(Football news) France beat the giant killers Morocco 2-0 in the semifinals of the World Cup at the Al Bayt Stadium to end the African side’s dream run in Qatar. An early goal from Theo Hernandez and a late tap-in from substitute Randal Kolo Muani earned defending champions France a win over a valiant Morocco side that made World Cup history in 2022 by becoming the only African team to reach this stage. Didier Deschamps’ team will now face Argentina as the two heavyweights meet for the first time in a World Cup final.
France dashed the hopes of another Moroccan miracle inside of five minutes when a scramble in the penalty box saw the ball fall to Hernandez, who met it and volleyed past Yassine Bounou. Olivier Giroud came close when he struck the post and missed from point-blank range at the end of the first half. But Morocco did not lose the match without a fight as Azzedine Ounahi forced two good saves out of Hugo Lloris. The North Africans were hit hard by injuries as the gamble of naming Nayef Aguerd in the starting line up failed to come off as he hurt his hamstring in the warm-up and skipper Romain Saiss had to go off after 20 minutes.
Jawad El Yamiq tried an audacious overhead kick which nearly drew Morocco level at the end of the first half, but Lloris made a brilliant save as France held on to their 1-0 lead. Morocco came out on the front foot after the break as substitute Yahya Attiat-Allah spurned a golden opportunity to equalise. They spent much of the first 10 minutes of the second half in France’s penalty box but Kylian Mbappe sealed the match with a mazy run through tight space in the Morocco penalty. The PSG star shot dribbled towards the goal and Kolo Muani pounced to double the lead with the third-fastest goal by a substitute in World Cup history as Les Bleus booked a ticket back to the final.
France had earlier beaten Argentina 4-3 at the World Cup in Russia in 2018, although La Albiceleste are ahead in the head-to-head record with six wins, three draws and three losses in 12 meetings. France became the first champions to reach successive finals since Brazil in 2002 and look to become the first team in 60 years and only the third team ever to retain the World Cup in back-to-back tournaments. Morocco coach Walid Regragui, who was appointed manager three months prior to the World Cup led the Atlas Lions on an improbable run in Qatar, overseeing a group-winning campaign, a round-of-16 win over Spain and victory against Portugal that made them the first African side to reach the semifinals as they created history virtually every match they played.
“There’s emotion, there’s pride, there’s going to be a final step, we’ve been together with the players for a month, it’s never easy, there’s happiness so far,” Deschamps said after the match.
“Playing two World Cup finals in a row is an incredible moment. We did a good job, it was hard, but we are in the final. We will work hard to win this final,” Hernandez said.
“We gave the maximum, that’s the most important,” Regragui said. “We had some injuries, we lost Aguerd in the warm-up, Saiss at half-time. We paid for the slightest mistake. We didn’t get into the game well, we had too much technical waste in the first half, and the second goal kills us. But that doesn’t take away everything we did before.”
The country’s president Emmanuel Macron said he was “immensely proud” of France after travelling to Qatar and watching the game with FIFA chief Gianni Infantino. “I feel very proud of my country. I’m very happy,” Macron told reporters after the match. “I want the French to enjoy this simple happiness.