shackle him well to avoid a rout. We predict Antoine Griezmann will have an impact on this game with another timely assist after setting up both goals in their 2-1 quarter-final win over the Three Lions. There’s also tournament top scorer, PSG star Kylian Mbappe — who’s leading the way with five goals — for Morocco to contend with in attack.

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Although not many people expected Morocco to make it this far, they carry a credible danger to France with ‘The Wizard’ Hakim Ziyech and Portugal slayer Youssef En-Nesyri in the team, and are not to be taken lightly. They also have a solid back four that’s only conceded one goal in standard time so far this tournament, but we reckon that impressive defensive record will end in the semis because France are just too strong an attacking force.

A key to Morocco’s success has been the support the players have had from their devoted mums. Achraf Hakimi shared touching celebrations with his mother after knocking Spain out at the last-16 stage and Sofiane Boufal danced joyfully with his mama following the victory over Portugal at the weekend. They also have huge backing from across Africa and the Arab world, which could be another driving force. And, honestly, who wants to disappoint their mother? No pressure, lads.

France v Morocco predictions:

Correct score in 90mins
LH:
3-0. KB: 3-1.

How many shots in total will France have? (includes extra time)
LH:
9. KB: 10.

Will Antoine Griezmann register a goal or an assist in this match? (includes extra time)
LH:
Yes. KB: Yes.

Will Olivier Giroud score in this game? (includes extra time)
LH:
Yes. KB: Yes.

Do you agree that Giroud will score in this semi-final including in extra time? How many shots on target will France have in this game also including extra time? Make your own predictions to win a cash prize in the Opta Challenge ahead of France v Morocco…

Follow The Offside Rule Podcast on Twitter @OffsideRulePod

1 Comment on World Cup semi-finals preview: analysis and predictions for Argentina v Croatia and France v Morocco

  1. cp4ab0lishm3nt // December 12, 2022 at 11:34 pm // Reply

    Argentina 0 Croatia 0
    Croatia win on penalties 5-4

    France 1 Morocco 1

    Final: Croatia vs Morocco

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