By Dave Sawyer Dec 13, 2022
The 2022 Fifa World Cup being held in the Middle East State of Qatar has certainly been subjected to abject criticism before a ball was even kicked in anger, when the hosts started the tournament back on the 20th November, which saw them fall to a 0- 2 defeat to the South Americans from Ecuador.
But to put to one side the rights and wrongs of Qatar being chosen to host football’s most prestigious event, added to the fact that the tournament is being held in the middle of what is winter in the Northern Hemisphere, it has to be said that the 2022 World Cup is proving to be a delight for the neutrals among us, as well as our friends the bookmakers!
From the off, the opening group games provided shocks aplenty, with the pre tournament favorites Argentina losing inexplicably to the minnows of world football in the form of Saudi Arabia, whereby a Lionel Messi penalty which gave Argentina an early one nil lead, was not enough to secure the three points. But as we now know, this appears to be a hiccup, perhaps on a par with their opening defeat to Cameroon in Italia 90, which saw the then defending World Champions march all the way to the final in Rome.
Other results that have occurred on the road so far to this week’s Semi Finals have also seen the bookmakers count their ever growing pile of cash. I give you exhibit A and the four time winners Germany, who after going out at the Group Stage in 2018 in Russia, proceeded to do the same this year in Qatar. Helped on the way by a first game shock defeat to my team of the tournament in the form of Japan, losing 2 – 1 in the process.
A gallant 1 – 1 draw with Spain in the German’s second game, followed by a win against Costa Rica was not enough to save German blushes, as the Japanese once again had the last laugh, with a contested goal by Japan ensuring their win and the three points against Spain, knocking Germany out on goal difference in the process.
Other group stage ‘shocks’ included other pre-tournament favorites Brazil and France both losing to supposed lesser opposition in Cameroon and Tunisia respectively in their final group stage matches, but these were in effect dead rubber games, with both Brazil and France assured of progressing as Group winners.
So on to the knockout stages, which in themselves provided more shocks and twists and turns!
Last Sixteen Spain! Morocco!
The 2nd round featuring the 16 teams that progressed from the group stages saw some tasty ties, with both sides of the draw seemingly looking like the Quarter Finals were set in stone. Such as Portugal vs Spain being one of the most foreseen future last eight fixtures, but first Spain had to navigate past Morocco.
A nil nil draw saw the match eventually go to a penalty shoot out and featured three of the worst and weakest penalties I have seen for some time, before Saturday just gone that is! Spain were out and the 2010 World Cup winners will now have to wait at least another four years to try and regain their world crown.
Likewise the Japanese side who did so well in the group stage by beating both Germany and Spain, took the 2018 runners up Croatia to a penalty shoot out after extra time. The clinical finishing of Croatia proving too much and ensuring Japan said Sayōnara to Qatar, with their world cup dream and journey over.
Meanwhile Argentina continued to steady the ship and despite conceding an own goal to Australia in the 77th minute of their second round match, Messi and co were comfortably through to the quarter finals. Thus setting up a meeting with the skilled and professional Dutch side who blew away the USA team in their corresponding fixture.
Pre-tournament favorites Brazil having changed their side for their last group game, which saw them lose surprisingly to Cameroon, ensured normal service was resumed, blowing away the challenge of the 2002 joint hosts South Korea 4 – 1.
The Portuguese unlike Spain managed to avoid any potential banana skins, with Ronaldo dumped on the bench, his replacement Ramos scored a hat-trick in the route of Switzerland, final score 6 – 1. Their world cup dream still alive!
Whilst England brushed passed the African Champions Senegal with ease, a 3 – 0 victory which saw captain Harry Kane get off the mark. England’s opponents in the Quarter Finals would be one of France or Poland. A record breaking strike from former Arsenal man Olivier Giroud, setting up the clash and seeing the world cup holders come out victorious against Poland.
It’s Not Coming Home!
So last weekend saw the Quarter Finals and if you haven’t visited the World Cup 2022 thread on the forum, you should do so, as much banter is had causing great hilarity. You can even see how I am John Motson reincarnated! Check out the Casinomeister Forum Fifa World Cup 2022 thread here.
First up on Friday were Croatia vs Brazil and astoundingly Croatia managed to keep Neymar and Brazil at bay for the full 90 minutes, without even having a single shot on goal. Indeed, Neymar had appeared to have gone missing for the full 90.
The first period of extra time though, the Paris St Germain man suddenly turned up to put Brazil in the lead at the end of the first period of extra time. With Brazil looking to be coasting to a semi final encounter possibly against their arch rivals Argentina, Croatia with 3 minutes left of the match, decided that they may as well have a shot on goal. The result, an equaliser. They subsequently won the penalty shoot out and yet another world cup upset occurred, no doubt making every bookmaker smile!
Then it was Argentina vs Holland and the game was all but dead and buried with Messi putting the South American side 2 – 0 up with a little over 15 mins left. But Holland were not done and grabbed a goal back with seven minutes of normal time left.
As per many a game during Qatar 22, the amount of injury time given to matches has been off the scale and the 4th official on the 90 indicated that there would be 11 such extra minutes to be played. Yep, that’s right, Holland only equalized with the last kick of the game, thanks to a sublime free kick taken just outside the area.
The match would then go to peter out and end up with the dreaded penalty shootout. With Argentina winning through 4-3 and showing a lot of disrespect in my opinion to the Dutch players afterwards.
Then onto Saturday’s games with Cristiano Ronaldo finding himself on the bench again for Portugal’s game against Morocco. Yet after Morocco took a one nil lead before half time, he was brought on early in the second half to rescue Portugal. But alas it was not to be. Morocco held out to become the first ever African side to reach the Semi Finals of the World Cup. Facing the winner of the England vs France game.
World Cup holders France were bidding to become the first World Champions to retain the trophy since the Pele inspired Brazil side of 58 and 62, with England standing in their way. A nervous opening 20 minutes from England with several unforced errors saw France take the lead, foul or no foul on Saka.
England then got into their stride and after a lot of pressure managed to get an equaliser nine minutes into the second half, from the penalty spot. Yet arguably against the run of play and a lapse in concentration from England on the 78th minute Giroud struck to put France back in the lead.
This set up a tense final ten minutes, with England pressing France, Hernandez shoved Mount in the box and after a tense moment VAR decided it was a penalty. Surely Harry Kane was going to level the score. Well, he would of, if it was rugby, as he skied the ball straight over the bar.
Yet again, England go out thanks to their ability to not be able to score from the penalty spot.
So this sets up nicely the Semi Finals. Argentina vs Croatia tonight, followed by France vs Morocco tomorrow. I am rooting for a Croatia vs Morocco final and no doubt so are the booksies!