England falls short again, Ronaldo in tears and Morocco makes history: Five takeaways from day 21 2022 World Cup
Both 2022 World Cup semi-finals are now confirmed, following another shock and more excitement in Qatar on Saturday.
Morocco advanced to the last four after beating Portugal and the Atlas Lions were followed by defending champions France, 2-1 winners over England later on Saturday.
Here are the top five takeaways Four Four Two has learned over the course of another incredible day of World Cup action.
England fall short again – the end for Southgate?
England played reasonably well and Harry Kane missed a penalty that would have sent their World Cup quarter-final against France to extra time, but in the end the Three Lions fell short again under Gareth Southgate.
There was optimism after England’s impressive dismantling of Iran in their opening game and a current thought it might be their time, having just missed out on Russia 2018 and again Euro 2020 last year.
Southgate has taken England a long way since the Euro 2016 debacle and Sam Allardyce’s short-lived tenure, uniting the team and producing impressive results in major tournaments. But it wasn’t enough to win a trophy.
The team’s record against major nations has come under scrutiny and this time the defeat – albeit with a tough draw for a quarter-final – is earlier than in previous tournaments. It feels like the end for Southgate as England manager.
France more than just Mbappé
Much of the pre-World Cup quarter-final talk between England and France was about how the Three Lions would stop Les Bleus’ star player, Kylian Mbappé.
With Kyle Walker’s pace and the midfielder’s doubling, England did quite well that night. The only problem was that it allowed other players to shine.
Midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni was given time and space to shoot in his beautiful opening goal from a distance. He was found by Antoine Griezmann, selfless and excellent again here, and the Atletico Madrid man also suggested Olivier Giroud as the winner.
France were shaky at the back but otherwise have quality in abundance and on Saturday night it was proven that stopping Mbappé is no guarantee of success against Les Blues.
Morocco writes history
Morocco is the first African and Arab country to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup. Their 1-0 victory over Euro 2016 winners Portugal is their third win against a major European side, having already beaten 2018 World Cup third-placed Belgium and 2010 World Cup winners Spain.
They had already bettered their own best World Cup finish and had also progressed further than any team led by an African national had done before.
Could they go even further? No one can write them off now.
Cristiano Ronaldo leaves his last World Cup
So there won’t be a World Cup final between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi (although that might not be such a bad thing).
Ronaldo, now 37, left in tears after what will undoubtedly be his last World Cup match. He started the game again as a substitute and only fell behind 1-0 with his country in the second half.
While a theme of his later career was game-changing flashes of brilliance, he never looked like he was going to make a difference here.
His next club, currently out of contract, probably won’t play in a top league (or at least not with a top club in one), and he’ll finish 2022 knowing the World Cup is the one major prize he’ll never win .
Good organization will get you further than a good attack
Portugal went into Saturday’s match having scored six goals; Morocco had scored just four times in their four games so far.
Now Morocco are in fifth – still behind what Portugal only did on Tuesday night – but are in the semi-finals, while Portugal are not.
Indeed, scoring goals is what the North African side struggles with the most. A number of opportunities were missed against both Portugal and Spain, but resolute defensive action made that irrelevant.
In fact, they have only conceded one goal so far – an own goal against Canada when they were already 2-0 up.
It just goes to show you that having good organization in the back is one of the most important things to go far in a knockout tournament.
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