Mandatory Credit: Photo by Manu Fernandez/AP/Shutterstock (13666382ss) France’s Marcus Thuram celebrates at the end of the World Cup semifinal soccer match between France and Morocco at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, . France won 2-0 and will play Argentina in Sunday’s final WCup France Morocco Soccer, Al Khor, Qatar – 14 Dec 2022
World Cup Wednesday Recap: France blank Morocco 2-0 to set up heavyweight finals bout with Lionel Messi and No. 3-ranked Argentina
Recapping the Wednesday action:
FRANCE 2, MOROCCO 0
- What: World Cup, Semifinals
- When: Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022 @ 1 p.m. CT
- Where: Al Bayt Stadium (Al Khor, Qatar)
- FIFA World Ranking: France (No. 4), Morocco (No. 22)
The French continued their 2018 World Cup title defense with a thrilling 2-0 victory over the Cinderella Moroccans in the semifinals on Wednesday at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar.
A.C. Milan’s Theo Hernández scored in the fifth minute of the match on a left-footed shot from the left side of the 6-yard box to make him the first player at the 2022 World Cup to score a goal against No. 22-ranked Morocco. With the win, the No. 4-ranked “Les Blues” of France advance to their fourth finals over the last seven World Cups since 1998, and they will now vie to become the first nation to repeat as World Cup champs since Brazil did it in 1958 and 1962.
Randal Kolo Muani, a 24-year-old forward of Frankfort who subbed for Ousmane Dembélé in the 79th minute, scored his first World Cup goal less than one minute later when he fielded a pass inside the box from Kylian Mbappé and found the bottom right corner of the net. Wednesday’s semifinal contest marked the first clean sheet for France in Qatar behind stellar backline defensive play and two timely saves from 35-year-old goalie Hugo Lloris of Tottenham.
France is now unbeaten (5-0) in games in which Mbappé and their main starting lineup have begun a match, their only loss coming via a 1-0 defeat to Tunisia on Matchday 3, in which they started the game with mostly reserves after having already clinched a knockout stage berth.
France will now face No. 3-ranked Argentina in the World Cup finals, with the all-important heavyweight bout set for 9 a.m. CT this Sunday at Lusail Iconic Stadium in Lusail, Qatar. France defeated Argentina 4-3 in the Round of 16 at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, although Argentina has the better all-time record (6-3-3) dating back to the first-ever World Cup in 1930.
Both Mbappé and Argentina’s Lionel Messi head into Sunday’s finals match dead even in goals scored (five), while teammates Olivier Giroud (France) and Julián Álvarez (Argentina) are tied for second in goals scored with four apiece. France is now 11-1-1 in their past 13 World Cup matches dating back to their 2018 campaign, with Mbappé accounting for nine of their 27 goals.
Morocco came into Wednesday’s semifinal with the top defense of the current World Cup, but it was France who relied on its defense to secure the win at a raucous Al Bayt Stadium. France edged out Morocco in nearly all defensive categories to end the match, including tackles won (14 to 9), interceptions (19 to 8), blocks (6 to 5), and clearances (17 to 2). France also led in total duels won, ground duels won, and aerial duels won, according to fotmob.com.
Morocco, on the other hand, finished the game with a 61% to 39% time of possession edge as they pressed early and often after falling behind 1-0 in the fifth minute of play. Morocco held the lead over France in total passes (572 to 364), accurate passes (497 to 293), accurate long balls (23 to 20), throw-ins (18 to 14), and corner kicks (three to two), and they also finished with just one fewer shot (13) and one fewer shot on goal (3) than the winning French side. Twelve of France’s 14 shots came inside the box, however, compared to just eight for the Lions of Atlas.
The Cinderella story finally comes to an end for Morocco, which became the first African nation ever to reach the World Cup semifinals after their 1-0 victory over Portugal, although they still have plenty to play for when they face off against the 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia in the third-place match at 9 a.m. CT on Saturday at Khalifa International Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar.
Croatia and Morocco last played to a 0-0 draw less than one month ago, back on Nov. 23 in Matchday 1 of group play. Morocco and Croatia ended up finishing first and second, respectively, in Group F, both making the knockout stage over the No. 2-ranked Belgians.
Saturday, Dec. 17
- What: Third-Place Match
- Who: Croatia (No. 12) vs. Morocco (No. 22)
- When, where: 9 a.m. CT, Khalifa International Stadium (Al Rayyan, Qatar)
Sunday, Dec. 18
- What: Finals Match
- Who: Argentina (No. 3) vs. France (No. 4)
- When, where: 9 a.m. CT, Lusail Iconic Stadium (Lusail, Qatar)