Sports Staff picks: World Cup semifinals and finals

The+Original+FIFA+World+Cup+Trophy+is+on+display+for+one+day+only+during+the+FIFA+World+Cup+Trophy+Tour+in+East+Rutherford+on+Nov.+8.

Photo courtesy of Julian Leshay/TNS

The Original FIFA World Cup Trophy is on display for one day only during the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour in East Rutherford on Nov. 8.

By Sports Staff

It’s finally here. The moment that 61 games thus far have led up to is finally here. Each team’s sacrifices have been all for a moment that is quickly approaching, and just four nations remain.

First up, we have Argentina. Heavy favorites to win, Lionel Messi is looking for his first ever World Cup after five tries. After seeing GOAT competitor Cristiano Ronaldo go out sad, seeing just less than 40 minutes in Portugal’s knockout loss to Morocco, Messi is dominating the narratives for the rest of the way, no matter how big of a part he plays in the success of his country.

Then, Argentina’s competitors, Croatia have a GOAT campaign of their own, as Luka Modric sets his sights on becoming the most decorated and accomplished midfielder of all time. His role in the best midfield trio of the tournament cannot be understated, and Croatia have been solid despite its aging backbone.

Morocco is the biggest shock of all, as the team becomes the first African nation ever to reach the top four at a World Cup. With nations like Ghana in the past being just inches away, it was very unlikely that Morocco of all teams would challenge for this spot. That’s not meant to take away anything from Morocco, however, as they have come through and taken down two international heavyweights in Spain and Portugal along the way.

And lastly, we have the holders. France are just four years removed from one of the most dominant World Cups we have ever seen. Kylian M’bappe has only gotten better since this moment, and Antoine Griezmann keeps turning back the clocks, giving his role as a central creative force another go. This bunch are quickly turning into favorites once again.

With that being said, here is the final iteration of the DI staff’s World Cup predictions:

 

Drew Friberg

I have gotten none of my predictions correct so far, but this is the most fun I’ve ever had watching a World Cup. Sure 2014 had a crazy goal catalogue, with Robin Van Persie’s diving header or Germany’s 7-1 thrashing of hosts Brazil. But, this tournament is just coming together beautifully, result by result.

Modric and Messi’s never-ending quest for greatness will only end by the hand of the other, which I find a beautiful and fitting end to two alltimers’ beautiful and decorated careers. On the flipside, young stars like M’bappe are taking the world by storm for a second time (how is that even possible?) and Morocco will serve as an inspiration for the youth of the World’s largest continent, who have never been represented on the same field as one of the World Cup’s golden balls ever before.

As far as predictions go, I think there is a simple answer. Argentina and France are more than likely to meet up in the finals, and I believe Argentina will exact revenge from their loss four years ago and take this iteration of the matchup. Messi will be crowned the undisputed greatest of all time, and nothing will ever take that away from him.

As far as what I want to happen? Luka Modric has his crowning moment. Modric has been disrespected throughout his career, treated as a mere cog in the winning machine that is Real Madrid. If he captains his side to international glory, what does that do to the narratives now? I want to see him earn it, like he did in 2018. He is the best midfielder of all time and I think he has potential to take down a cocky Argentina team and a France team far too reliant on starpower.

@DrewFriberg9

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Theo Gary

So we’ve finally gotten past the meat of the tournament, the group stage, the celebration and joy (or not if you’re a migrant worker) that comes with the beginning of a world cup. The celebration of soccer, that global game, went and now it is stress time. Semi-finals and finals — all stress, no fun.

There are plenty of narratives. Will Messi finally get his trophy? Will Morocco be the first African team to make a World Cup final? Will France be the first repeat champion since Brazil in 1958 and 1962? Can Croatia shock the world again? These are good narratives, useful ones, but all they are is narrative. And they don’t translate to good games. 

Both matches will look a bit the same. France and Argentina will possess the ball, Morocco and Croatia (Croatia a bit less so) will not. The overmatched underdogs will finish with some expected goals number below one, and the favorites will probably finish with an expected goals number above two. As has happened this entire tournament, Morocco and Croatia will sit back and absorb pressure and above all play the lamest possible version of this sport… which also happens to be the most successful. 

Both Morocco and Croatia won’t win, I think. Too much has to go right for either team to advance. But one of them could. A late winner, penalties, you name it; there is a path. There’s also the logical conclusion that it’s France vs. Messi, certainly the final I want. The two best players in the world, the two best teams … it’s certainly more tantalizing than the alternative.

In the end, I’m sick of rugged soccer, of good defending and speed in space. All I want is one game (France vs. England excluded) where the teams are tactically and talently the world’s best. Is that too much to ask? I don’t have a prediction, I just want good footy.

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Martin O’Connor

The World Cup has produced some fantastic fairytale stories, wonderful goals, and devastating heartbreak. France, Morocco, Argentina and Croatia all find themselves two wins away from lifting the coveted trophy.

1st Semifinal:

Argentina take on Croatia in this match with former El Clásico rivals Lionel Messi and Luka Modric going head to head. It has been pure enjoyment watching this Croatian side fight till the very end of each game, however Argentina will stop them from reaching back to back World Cup finals. Messi is simply too in form to let this tournament slip away from him, as resilient as this Croatian team is, all it takes is one moment of magic from Argentina’s #10.

Final score: Argentina 1-0 Croatia

2nd Semifinal:

France take on the underdog team of the tournament Morocco, the first African team to ever make it to the semifinals of a World Cup. With France’s impressive win over England, I predict they triumph over Morocco and make it to their second consecutive World Cup final. Their experience in attack will be the difference maker in this match.

Final score: France 3-1 Morocco

3rd Place Match:

My predictions have Croatia facing Morocco in the 3rd place match, two teams that play with immense passion for their country’s. With these two defensive units going head to head I predict a close match resulting in a victory for Croatia.

Final score: Croatia 1-0 Morocco

World Cup Final:

Back to back World Cup finalists France take on the 2014 World Cup runner up Argentina in what will likely be Messi’s last World Cup game ever. The stage is set, the fairytale ending is within reach and the GOAT debate can finally be put to a rest. But that being said France will be crowned back to back World Cup champions, thanks to a performance that show the world how their talent is a level above the rest right now.

Final score: France 4-2 Argentina

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