The 2022 World Cup semi-final matches will see two “David and Goliath” stories. Morocco has made a miraculous run that already immortalizes them as the first African team to make it this far in the knockout rounds, and Croatia overcame all odds to defeat Brazil, the tournament favorite. It is safe to say that the 2022 World Cup has been a wild ride, and there is no doubt in my mind that it will continue to be that way through the very end. Strap in, folks, each stage in the tournament only ups the ante, and if the previous rounds have set the baseline, the intensity of the semi-finals will cook up something fierce indeed.
In one corner, we have Croatia, a team that somehow took down the tournament giants despite having one shot on target to Brazil’s 11. In the other corner, we have Argentina, a team that dropped a 2-0 lead in the last minute of play, but came through in penalty kicks to defeat the formidable Netherlands side. Argentina was favored to be here, and Croatia was not, but that means absolutely nothing to the soccer gods, who have had a grand time with upsets this year.
The current win probability is set at a 50% chance that Argentina goes through and a 28% chance at a draw leading to extra time – which Argentina will want to avoid since Croatia seems to have some magic from 12 yards out. Argentina will most definitely want to take care of business in regular time, but eight of Croatia’s last nine knockout matches have gone to extra time – even with the attacking genius of Lionel Messi and company, it might be a taller task than assumed.
Croatia has a strong defense; they could choose to batten down the hatches and ultimately force penalty kicks, and with their goalkeeper, Dominik Livaković, in such good form, things would look decent for them. Livaković is the third keeper to save four penalties in shootouts at a single World Cup. However, Argentina’s goalkeeper, Emiliano Martínez, is certainly no slouch, having saved two PKs in the last match against the Dutch. If the game comes to penalties, the Croatian PK magic may not be enough.
La Albiceleste has made it through to the final every time they have played in the semis, but only a fool would underestimate Croatia. Strong defense aside, Croatia is not a team that goes quietly into that good night, and with center midfielder Luka Modrić, they might have a shot at slowing down Argentina’s number 10 – key word, “might.”
In order to make it through to the next round, Croatia would have to take down the second of two South American giants, the first team since 2014 Germany to do so – personally, I don’t think that is going to happen. I think Croatia has run out of miracles, and Argentina already got their shocking upset out of the way with Saudi Arabia. With the upset behind them and such a close game against the Netherlands, the Argentinians are taking nothing for granted. On top of that, Messi is in his villain arc right now, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. He has been vying to win this trophy for his country his entire career and with his last shot at it, there is nothing that will shake his focus and determination. We’ve all seen what that man is capable of, there is no need to elaborate.
I think it will be a closer game than comfortable for the Argentina fans, possibly even a game taken to extra time, but they will pull through in the end with a final score of 2-1.