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World Cup semi-final predictions

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So, here we are. The final four.

Four nations spanning three continents are just two games away from World Cup glory. There’s a GOAT attempting to step out of Diego Maradona’s shadow and complete the ultimate fairytale, the holders looking to go back-to-back, that midfield from the Adriatic, and Africa’s first-ever World Cup semi-finalists.

Each different in style, even if such distinctions are subtle, these two semi-final matchups are poised to intrigue and enthral those who have been treated to an unforgettable tournament in Qatar.

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The pinnacle is so close yet so far, and here are 90min’s predictions of the upcoming semi-final fixtures.

Netherlands v Argentina: Quarter Final - FIFA World Cup 2022

Croatia await Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the semi-final / Anadolu Agency/GettyImages

Lionel Scaloni opted to match the Netherlands’ back three in the quarter-final in a bid to contain the idiosyncratic Dutch. The ploy worked a treat for the most part before Louis van Gaal’s switch to Wout-ball threw a spanner in the works.

La Albiceleste were stumped by an atypical Dutch approach as Weghorst scored twice in the closing stages to take a once dead-in-the-water tie to extra time. Argentina regained control in the extended period, but their eventual victory came via a dramatic penalty shootout.

You do get the feeling that something magical is occurring within the Argentinian ranks as Lionel Messi goes in search of the prize his career deserves. The magic man is in spectacular form, and he’ll undoubtedly be key in breaking down a stubborn Croatia defence in the semi-final.

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Croatia are as blunt as a butter knife up top, but their midfield is the best in the tournament and their defence is playing lights out. They’ll seek to control the contest and frustrate an emotional Albiceleste while pleading for a moment of inspiration in the final third.

You can’t write the Europeans off, that’s for sure, but this Messi-inspired Argentina side should get over the line in a cagey and perhaps bitty affair.

Prediction: Argentina 2-1 Croatia

Youssef En-Nesyri, Jawad El Yamiq

They couldn’t, could they? / Justin Setterfield/GettyImages

The unifiers of the Arab world are 90 minutes away from the World Cup final. Morocco’s journey in Qatar has been nothing short of remarkable, but their toughest challenge awaits Walid Regragui’s depleted outfit in the last four as they face the holders.

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France were ruthless against an impressive England in a high-quality quarter-final matchup and are attempting to become the first nation to win back-to-back World Cups since Brazil in 1962.

Les Bleus certainly aren’t as imperious as they were four years ago, and there’s no reason why this aggressive and athletic Morocco outfit can’t complete one more miracle. However, Regragui could be without several key players for this historic encounter and the French pose Morocco’s biggest challenge at the tournament thus far.

Didier Deschamps’ canny outfit are built for winning games of this magnitude and after a quiet outing last time out, Kylian Mbappe is poised for yet another World Cup masterclass.

Prediction: France 1-0 Morocco

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Hector Bellerin joins Sporting CP from Barcelona

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Full-back Hector Bellerin has joined Sporting CP until the end of the season from Barcelona.

The Spanish international was signed by Barca in the summer but made just three La Liga appearances for the club in the first half of the season.

As such, Bellerin has now left the club in search of more first team football.

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A statement on Barcelona’s website reads regarding the move reads: “Barcelona and Sporting Clube de Portugal have reached an agreement for the transfer of the player Hector Bellerin. 

“FC Barcelona would like to express publicly their gratitude to Bellerin for his commitment and his dedication and wish him all the best for the future. 

“Hector Bellerin made seven appearances for the first team. FC Barcelona announced his arrival in the summer of 2022 after he left Premier League side Arsenal as a free agent. The right back returned to the Club 11 years after leaving the youth teams at FC Barcelona to join the London club. 

“Bellerin made his first team debut on 10 September in the 4-0 win away at Cádiz, starting the game at right back. The defender went to make two more appearances in La Liga, two in the Copa del Rey and two in the Champions League.”

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Crystal Palace confirm loan signing of Albert Sambi Lokonga

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Crystal Palace have confirmed the deadline day loan signing of Albert Sambi Lokonga from Arsenal.

Lokonga featured sporadically for Arsenal during the first half of the 2022/23 season, making just two Premier League starts as the Gunners have mounted an unlikely title challenge.

The midfielder has now joined Palace on loan for the remainder of the campaign in search of more regular football.

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Speaking to the club’s official website after making the move, Lokonga said: “I’m really excited – I can’t wait to get started. I’m really happy to join Crystal Palace. I want to go as far as possible with the team. I will try to push for me and the team to do the maximum to reach the top.”

Palace chairman Steve Parish was quick to praise Lokonga too, saying: “I would like to welcome Sambi to south London, and am pleased he has chosen to join Patrick’s squad for the rest of the season, after making an impressive start to life in English football.

“He has been on our radar for several years since his emergence at Anderlecht, and we very much look forward to his contribution as we push to climb the table”.

The midfielder has been replaced by Jorginho at Arsenal, with the Italian midfielder making the move across London from Chelsea to join the Gunners on a permanent deal.

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On this edition of TCOAG, Harry Symeou reacts to the news Arsenal have agreed a £12m deal to sign Jorginho from Chelsea. If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!



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Atletico Madrid confirm signing of Matt Doherty after Tottenham contract termination

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Atletico Madrid have confirmed the signing of Matt Doherty after the player agreed a mutual termination of his Tottenham contract.

In joining Atleti, Doherty becomes the first ever Republic of Ireland international to play for one of Spain’s top three clubs.

Doherty isn’t the only wing-back to leave Tottenham on deadline day, as the Irish star follows Djed Spence out the door – with the former Forest man joining Stade Rennais on loan until the end of the season.

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A statement from Tottenham regarding the news reads: “We have mutually agreed to the termination of Matt Doherty’s contract to enable him to join another club.

“Signed from Wolverhampton Wanderers in August, 2020, the Republic of Ireland international made 71 appearances for us in all competitions, scoring three goals.

“We should like to thank Matt for his service and wish him well for the future.”

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Both outgoings have made way for new signing Pedro Porro, who is joining Spurs on an initial loan with an obligation to buy the player outright from Sporting CP in the summer.





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