And Then There Were Four – Semi Final HistoryStats
Semi Final Specials
Will There Be A Penalty Shootout? Yes
The World Cup enters its final stages this week with the remaining teams boasting more semis between them than a typical housing estate.
Brazil host Germany on Tuesday taking their places in their eleventh and thirteenth semi-finals respectively. Meanwhile, the other decider on Wednesday pits four-times semi-finalists Argentina against the Netherlands who have now reached this stage for the fifth time.
The last time Argentina reached a World Cup semi-final, Elton John was at number one in the UK charts with “Sacrifice”, Margaret Thatcher was in power and Lionel Messi had just turned three.
It seems incredible that it’s taken a supposed footballing giant so long to reach the last four again but their World Cup record isn’t as impressive as their reputation suggests.
They beat Italy on penalties in that 1990 semi but lost out to Germany in a fiery final in Rome. It was a disappointing end to their reign as world champions having beaten the Germans 3:2 in the final four years previously. Their semi-final in Mexico might provide inspiration for another triumph, though, as they overcame a stubborn golden generation of Belgians to reach the final.
Their 1978 title, on home soil, is tainted with accusations of match-fixing where they beat an obliging Peruvian side 6:0 to progress to a final with the Netherlands on goal difference. Remarkably the Argentines had never progressed beyond the Quarter-Finals prior to this.
The Dutch are preparing for their second consecutive semi-final, having beaten Uruguay in the final four in South Africa with a winner from man of the moment Arjen Robben.
It might have been an idea to substitute goalkeeper Edwin van der Saar for Ed de Goey in their 1998 semi-final against Brazil, as they were soundly beaten on penalties by a side containing talents such as Ronaldo, Bebeto and Rivaldo.
The Dutch’s only other final appearances came in the golden age of Total Football, where they were losing finalists in the 1974 and 1978 tournaments. In both tournaments those days a second group stage supplanted an actual semi-final with the winner of each of two groups making it to the final.
In ’74, Holland topped their group after stunning 4:0 and 2:0 victories over Argentina and Brazil respectively but, despite taking the lead in the final against West Germany they were beaten 2:1.
They were to be disappointed again four years later, losing a final to hosts Argentina after topping a second group containing Italy, West Germany and Austria.
Germany are looking forward to their fourth consecutive semi-final, hoping they can go one better than their last two appearances. They finished third in the last two tournaments, having been beaten by Italy in 2006 and Spain last time around.
They had a relatively easy path to their losing final in 2002, having dispatched surprise packages South Korea in the semis. It was their first appearance in the last four in twelve years, having famously beaten England on penalties in Italia 90.
They’d been almost a constant presence in the latter stages prior to that, beating a star-studded French team on penalties in 1982 in a match marred by Toni Schumacher’s assault on Patrick Battiston, and dispatching Michel Platini and co. again four years later.
As West Germany they were champions in 1954 and 1974 and, of course, beaten finalists in England in 1966.
Their other three semi-finals were unsuccessful, losing to Czechoslovakia in 1934, hosts Sweden in 1958 and Italy in 1970.
The hosts haven’t lost a semi-final since 1978, finishing second on goal difference to Argentina in the aforementioned second group stage that acted as an alternative to semi-finals until today’s knock-out structure returned at Mexico 86.
They beat Turkey in their last semi appearance on their way to glory in 2002 and, as mentioned above, beat the Dutch on penalties in France four years earlier.
They overcame Sweden in a tight 1994 semi-final before beating Italy in penalties in a dour final.
The Selecao’s only other semi-final defeats came in 1938 against Italy and 1974, again against a talented, Cruyff-led Dutch side.