THE quarter final matches in the 2022 Qatar World Cup were a heartstopper. We are entering the final stages of the biggest sports event on the planet and it doesn’t get any better than this.
Two South American giants were on the cusp of meeting again in the semis.
Brazil were the favorites to win the competition and so were heavily favored to win against Croatia. Argentina, on paper, had the more difficult matchup against a highly ranked Netherlands.
They were the two Copa America finalists, with the Albicelestes of Argentina getting the better of the Selecaos of Brazil to win the South American trophy. It had a grudge match written all over it.
On one hand we had Neymar trying to get Brazil back into the top 4 after back to back set-backs at this stage of the competition. And on the other, Messi, who is trying to complete his legacy in what could be his swan song in the World Cup. Winning the trophy that has eluded him the most would fit a storybook ending.
The closest he got was in the 2014 World Cup against Germany but he narrowly lost that one. So this was going to be a match of the tournament contender. But it was not meant to be.
Brazil had the better chances from the off against the Croats. They held the game by the scruff of the neck for the most part with the Croats keeping a firm stand. The stat sheet tells a more accurate story. Brazil had 21 shots with 11 on target while Croatia had 9 but had only 1.
That lone deflected strike in the box though had the top goal keeper in the world beat. Alison, Brazil’s and the world’s top keeper didn’t have much to do the whole game until that last desperate counter attack. It was enough to take the game to a penalty shoot out. And that’s where it totally unraveled for the Brazilians.
Questions were asked after the game as to why Neymar, Brazil’s talisman and one of the world’s top players, did not take the first penalty kick. Instead the coach opted for the relatively inexperienced Rodrygo. It was just too much for a young player at the most crucial part of the game.
The Brazilians lost on penalties without Neymar getting a chance to kick one while 70 percent of the crowd who were supporters of Brazil cried a river inside Education City Stadium with their star player having to endure another shocking exit.
Argentina’s Great Escape
Argentina almost had a similar fate. They were leading 1-0 from a sublime Lionel Messi assist to Nahuel Molina in the 35th minute and were able to double the lead with a Messi spot kick in the 73rd minute after Marcos Acuna was tripped over by dutch fullback Denzel Dumphries in the box.
The Albicelestes seem to be on their way to an easy win but things took a turn in the final 10 minutes of the game when substitute Wout Weghorst scored a header on 83rd minute. The Dutch were attacking with all they got to get back in the game by also bringing in their big strikers in the box and playing long balls. They were rewarded with an equalizer in the 10th minute plus the dying seconds of extra time with a clever set play.
Tempers were flaring and benches had to be held back by the referee after a few skirmishes on the pitch.
You could tell there was panic in the Argentine players and the fans as this looked like a carbon copy of what went on in the previous game that resulted in the demise of the top ranked Brazil.
But Argentina won’t be denied. They stayed with it in the extra 20 minutes after regulation and kept their composure in the penalty shoot out.
It was a tale of two countries in these highly charged quarters of the World Cup; It was a teary farewell for Neymar and Brazil but a triumphant escape for Messi and the fighting Albicelestes of Argentina.
We still have Ronaldo and Portugal Vs underdog Morocco Saturday at 11pm and England Vs defending Champions France on Sunday at 3am.
We are ready for more. Bring it on.