France ended Morocco’s dream FIFA World Cup run to set up a final clash with Argentina
play Argentina on Sunday at Lusail Stadium.
France finished Morocco’s Reality Cup dream as objectives from Theo Hernandez and Randal Kolo Muani gave the holders a 2-0 win in their semi-last conflict and set up a showdown on Sunday with Lionel Messi’s Argentina.
Even though the crowd at Al Bayt Stadium was hostile toward France, Hernandez’s goal within five minutes gave it the impression that they could easily defeat them.
However, Morocco, the first African and Arab team to reach the World Cup quarterfinals, persevered despite losing key players to injury to see substitute Kolo Muani earn Les Bleus victory with a late second goal.
When France plays Argentina at Lusail Stadium on Sunday, they hope to become the first team since Brazil 60 years ago to retain the trophy.
That will be billed as a showdown between Messi and Kylian Mbappe, his teammate at Paris Saint-Germain, but this match was not about Mbappe’s individual brilliance.
Rather France’s triumph was down to a collaboration against a Moroccan side who will currently confront Croatia in Saturday’s third-place play-off.
After defeating Spain and Portugal in the group stage and Morocco, Morocco advanced to the semifinals.
But whether they could do it again against the defending champions was another matter, and a slew of injuries disrupted coach Walid Regragui’s plans.
Achraf Dari took his place after Nayef Aguerd, a center-back who had been recalled after missing the quarterfinal, pulled out at the last minute.
After just 21 minutes, fellow defender and captain Romain Saiss had to leave his teammates, and Morocco was already behind.
After Mbappe’s shot was deflected, Hernandez scored with an acrobatic volley at the back post, and France was met with deafening whistles from the large Moroccan crowd when they were in possession. However, they were able to silence the crowd right away and score the opener.
Surprisingly, it was also the first goal scored by an opponent and the second goal conceded by Morocco at this World Cup.
There was a sense that the evening could quickly become a harsh reality check for them if the excellent Azzedine Ounahi forced a good save from Hugo Lloris.
Olivier Giroud broke free after Saiss let a straightforward forward ball bounce over his head, but his shot missed the post.
Regragui then abandoned his back three and matched France’s 4-3-3 when Saiss left.
Following a corner, defender Jawad El Yamiq’s overhead kick was tipped onto the post by Lloris, giving Morocco a strong finish to the half.
At halftime, the Atlas Lions also lost Bayern Munich left-back Noussair Mazraoui, but France still had fitness concerns.
Dayot Upamecano and Adrien Rabiot, two of their starters in the quarterfinal victory over England, were absent due to illness.
Les Bleus are accustomed to playing semi-finals in a precarious situation, and their previous three victories at this stage—in 1998, 2006, and 2018—were all decided by a single goal.
As Mbappe moved inside, coach Didier Deschamps removed Giroud and substituted Marcus Thuram, the son of Lilian.
After that, Kolo Muani came on in place of Ousmane Dembele, and with 11 minutes left, he scored with his first touch, tapping in after another shot from Mbappe that was deflected.
Both the Moroccan players and French President Emmanuel Macron, who stood to applaud in the crowd, were aware that the game had ended.