France end Morocco World Cup dream to set up Argentina final


France ended Morocco’s World Cup dreams as goals from Theo Hernandez and Randal Kolo Muani gave the holders a 2-0 win in their semi-final clash and set up a showdown with Lionel Messi’s Argentina on Sunday.

It seemed that France could make short work of their opponents when Hernandez scored inside five minutes at the Al Bayt Stadium, despite a hostile crowd against them.

But Morocco, the first African and Arab team to reach the last four at the World Cup, struggled despite injuries to key players, with substitute Kolo Muani netting a late second for Les Bleus.

It will be France’s fourth World Cup final in seven editions and they will be hoping to become the first team since Brazil 60 years ago to do so when they take on Argentina at the Lusail Stadium on Sunday.

It will be seen as a contest between Messi and his Paris Saint-Germain teammate Kylian Mbappe, but the match was not about the latter’s individual brilliance.

Instead, France’s victory came down to a team effort against the Moroccans, who will now face Croatia in the third-place play-off on Saturday.

Morocco reached the semi-finals after defeating Belgium in the group stage and then defeating Spain and Portugal.

But whether they could repeat the feat against the holders was another matter, and coach Walid Regargui’s plans were left in turmoil due to a number of injuries.

After missing the quarter-finals, centre-back Nayef Aguird was recalled only to be substituted in the last minute, with Achraf Dari stepping in.

Then fellow defender and captain Romain Sass had to leave his teammates after just 21 minutes and by then Morocco were already behind.

France booed deafeningly when in possession from huge Moroccan support, but they silenced the crowd with the opening opener, Hernandez netting with an acrobatic volley at the back post after Mbappe’s shot was deflected.

Remarkably, it was only the second goal conceded by Morocco at this World Cup and the first by an opposition player.

loads of injuries

If the excellent Azzedine Onahi pulled off a fine save from Hugo Lloris early on, there was a sense that the evening could quickly turn into a harsh reality check for him.

When Sass lofted a simple forward ball over his head, Olivier Giroud broke through but his shot hit the post.

Then when Sass returned, Regaragui abandoned his back three and equalized in France’s 4–3–3.

Morocco finished the half strongly and almost drew level when, following a corner, defender Jawad El Yamik saw his overhead kick hit at the post by Lloris.

The Atlas Lions also lost Bayern Munich left-back Noussair Mazrouei at half-time, but France himself was not spared by fitness concerns.

The quarter-final win over England was missing two of their starting players, Adrien Rabiot and Dayot Upamecano, due to illness.

Les Bleus are used to playing semi-finals on a knife edge and their last three wins at this level – in 1998, 2006 and 2018 – all came by a single goal.

Coach Didier Deschamps dropped Giroud and replaced Mbappe with Marcus Thuram – Lilian’s son.

Kolo Muani then came on for Ousmane Dembele, and with 11 minutes remaining he scored with his first touch, tapping in after deflecting another Mbappe shot.

The Moroccan players knew the game was over, and so did French President Emmanuel Macron, standing in the crowd and applauding.

The text of this story is published from a wire agency feed without any modification.

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