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FIFA World Cup 2022

The 4 Most Surprising Semi-Final Appearances In World Cup History

Bet Central looks at 4 of the most surprising semi-final appearances in World Cup history after Morocco became the first African team to do so.

Surprising Semi-Final Appearances

Morocco made history by becoming the first African nation to reach the semi-finals in FIFA World Cup history. Their incredible run includes defeating heavyweights such as Spain and Portugal. The North African side is set to face reigning champions France for a place in the final tonight. In the history of the world’s biggest national tournament, some sides provided surprising performances and went on to reach the semi-finals. Here are 4 of those from the past.

Turkey (2002 South Korea & Japan)

The bookmakers didn’t see it coming that Turkey can reach the semi-finals in the 2002 World Cup in Japan & South Korea. The Turkish nation was making its appearance in the World Cup finals for the first time since 1954. They were drawn in a group with Brazil, the finalist from the previous tournament in France, Costa Rica, and China. In the opening match, they faced Brazil – despite taking a halftime lead, goals from Ronaldo and Rivaldo meant anguish for Senol Gunes’ side. A win over China and a draw against Costa Rica saw Turkey progress to the last 16 as runners-up in the group. 

They faced the co-host Japan – a goal from AC Milan midfielder Umit Davala earlier in the match saw Crescent-Stars book a place in the quarterfinals for the first time in the major tournament. Senegal, which was the surprise package too in the tournament was waiting for Turkey in the last 8. Ilhan Mansiz was a hero scoring a golden goal in extra-time as the game ended 0-0 to send his nation to the semi-finals. Their fairytale story ended as they lost 1-0 again to Brazil through a goal from Ronaldo. They didn’t go home empty-handed as they managed to defeat South Korea in a fight for the bronze medal. The class of 2002, will be a Turkish team never forgotten.

Croatia (1998 France)

Croatia was the debutant in the World Cup finals in France. They finished second to Argentina in Group H following victories over Jamaica and Japan. Croatia produced impressive scalps on their way to the semi-finals. Real Madrid striker Davor Suker’s penalty edged Croatia past Romania in the last 16 before a thumping 3-0 victory over Germany in the quarter-finals – with Suker again on the scoresheet – saw them book a meeting with hosts France in the semis. 

Their talisman Suker gave his nation the lead early in the second half but a Lilian Thuram double won it for eventual champions France. There was a happy ending for Croatia, however, as they beat Holland 2-1 in the third-place play-off, with Suker scoring his sixth goal of the tournament to claim the Golden Boot. Suker won the silver ball as the second-best player in the tournament behind Ronaldo.

South Korea (2002 South Korea & Japan)

The 2002 World Cup was witness to South Korea’s giant-killing run to the semi-finals — but was it the fairytale it appeared to be? Controversial referee decisions in the Knock-out stages against Italy and Spain still take away the historic run by South Korea. Under the guidance of Netherland mentor Guus Hiddink they finished top of Group D with seven points after winning against Poland, and Portugal and played to a draw with the USA. 

Korea met Italy in the last 16. Christian Vieri had given the coveted Italians an 18-minute lead. Most suspected there would be no drama and his side would advance to a quarter-final. Not so. Seol Ki-Hyeon scored a late equalizer before Ahn Jung-hwan’s famous header knocked Italy out of the tournament deep in extra time. South Korea faced Spain in the Quarter-finals, backed by a rowdy home crowd, and won the draw on penalties after the game ended 0-0 to become the first Asian team to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup. Their good run came to an end, losing 1-0 to Germany thanks to Michael Ballack’s goal. They never went back to winning ways losing 3-2 to South Korea in the 3rd place playoff against Turkey.

Sweden (1994 USA)

Sweden came into the US 94 World Cup with not too many familiar faces besides Thomas Brolin, a dazzling forward who played for Parma in Italy. Swede played a 2-2 draw in the opening match against Cameroon they secured a win against Russia. A spirited 1-1 draw against Brazil meant Swedewasas into the last 16, qualifying in second place with five points. A fantastic achievement in itself, but more was to come. They faced Saudi Arabia in what transpired would be their most straightforward match of the tournament. A 3-1 thumping ensured them a passage to the Quarter-finals. 

In one of the pulsating matches of the tournament, Romania gave Sweden a run for its money. The match ended 2-2 after extra time with Swede booking a place in the semis after winning on penalties. The eventual winner Brazil was waiting for them – the game was locked 0-0 till Romario’s powerful header in the last ten minute of the match saw Brazil progress to the final. For the bronze medal fight, Sweden scored four first-half unanswered goals to thump Bulgaria. 

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