The FIFA World Cup, the biggest prize in international football, sees the fight for the coveted crown get even tighter in every knockout stage. The penultimate step for the same, has seen some historic matches being played over the years, be it the Night at Seville or Brazil’s punishment against Germany on home soil.
Before the two matches of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 are played between Argentina and Croatia, and France and Morocco, respectively, here are five of the most memorable semifinal fixtures played in the tournament:
2018 – Croatia 2-1 England (Perisic 68’, Mandzukic 109’ – Trippier 5’)
As England continues to rue its failure to make it to the semifinals in Qatar 2022 following a loss to France, its dream was left incomplete four years ago in Russia against Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
Playing its first semifinal since 1990, the Three Lions saw Keiran Trippier open the scoring with a 20-yard free-kick.
But the comeback began after the hour-mark. Croatia, attacking against the run of play, saw Ivan Perisic beat Kyle Walker on pace to score the equaliser.
In the second-half extra-time, his flick was buried into the net by Mario Mandzukic as England sunk to defeat, losing out of the semis.
2014 – Brazil 1-7 Germany (Oscar 90’ – Muller 11’, Klose 23’, Kroos 24’, 26’, Khedira 29’, Schurrle 69’, 79’)
One of the most infamous days in Brazilian football, the Samba Boys were punished brutally at home when the eventual champion, Germany, beat them 7-1 at the Mineirao Stadium.
The humiliation began in the 10th minute when Thomas Muller struck and by half-time, the contest was done and dusted, with the scoreline 5-0 to Germany amid weeping fans in yellow and blue.
Though Oscar scored a consolation goal for the five-time World Champion, Brazil breathed a sigh of relief that the contest, or whatever it was, was finally over.
It was the first time a team had scored seven in a World Cup semi-final and it was Brazil’s first defeat at home in 12 years.
1998 – France 2-1 Croatia (Thuram 47’, 70’ – Suker 46’)
Croatia’s best-ever World Cup performance then was bettered by France in the semifinal as it beat the Croats and then the Brazilians to be crowned World Champions for the first time.
A team which had a young Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet saw an unlikely name rise to the occasion in the form of Lilian Thuram.
The then 26-year-old had become the centre of criticism after he was out of position early in the second half, allowing Davor Suker to score for Croatia.
His shot at redemption started the very next minute when he made a run from his half into the final third of Croatia, played a one-two with Youri Djorkaeff and shot past Drazen Ladic, the Croatian goalkeeper.
In the 70th minute, a similar run saw him combining with Henry to score with his left foot and win the match for Les Blues – completing his story from villain to hero in 90 minutes.
Those two goals were his only international goals for France – something that will keep his semifinal memories always fresh and worthy of smiles.
1982 – West Germany 3-3 France (Littbarski 17’, Rummenigge 102’, Fischer 108’ – Platini 26’ (P), Tresor 92’, Giresse 98’)
Former France captain Michel Platini called it his ‘most beautiful game’ as this match – titled the Night of Seville – became the first semifinal to be determined through a penalty shootout.
West Germany, despite having its captain Karl-Heinz Rummenigge starting from the bench, drew first blood. A right-footed hit from the edge of the box by Pierre Littbarski – following a ricochet off France goalkeeper Jean-Luc Ettori – rattled the net.
Almost 10 minutes later, Bernd Forster’s foul on Dominique Rocheteau gave Les Blues a penalty and Platini equalised to make it 1-1.
France came close to scoring early on in the second half when the ‘crime of the century’ happened. Platini delivered an aerial ball for Patrick Batiston, who ran to get the ball in the penalty box.
Harald Schumacher – the West Germany goalkeeper – who came running from the other end clashed violently with the France International, leaving him unconscious as he was stretchered off the pitch.
The tackle left Batiston with two missing teeth, three cracked ribs, and damaged vertebrae, but the referee, however, did not give a foul.
But France finally thought they had found the winning goals when a brilliant volley by Marius Tresor and a long ranger by Alain Giresse made it 3-1 in its favour.
The game, however, was not over yet.
Rummenigge – the 1982 European Footballer of the Year – who was recovering from a hamstring injury decided to take matters into his own hand and took the field.
He pulled a goal back in the 102nd minute and Klaus Fischer made it all square with an overhead kick six minutes later. After 120 minutes, six goals and horrific tackles, a penalty shootout decided the fate of the match where the Germans won 5-4.
1970 – Italy 4-3 West Germany (Boninsegna 8’, Burgnich 98’, Riva 104’, Rivera 111’ – Schnellinger 90’, Muller 94’, 110’)
There are regulation-time semifinals, tense semifinals and then there is the 1970 nail-biting contest between Italy and West Germany, 52 years ago.
Italy’s early lead – thanks to Roberto Boninsegna’s eighth-minute goal – was spoiled by a last-minute hit by German defender Karl-Heinz Schnellinger to force the match into extra time.
What unravelled afterwards earned the match the title ‘Game of the Century’.
Three goals in the first 15 minutes of the match, with Italy scoring twice, saw the Azurri almost win it until Gerd Muller scored his second to make it 3-3, with 10 minutes of play left.
With over 1 lakh people watching the match in the stadium, they saw an embodiment of ‘Football, Bloody Hell!’ when Gianni Rivera scored the winning goal, seconds after Muller’s brace, taking Italy into the final.
The game saw five goals scored in extra-time – a record that holds even today!
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