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Croatia & Morocco Run Show in Bizarre World Cup Quarter-Finals

by Marko Vrakela
world cup trophy.jpeg
world cup trophy.jpeg

All the controversy aside, the Qatar World Cup has been one of the most breathtaking tournaments in the 21st century. 

Jammed-full with shocks and upsets, the Qatar showpiece has so far offered numerous surprises, starting with group-stage exits suffered by Belgium and Germany. 

However, what happened in the quarter-final stage will go a long way in the history books. 

Brave Croatia oust pre-tournament favorites 

The five-time world champions Brazil suffered another heartbreaking World Cup exit as Croatia sent them packing following a nail-biting penalty shootout. 

After a 4-1 demolition of South Korea in the first knockout round, Tite's men entered this quarter-final tie in high spirits but failed to live up to expectations.

Croatia's disciplined backline frustrated Brazil's star-studded attacking line-up for most of the game, which took the contest into a dreaded extra time. 

Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar stole the show in the first half of extra time, dancing past several challenges to break the deadlock and put the Selecao on the cusp of the semi-finals. 

However, Zlatko Dalic's team replied through second-half substitute Bruno Petkovic. 

Despite miskicking the ball, the Dinamo Zagreb striker's first-time effort took a slight deflection off of Marquinhos and caught Alisson off guard with three minutes left on the clock.

After saving three penalties in the round-of-16 shootout against Japan, Dominik Livakovic came up huge again to thwart Rodrygo before Marquinhos hit the post. 

Croatia will take on Argentina in a mouth-watering semi-final tie after Lionel Messi's side eliminated the Netherlands via penalties. 

Morocco's fairytale goes on

One of the most romantic stories in World Cup history goes on as Morocco staged another massive upset in Qatar to overcome Portugal in the quarter-finals.

After leaving Spain in their wake in the first knockout round, Walid Regragui's men took another massive Iberian scalp at Al Thumama Stadium. 

Portugal came flying out of the traps, applying tremendous pressure on the Atlas Lions in search of an early goal but failed to break down Regragui's water-tight backline. 

Having weathered an early storm, Morocco grew into the contest midway through the first half and came knocking on the Selecao's door a couple of times before breaking the deadlock on the stroke of halftime.

Stand-in left-back Yahya Attiat-Allah whipped the ball into the box, with Youssef En-Nesyri heading home from point-blank, mainly thanks to Diogo Costa's poor judgment. 

The Porto goalkeeper made an epic blunder to give Morocco a much-needed helping hand, spelling disaster for Cristiano Ronaldo's hopes of landing the Jules Rimet trophy.

Fernando Santos paid the price for benching his talismanic captain again as Portugal failed to reach their first World Cup semi-finals for the first time since 2006.

On the other hand, Morocco will encounter reigning world champions France, who squeezed past England 2-1 in the last quarter-final fixture. 

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