32 have become just four, with the 2022 World Cup semi finals boasting a wonderful mix of pre-tournament favourites and sensational surprise packages.
Croatia, Argentina and France earned tight, dramatic victories over Brazil, the Netherlands and England, while Morocco became Africa’s first representatives at the last four World Cups when they shocked Portugal at the quarter-final stage.
For many members of the squad of these four victorious teams, the upcoming World Cup semi-final match will represent the biggest match of their careers to date. But for some, the suspension cruelly knocked them out.
Argentina right-back Gonzalo Montiel hasn’t actually even played 90 minutes of the 2022 World Cup yet, but has been ruled out of his country’s semi-final clash with Croatia due to an accumulation of yellow cards. An extra-time booking against the Netherlands added to his previous caution earned against Mexico in the group stage.
Fellow Sevilla full-back and Argentine favourite on the left of defence Marcos Acuna has also accrued a fatal two bookings at the World Cup so far. The left-back has started his nation’s last four in the competition but will miss the semi final after picking up yellows against Poland and the Netherlands last time out.
Unbeaten Croatia can go into their semi-final bout with Argentina without worrying about suspensions. Zlatko Dalic has a full squad to select from, with none of his players having received two bookings throughout the tournament.
And, with yellow-card tallies being scrapped at the semi-final stage, Luka Modric, Dejan Lovren, Marcelo Brozovic, Mateo Kovacic, Bruno Petkovic and Borna Barisic (all of whom have been booked once) can make wholehearted challenges with a minimum of stress.
Like Croatia, France head into their final-four scrap with Morocco boasting no suspensions – rather fortunately, you could say.
Theo Hernandez’s yellow card against England last time out might have warranted a different colour but, as it turned out he, along with Jules Kounde, Aurelien Tchouameni, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele will see their singular booking scrapped.
Morocco have combined tactical perfection with valiant battling to achieve what has never been achieved by any African nation until now – but it hasn’t come without its fatalities.
While key men Sofyan Amrabat and Romain Saiss, alongside Abdelhamid Sabiri and Achraf Dari, came close to adding to their respective cautions in recent rounds, Walid Cheddira managed two in the space of a couple of minutes in Morocco’s giant-killing of Portugal last time out.
Two stoppage-time bookings for the substitute in that historic quarter final have ruled him out of his country’s semi-final encounter with the French.