Argentina make it to the final, France v Morocco, Wednesday’s best bets

Argentina make it to the final, France v Morocco, Wednesday’s best bets

Argentina make it to the final, France v Morocco, Wednesday’s best bets

Lionel Messi’s Argentina clinched their place in the 2022 World Cup final after beating Croatia. They will meet the winner of France vs. Morocco, which will go head-to-head on December 14 at 2 p.m. ET.

Be sure to check in with ESPN during the tournament as we bring you the latest from Qatar. Here’s what you might have been missing from Tuesday’s World Cup events and a look at tomorrow’s action.

– World Cup news, features, previews and more
– Stream FC Daily and Futbol Americas on ESPN+

Messi is one game away from lifting the World Cup

The Argentina captain is one win away from winning the World Cup trophy and cementing his status as the best player to ever play. The one title that has eluded Messi, which sets him apart from so many of the greats who have come before him, is his for December 18th.

He appeared to have pulled a hamstring early in the match against Croatia, but all doubts were put to rest as he orchestrated his national team to glory, first with a penalty struck high into the right corner and then with a sensational, trademark from the factory challenge one of the best defenders in the tournament, Josko Gvardiol, to prepare Julian Alvarez for his second goal of the evening.

And he broke records doing it: the oldest man to score five goals in a single World Cup and Argentina’s top scorer at the World Cup. It’s Messi’s last dance and we are all lucky to witness it. There will always be comparisons with Maradona, the magical left foot, the hand of God, the labyrinthine races. Whether Messi can win the World Cup will be hard to argue with these comparisons.

Messi delivers one lesson after another in Qatar, while Argentina fans around the world celebrate being one step closer to glory.

Are you not entertained?



Craig Burley is full of praise for Morocco’s performance and resilience after becoming the first African team to reach a World Cup semi-final.

Will Morocco be able to keep its dream alive or will France prove too much?

The North African nation surprised everyone after topping their group and then knocking Spain and Portugal out of the World Cup. Morocco coach Walid Regragui only arrived in August and there was no pressure to excel in Qatar. Now, the World Cup dream is all fans in the country and across the Arab world are hoping for.

As the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, Morocco’s Cinderella story showcases their talent, fighting spirit and grit. Azzedine Ounahi is an integral part of midfield creativity. Sofyan Amrabat is the enforcer, shutting down any sniff the opposition might have to attack. Meanwhile, Achraf Hakimi and Hakim Ziyech are two superstars who can unlock the game from the wings. Given the race in Morocco, France will do well not to underestimate Regragui’s team.

Then there’s also the support behind Morocco, which essentially makes it a “home tournament” for them. Thousands of Moroccans are traveling to Doha for the semi-final as fans from across the Middle East and Africa cheer on them. Could this be the X factor to push them past the French?

France have been here before, and won, in 2018. They boast one of the best players in the world in Kylian Mbappe, a versatile number 10 in Antoine Griezmann and their country’s all-time top scorer in Olivier Giroud. Against England, Didier Deschamps’ side were beaten but still managed to progress, a testament to their depth.

Sure, France go into this semi-final as favorites on account of their power and experience, but if they’ve learned anything from this tournament, they’ll know not to fall into the trap of complacency against the so-called ‘underdogs’.



Mark Ogden does his analysis on the best players so far in Qatar.

Today’s best reads

The tale of Moroccan football: How Regragui brought the Atlas Lions together
Ahead of Wednesday’s second semi-final we have a couple of readings on Morocco, which is World Cup history (no offence, Messi). First, Julien Laurens looked at Walid Regragui, their changing coach and his roots in France.

Yassine ‘Bono’ Bounou embodies the humility and spirit of Morocco’s magical run at the World Cup
Second, ESPN’s LaLiga writer Graham Hunter describes Morocco’s magical goalkeeper, Yassine Bounou, whose heroes and layered family history epitomize the brilliance of his national team and the Moroccan diaspora.

A tribute to Grant Wahl and his legacy in football
We conclude the best reads on a bittersweet note: ESPN’s Luis Miguel Echegaray wrote a poignant essay about his close friend, Grant Wahl, following the US soccer reporter’s shocking death in Doha at Friday’s quarterfinals between Argentina and the Netherlands.

Your Best Bets (odds via Caesars Sportsbook)

If you’re looking to bet on the World Cup, ESPN contributors Paul Carr, Daniel Thomas and Dalen Cuff are here to give you key advice on odds, options and futures. Here’s what we have for Wednesday’s semi-final.

Morocco (+625) vs. France (-200), draw (+285)

Paul Carr: Similar to the other semi-final, the value here is on the underdog. France will have more of the ball and will likely outscore Morocco at least 2-1, but Morocco are fine with that, looking to capitalize on a handful of good counter-attack opportunities. Even with questions over Morocco’s backline health, they have a more than one in 4 chance of holding on and at least making it to extra time. I prefer to play against Morocco to advance anything above +300, and I also like the price on the draw here (+285) if other prices are lower.

Dalen’s Cuff: You won’t get any argument from me on Paul’s analysis above. As good as Morocco were defensively (only one conceded — an own goal, no less), I like it here. I’m a bit broken and France have shown that they know how to score. Conversely, France have conceded in every game and look shaky in defence. The Blues he will have the lion’s share of the ball, which Morocco are fine with as they will produce some solid counter-opposing in this match. The Atlas Lions have been good at capitalizing on relatively few scoring chances in each game. I will go with over 2.5 goals at +125.

Daniel Thomas: Heck, wouldn’t that be the absolute epitome of this World Cup if Morocco knocked out the defending champions? France weren’t great against England, but have the attacking potential to break down even the toughest of defences. I really like Antoine Griezmann with an “assist anytime” at +240.

News and notes

  • We know the World Cup is a battle between national teams, but the players need to return to their clubs when all is said and done, and it’s good to see some unity following England’s quarter-final defeat by France. Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris told the media on Tuesday that he had sent a message to his team-mate England forward Harry Kane after Saturday’s defeat in which Kane missed a penalty. “It’s a difficult time for the England team and Harry. … I don’t need to go too far. We have received a message [exchange] after the match. It wasn’t easy to find the words. He needed some rest, but I think he can be proud of what he’s done for the national team.”

  • From one Brazilian legend to another: Ronaldo Nazario has warned Neymar needs some psychological support to help manage the “disproportionate pressure” of trying to win the World Cup.

  • Well done, Lionel Messi! He is now preparing for another World Cup final and will do so as Argentina’s all-time top scorer at the World Cup, with his penalty against Croatia his 11th goal in this competition. OFF.

  • And finally, another reading of England. Remember how good Harry Maguire was during the Three Lions’ run to the quarterfinals? Well, his manager at the club, Man United’s Erik ten Hag has certainly noticed and hopes the defender’s form will return with him from Qatar. “It’s clear he’s good enough to play at the top level,” said Ten Hag during United’s training camp in Spain. “We want you to take him back to Manchester with you so he can take him onto the pitch for United.

What’s tomorrow

France vs. Morocco (2p ET): This is! The second semi-final pits Kylian Mbappe & Co. against the pre-eminent Cinderella story of the World Cup. Who will advance?

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