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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Morocco give France a firm test but come up short in World Cup semifinal upset bid

For the second consecutive occasion, France are through to the FIFA World Cup final after defeating Morocco 2-0 on Wednesday at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor. Left back Theo Hernandez opened the scoring early before substitute Randal Kolo Muani put Les Bleus beyond reach with his second half finish, sending France through to an exciting matchup against Argentina in Sunday’s final. Morocco put in a heroic effort to keep the match even throughout but could not find an attacking breakthrough and will now play Croatia on Saturday in the competition’s Third Place Match.

In front of a deafening crowd that was certainly in support of Morocco, the match got off to a frantic start but it was the favored French who struck first by the end of the opening five minutes. A French pass from midfield saw Moroccan center back Jawad El Yamiq misjudge his interception attempt, allowing Antoine Griezmann to drive in from the right wing and send a low ball towards the penalty spot. An initial shot from Kylian Mbappé was blocked but his second attempt was deflected right to a wide open Hernandez at the far post for a bouncing shot past Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.

Morocco, who already had to cope with replacing center back Nayef Aguerd at the last minute, saw captain Romain Saïss forced off early due to injury but recovered well from conceding an early goal. Midfielder Azzedine Ounahi’s shot from distance forced an excellent save from France keeper Hugo Lloris before El Yamiq’s bicycle kick attempt was just kept out by Lloris in the final seconds of the first half. French striker Olivier Giroud had a couple of chances to double his team’s lead with a 17th minute shot rattling the post of Bounou’s goal.

After the halftime break France were pushed back for long stretches while Morocco controlled the midfield. Atlas Lions winger Sofiane Boufal caused plenty of problems with excellent pace and dribbling, nearly setting up an equalizer with his 53rd minute cross from the right wing but a panicking French defense was able to clear. Morocco frequently threatened but struggled to find a clear look on Hugo Lloris’ goal.

France manager Didier Deschamps made a couple of tactical changes as the second half proceeded and Les Bleus were able to put the match away in the 79th minute. Magical dribbling from Mbappé at the edge of the Moroccan penalty area led to a hopeful low shot that deflected off a Moroccan defender towards the far post where a wide open Kolo Muani was left with an easy finish past the scrambling Bounou to confirm France’s passage to Sunday’s final against Argentina.

Highlights are in the link below.

France 2-0 Morocco Highlights