The semifinals are set after the departures of Netherlands, Brazil, Portugal and England. 2018 World Cup European finalist Croatia faces Coppa America Champion Argentina, and 2018 Champion France meets the Atlas Lions from Morocco. The African team became the first from that continent to reach a World Cup semifinal.
Most fantasy managers have taken big hits to their squads after quarterfinal upsets to favorites Brazil and Portugal. Instead of difficulty tables, we will preview match tactics which could give an insight on which players to seek from each of the remaining four nations.
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Argentina vs Croatia
Tuesday December 13, 19:00 GMT
Four years ago in FIFA World Cup Russia 2018, Croatia also qualified to the semifinals after winning the round of 16 and quarterfinals with penalty shootouts. This time, Japan and Brazil were victims of the Croatian trap. Brazil was able to break through Croatia’s defences but Dominik Livakovic’s heroics ended the Brazilian samba dance to a 6th World Cup victory. Croatia also has a handful of players that can create magic in a split second.
Argentina’s Scolari showed that he is not afraid to implement any necessary tactics when he started a back line of three defenders against Netherlands to nullify the dangers of Dutch counterattacks. His tactics succeeded until Van Gaal threw in all his cards, and it was Wout Weghorst who brought Netherlands back from a two-goal deficit to force extra time.
The physicality of the Dutch team was evidently superior and played a major part in the momentary comeback. Argentina’s Scolari replied by switching back to 4-3-3. The return to original tactics allowed Argentina several shots on target in the dying minutes, the Netherlands fortunate to avoid conceding.
Argentina will add a Japanese tsunami and Brazilian experience to Messi’s desire to win (and the team’s desire to win with him). I personally expect Argentina to finish off the match in the first half unless Croatia is successful in breaking the deadlock on the counter to surprise the world once again. There is talk that Croatia is the dark horse of the tournament, but Croatia was right here four years ago so can be considered one of the elite teams in the World in recent years.
France vs Morocco
It can be argued that France got lucky to defeat England, and the argument is probably right. France’s energy was depleted as expected from lack of depth and several injuries. England was by miles the dominant team, but England beat itself in several ways such as Harry Kane’s missed penalty and Marcus Rashford’s late substitution. This does not mean at all that France is a weak team — Credit Hugo Lloris for his many top drawer saves. France continues to be the title holder, and playing as the champion has its own set of advantages.
Morocco took out two consecutive major contenders in Spain and Portugal. Morocco is (or was) a well oiled defensive unit that has conceded only one goal in the Word Cup, and that was a deflected own goal. Teams having Kevin De Bruyne, Lukaku, Morata, Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes all failed to score against the African defense, but that defense is worn, weary and injured (starters Aguerd, Mazraoui, and Saiss all out). Considering that Morocco plays on the counter, the scored goals are also much less than any other team.
It will be interesting to watch a team that scores for fun hurling itself against a team that has stopped the best of the best from scoring. Also note that France has yet to keep a clean sheet in this tournament, and this may play to Morocco’s advantage.
The match can go either way, but France will do its best to score as soon as possible because the longer Morocco keeps its sheets clear the more Sofian Amrabat will look like a 10 legged Medusa and Yassin Bounou will have the goalmouth covered with an unbreakable web of spider silk.
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