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Who are the World Cup semi-finallists? Focus on the final four

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The World Cup quarterfinals are set after France and Morocco held on Saturday.

They will now meet on Wednesday night for a place in the final, a day after Argentina and Croatia go head-to-head in the other semi-final.

Here we look at the teams still in contention to lift the World Cup.

Argentina

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route to semis

The shock opening loss to Saudi Arabia seems long overdue now, but Argentina still feels they could be in second gear.

They eased out of Group C with 2-0 wins over Mexico and Poland, then relied on a moment of Lionel Messi magic as they defeated Australia 2-1 in the 1,000th appearance of the 35-year-old’s career.

The Netherlands took them to extra time and penalties after Wout Weghorst scored twice late on, but goalkeeper Emi Martinez was the hero in the penalty shootout.

key player

You may have heard of Messi. For the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, this tournament is surely his last chance to fill in the last remaining blank space on his glittering resume, to match the great Diego Maradona in bringing home the World Cup.

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playing style

Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni has changed his tactics in recent months, swapping 4-4-2 for 4-3-3. That has given Messi greater freedom, wandering behind Lauturo Martínez with Ángel Di María on the wing.

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Defensively, they use aggressive pressing that extends up and down the flank, a key reason why Martinez has been preferred in attack to Paulo Dybala.

Argentina’s key man is Lionel Messi

(AFP via Getty Images)

Croatia

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route to semis

The finalists defeated in 2018 battled their way to the semifinals four years later with tenacity rather than ostentation.

Their only win in the 90 minutes so far was a 4-1 win over Canada in Group F, where they finished second behind Morocco on five points.

They needed penalties to beat Japan in the round of 16, then used another shootout to defeat favored Brazil in the quarterfinals after Bruno Petkovic scored in the 117th minute to cancel out Neymar’s goal.

key player

Luka Modric brings star power as he continues to challenge his 37 years, but Croatia have reached this stage thanks to great contributions in all departments.

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Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic was the hero of the penalty shootout against Japan and made a series of saves to frustrate Brazil in the quarterfinals as well.

playing style

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic relies on Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic to win the midfield battle, laying a platform for veteran Ivan Perisic to create from his position on the left side of the forward three.

Croatia’s key player is Luka Modric

(AP)

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France

route to semis

One of the most impressive teams at this World Cup, the defending champions quickly secured their place in Group D with a 4-1 win over Australia and a 2-1 win over Denmark.

A surprise 1-0 loss to Tunisia followed after Didier Deschamps made nine changes, but when the regulars returned they defeated Poland 3-1 in the round of 16.

When Harry Kane missed a late penalty, France secured a 2-1 victory over England to reach the quarter-finals.

key player

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England did a decent job of keeping Kylian Mbappe quiet on Saturday night, but he remains the tournament’s top scorer to date with five goals in as many games.

Combining power, speed and clinical finishing, Mbappé is one of the best players on the planet.

playing style

France have settled into a 4-2-3-1 formation, but in reality Olivier Giroud has fallen deeper than Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele, who attack from wide positions. Adrien Rabiot and Aurelien Tchouameni provide the platform from midfield.

Olivier Giroud celebrates France’s goal

(AP)

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Morocco

route to semis

The surprise package of this World Cup, Morocco topped Group F after a goalless draw with Croatia and a shock win over Belgium. In the round of 16 they frustrated Spain before triumphing on penalties, then stunned Portugal with a 1-0 win that made them the first African nation to reach the quarterfinals of a World Cup.

key player

Such have been Morocco’s committed all-inclusive performances to go this far, it would be difficult to single out a single individual.

Hakim Ziyech and Youssef En-Nesyri provide attacking flair, while goalkeeper Yassine Bounou was named man of the match in Portugal’s win, but Morocco have always played as a unit.

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playing style

Morocco coach Walid Regragui likes to flood the midfield with bodies, close the gap for the opposition, defend doggedly and then look to Ziyech and En-Nesyri to capitalize when they bring the ball into the final third.

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