Spain mourns, locals rejoice at Moroccan World Cup surprise

Can Morocco or Croatia shatter the glass ceiling of the World Cup?

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Bulgaria, with their Hristo Stoichkov-inspired golden generation aging, crashed out in the group stage with one point after four years and have not qualified for the final since.

Yugoslavia made it to the semi-finals in 1930 and 1962 but Croatia appeared as an independent nation for the first time in 1998 after the breakup of the country.

The highlight of their emotional run to the last four was an impressive 3–0 win over Germany, before they lost 2–1 to hosts France in the semi-finals.

The 2002 tournament was another where two total outsiders made it to the final four, but were ultimately stopped in their tracks by the tournament juggernauts.

Co-hosts South Korea exuded confidence after topping their group and then became the first Asian team to qualify for the semi-finals after beating Italy in the last 16 with an extra-time golden goal and then beating Spain on penalties.

A quarter-final between Senegal and Turkey meant another new semi-finalist was guaranteed, and it was Turkey who progressed.

Germany and Brazil regained rank after defeating Korea and Turkey respectively, although both only 1–0. It was only Turkey’s second appearance at the World Cup and they have not returned since.

Portugal reached their second semi in 2006, losing to France, while the historically “surprising” semi-finalists four years later were Spain, who had never made it before (though they had been to the second group stage in 1950) and two-time champions. Uruguay, who last did it in 1970.

Spain, however, came to South Africa as European champions and it was hardly an upset as they overcame decades of World Cup failure by defeating the Netherlands in the final.

Croatia made the semi-finals in 2018 and did better than 20 years earlier, defeating England, but lost to France in the final.

They are back this year, against Argentina, but it is Morocco who are flying the flag for the true underdogs as they are the first African team to make the last four and did it in style by dispatching European heavyweights Belgium, Spain and Portugal. Have done

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