Can Morocco or Croatia shatter the World Cup’s glass ceiling?

Past World Cups have had an underdog or two punching above their weight. In 2022 Croatia, and specifically Morocco, stand in the way of firm favourites, France and Argentina.
Croatia and Morocco are the surprise guests in the Qatar World Cup’s final four but, as the Croatians discovered in 2018 and many other long-shot semifinalists have before them, the two remaining steps to become world champions can be the steepest.
In the 21 editions of the World Cup over 92 years featuring 79 nations, there have still been only eight winners and only 13 have made it to the final. Spain were the last to join the elite group of champions in 2010 after France in 1998 and Argentina in 1978.
Since then, there have been a sprinkling of “outsiders” who made it to the last four, with almost all of them failing to go any further.
Poland and Belgium lost to eventual winners Italy and Argentina respectively, in 1982 and 1986, and while as former winners England would not like to be included in the “long-shots” group, it was still a surprise when they made the semis in 1990, where they lost to West Germany.
It was in 1994 though that the apple cart really looked to have been overturned. Bulgaria arrived in the US having never won a World Cup match in 16 attempts, and duly chalked up an 11th defeat in their first game.
They then turned things around utterly, winning two group games, beating Mexico on penalties in the last 16 and then memorably stunning holders Germany in the quarterfinals.
Read in Daily Maverick: “Can Morocco actually go all the way to win the World Cup?”
On the other side of the draw Sweden arrived after a last-16 shootout win over Romania.
Normal service was resumed in the semis though as Italy ended Bulgaria’s dream run and Brazil edged out Sweden.
Bulgaria, with their Hristo Stoichkov-inspired golden generation ageing, went out in the group stage with one point four years later and have not qualified for the finals since.
Yugoslavia made the semis in 1930 and 1962, but after the country broke up, Croatia appeared as an independent nation for the first time in 1998.
The highlight of their emotional run to the last four was a superb 3-0 quarterfinal victory over Germany, before they were eventually beaten 2-1 by hosts France in the semis.
The 2002 tournament was another where two total outsiders made the last four but ...
13 Dec 2022 6AM English South Africa News · Sports

Other recent episodes

Argentina win incredible World Cup final in shootout

Lionel Messi and Argentina won a dramatic World Cup final to end the Albiceleste’s 36-year wait for their third world title. Argentina won their third World Cup in an extraordinary final on Sunday as they beat France 4-2 on penalties after Lionel Messi scored twice in a 3-3 draw that…
18 Dec 2022 2PM 4 min

Is Messi the greatest soccer player of all time?

It’s okay to debate it – don’t let people ruin your fun. Because one thing is for sure, having an opinion about the game and expressing it is an inalienable right. And so, Lionel Messi has reached his second World Cup final with a dazzling performance that people will be…
17 Dec 2022 10AM 5 min