The World Cup quarter finals did not pan out as expected with pre-tournament favourites Brazil the first to exit last Friday afternoon.
Neymar did finally break down a dogged Croatian defence in extra time only for the 2018 runners-up to equalise shortly afterwards and proceed to triumph 4-2 in the subsequent penalty shoot-out.
The second match of the day was decided in a similar fashion with Leonel Messi-led Argentina defeating the Netherlands 4-3 in the spot kick lottery following a late, late Dutch comeback from 2-0 down in normal time.
On Saturday, much-fancied Portugal’s eagerly-awaited encounter with underdogs Morocco turned into a major upset as Ronaldo and company failed to shine, proving unable to recover from an opportune headed goal halfway through the match.
Although much was made of Ronaldo’s ‘final’ farewell during the immediate aftermath, the petulant 37-year-old star has since stated that he would like to continue.
Which left England’s high hopes to equally come tumbling down that evening, manager Gareth Southgate’s talented young side outplaying France for long periods of the often-fascinating clash, only to lose out 2-1 after Harry Kane squandered a golden opportunity to equalise by inexplicably blasting a penalty into the stands late on.
Tuesday’s first semi-final between Argentina and Croatia turned out somewhat less dramatic with Messi inspiring the South Americans to a straight-forward 3-0 victory.
Argentina now face the winners of this evening’s (Wednesday) second semi-final between France and Morocco in Sunday’s 3pm final.
By SKIP BANDELE