France are the first country to reach two successive World Cup finals after 20 years following a 2-0 win over Morocco in the 2022 World Cup semifinals.
Morocco had made history, taking the whole African continent to the semifinals of the World Cup for the first time in the tournament’s history.
But can they build on it to make it to the tournament’s final? The 68,000-capacity Al Bayt Stadium was the stage for the duel. The Moroccans had headed into the game as minnows.
France are serial winners, except their final group game defeat to Tunisia. Deschamps rested key names after securing a maximum of 6 points from two opening games to book their place in the knockout.
The quality of Les Bleus is second to none. Two prolific forwards – Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud – have been on top of their game, scoring a total of nine goals between them.
They had progressed to the Al Bayt Stadium with straight victories against their knockout opponents – Poland and England.
Morocco was the surprise team of the tournament. They have leveled the odds to reach the semifinals. Didier Deschamp didn’t take for granted a compact and well-composed Walid Regragui-led team that didn’t concede a goal from an opponent’s leg before the semi-final clash with France.
Before the semi-final clash, Morocco had conceded only one goal in the tournament, which was an own goal—beating the likes of Belgium and Croatia to emerge as Group winners is an astounding feat.
They eliminated Spain and Portugal from the tournament and would literally take on any team. The Atlas Lions knew their onions against the big names in the tournament so far.
However, the stats favored the French team as they were ready to defend the title they won in Russia in 2018. Les Bleus would become the first country to defend the World Cup trophy since Brazil achieved the feat in 1966.
Before now, Morocco had met with France five times in FIFA friendlies, with France winning three times and drawing two times. Hence, the 2022 World Cup semi-final clash was the first competitive encounter between both teams.
Didier Deschamps was forced to make two changes to the team that won against England in the quarterfinals. Upamecano and Adrien Rabiot were both ruled out due to illness. Fofana and Konate replaced them.
Morocco paraded the same squad that did the magic against Portugal. They received a major boost with all injured players returning to the team.
France: Hugo Lloris; Jules Kounde, Raphael Varane, Ibrahima Konate, Theo Hernandez; Aurelien Tchouameni, Youssouf Fofana; Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe; Olivier Giroud.
Morocco: Yassine Bounou; Achraf Hakimi, Jawad El Yamiq, Romain Saiss, Noussair Mazraoui; Hakim Ziyech, Azz-Eddine Ounahi, Sofyan Amrabat, Sofiane Boufal; Youssef En-Nesyri
Qatari authorities had to beef up security in the Al Bayt Stadium as hordes of fans thronged into the 68,000-capacity sports stadium. Moroccan fans outnumbered French fans as most Arab countries rally around the African country.
The game witnessed tardy breaks and sudden spurts of attack by both sides. France proved more deadly charging forward. Morocco could not settle well for the midfield battle with Les Bleus.
It was an absolute control for France. Fofana and Tchouameni perfectly manned it, neutralizing efforts by Armrabat and Ounahi in the middle of the park.
Frequently winning possession, France quickly broke into counter with Mbappe a prime target down the right flank. The French team came across two big chances with the tactics but could not make it count.
Oliver Giroud hit the post in one of the attempts. They could not actually break out the Moroccan defence through build-up play.
After foiling Armrabat and Ounahi, Ziyech and Boufai were rarely used by the Moroccans to threaten the French defence led by Manchester United center-back Varane.
Meanwhile, Hakimi frequently left his PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe to roll freely and unleash threats when on the counter.
Walid Regragui needed to do more. Morocco had 54 percent of the ball possession in the first half, but more passes were completed in their own half.
Meanwhile, En-Nesyri saw no balls upfront from his teammates and never came across a clear-cut chance. France had perfectly foiled Morocco down the middle cutting off supply to the front.
The Atlas Lions’ flanks were not that threatening, but Hakimi and Ziyecn offered some promises in the right flank and won some corner kicks.
France neither created a clear chance from build-up play but was able to take the lead after a purely defensive error by the Moroccans. Theo Hernandez struck after a rebound in the 5th minute, and it was enough to carry the Europeans into the break with a lead.
The game rolled on but the Moroccans were trailing by a lone goal. Apart from corner kicks, the Atlas Lions rarely had action in the opponent’s box and needed to up their game.
France doubled the lead late in the game as substitute Kolo Muani volleyed home an assist by Kylian Mbappe to send France to a successive World Cup finals.
The match ended with France progressing to the finals, where they will face Argentina in a crunch 2022 World Cup Final on Sunday, December 18.