With a 2-0 semi-final victory over Morocco at the Al Bayt Stadium, France ended Morocco’s incredible run and advanced to the final for the first time in 24 years as the World Cup holders.
Despite being significantly outnumbered and having to fend off waves of raids from a Moroccan team that never gave up, goals from Theo Hernandez and Randal Kolo Muani either side of halftime secured France’s passage to Sunday’s championship match against Argentina.
Romain Saiss, Nayef Aguerd, and Noussair Mazraoui were surprisingly able to recover from their various injuries in time for the semi-final for Morocco, but by the time the game reached the 20-minute mark, two of them had already been replaced.
Aguerd was a last-minute substitution for Achraf Dari in the starting lineup, and the five-man Moroccan defence let their first World Cup goal to an opponent after just five minutes.
The ball bounced sweetly for Hernandez, who handed the defending champions an early lead with an acrobatic goal from a tight angle. Dari did well to save a Kylian Mbappe effort.
Saiss, who had been outpaced by Olivier Giroud for pace in the 17th minute, was relieved to see the 36-year-shot old’s strike the post, but the Besiktas player was moving gingerly and had to be substituted after 21 minutes.
The Atlas Lions switched to a 4-3-3 after Saiss withdrew, and they had plenty of golden opportunities. Azzedine Ounahi forced Hugo Lloris to make a low save at full stretch, and Jawad El Yamiq nearly outdid Hernandez’s goal with an overhead kick of his own after a corner, but Lloris was once again up to the challenge.
In the 36th minute, Mbappe’s goal-bound attempt was successfully deflected by El Yamiq at the opposite end before the ball was pushed back in for Giroud, who could only shoot wide on the spin.
Although Morocco was far from waving the white flag, Didier Deschamps’ team managed to hold onto their 1-0 lead at halftime despite a last barrage of Hakim Ziyech set pieces.
France 2-0 Morocco: The French march on to 2nd World Cup final in a row
Mazraoui, the final survivor of the injured trio, joined Saiss and Aguerd back on the bench for the second half, and Yahia Attiyat Allah, who assisted Youssef En-Nesyri on his game-winning goal against Portugal in the quarterfinals, replaced him.
Although Walid Regragui’s defensive gambles did not pay off as planned, his team began the second half like they closed the first, applying pressure to a France team who was struggling to leave their own half.
However, Morocco’s excellent opportunity to score just did not materialise. It took until the 74th minute for either team to have another half-chance, but Youssouf Fofana could only reach the side netting following Marcus Thuram’s cutback.
Thuram was having trouble on the left, but just 44 seconds after coming in, another French replacement doubled France’s lead. Kolo Muani had the easy task of crashing home from a yard out with his first touch of the game after Mbappe had sprinted through a sea of red shirts inside the area.
A goalmouth scramble broke out in the France box in the fourth minute of injury time, but Jules Kounde did an outstanding job of blocking Ounahi’s half-volley on the line. There were six additional minutes added as Regragui’s team attempted the inconceivable.
At the final whistle, both teams’ players fell to the ground for various reasons. France will now attempt to become just the third team, after Brazil and Italy, to win back-to-back World Cups, while Morocco will play Croatia on Saturday for third place.
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