World Cup Quarter-Finals Thrill


Moroccan En-Nesyri jumps a record 9.1 ft(218 cm) to score the only goal in the game against Portugal

Vince Kim and Sanjay Palta-Hill

Morocco’s Legendary World Cup Run Continues Into Semi-Finals

An African nation to win the prestigious World Cup? Indeed, Morocco may write this stunning narrative after becoming the first African country to enter the semi-finals in World Cup history.

Their run has simply been shocking: nobody predicted they would even advance out of Group F(Croatia, Belgium, Canada). Against all odds, Morocco finished first in the group undefeated, eliminating Belgium(#2 in FIFA rankings) from the group via a 2-0 win. 

They entered the round of 16 facing a very talented Spain, one of the rising favorites after a crushing 7-0 win against Costa Rica in the group stage. Yet, Morocco prevented any chances from Spain and carried them to the penalty shootout, where they completely obliterated Spain 3-0 to advance to the quarter-finals against strong favorites Portugal. But Morocco did not care. After a quick header from Youssef En-Nesyri just before halftime, Morocco held onto their 1-0 lead to continue their run into the semi-finals.

While Morocco’s journey to the semi-finals is historic in itself, they also became the first nation ever to concede only 1 goal in 5 matches in a World Cup. However, even that one goal was an own-goal, so no nation has scored on Morocco yet. With momentum on their side, Morocco could write the most bizarre World Cup story by bringing home the trophy.

Harry Kane: I'll come back stronger after penalty miss
Harry Kane in utter disbelief after uncharacteristically missing the equalizing penalty

England Suffers Heartbreaking Loss Against France In Quarter-Finals 

Defending champion France is heading to the semifinals after veteran striker Olivier Giroud scored a 78th-minute header to give manager Didier Deschamps’ side a 2-1 victory over England on Saturday. England has been knocked out once again to tally another four years on their 56-year major title drought since the 1966 England World Cup.

The match itself was easily one of the most entertaining matches in the whole tournament, as neither side left the opposition alone for a single moment. France scored the match’s first goal in the 17th minute when midfielder Aurélien Tchouameni’s marvelous long-range strike hit the back corner of England’s net. Star striker Harry Kane then equalized in the 54th minute after England was awarded a penalty, becoming England’s top scorer along with legend Wayne Rooney. 

Almost three minutes after Giroud’s decisive header that brought France’s lead to 2-1, England earned another penalty in the 84th minute. Harry Kane was presented with his second opportunity to equalize, but he uncharacteristically blasted the spot kick over the crossbar to knock his home nation out of the tournament.

While Giroud, Tchouameni, and Antoine Griezmann(2 assists) all shined in the quarter-finals, France’s leading goalscorer and current Golden Boot leader Kylian Mbappé has been the face of almost every other matchup. Only a few days ago in the Round of 16 against Poland, Mbappé rattled in two goals to total five goals in the tournament. In doing so, he surpassed Brazilian legend Pelé’s record for the most goals in the FIFA World Cup by a player under 24, with nine goals across the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

France will face Morocco on Dec. 14 to earn a back-to-back trip to the World Cup Final.

Croatia Stuns Brazil in Quarter-Finals

Croatia has been one of the tournament’s most exciting stories. The Croats made a cinderella run to the World Cup Final in 2018, but nobody expected them to even make it out of the group stage this time around. Still, led by legendary midfielder Luka Modrić, they have managed to defeat Japan in penalties to face Brazil in the quarter-finals. Being the heavy favorite to win the tournament, Brazil scored a goal in extra time to get ahead. Most spectators assumed Brazil would move on, but Croatia scored an incredible last-minute goal to send the game to penalties. The Croats then won the game in penalties, stunning not only the Brazilians but the entire world in the process.

Argentina's Leandro Paredes starts brawl with Netherlands at World Cup
Argentine Leandro Paredes starts a brawl after blasting the ball at the Netherlands bench

Argentina-Netherlands Clash Breaks Into Yellow Card Mayhem

This quarter-final match should be considered the game of the tournament for its thrilling performances, overly card-happy referee, and late-night drama. A record 18 yellow cards were shown in the game, including one to Netherlands substitute Wout Weghorst who will become important later on.

Argentina opened the scoring after Nahuel Molina tapped in a masterful assist by Lionel Messi in the 35th minute. In the 73rd minute, Argentina was awarded a penalty after Denzel Dumfries brought down Marcos Acuña in the box, and Messi delivered his fourth goal of the tournament to extend the lead to 2-0. 

But Netherlands manager Louis Van Gaal had other plans. He subbed in Weghorst, already having been booked before entering the pitch, who scored to cut the deficit to 2-1 just five minutes later. Then, in the 11th minute of second-half stoppage time, Netherlands earned a free kick just outside the box. Instead of shooting, a disguised pass was played to Weghorst, who scored the latest goal in World Cup history to bring the game to extra time.

The Oranje forced the game to penalties but suffered a heartbreaking defeat with saves from goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez and the final penalty from Lautaro Martínez to send Argentina to the semi-finals.

Argentina will face Croatia, who also pulled a stunning upset against leading favorites Brazil in a penalty shootout, on Dec. 13.