France have beaten Morocco 2-0 at Al Bayt Stadium to claim a place in Sunday’s World Cup final.
They will play Lionel Messi’s Argentina who booked their spot with Tuesday’s win over Croatia.
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In an end-to-end game on Wednesday, the defending world champions took their chances but Morocco did not make life easy for France, with notable periods of attacking possession on either side of the halftime break.
Theo Hernandez spoils Morocco’s party
Morocco pressed high early but left gaps at the back. When Antoine Griezmann found one such space in the fifth minute, Morocco panicked. His effort was blocked but it rebounded for Kylian Mbappe. Morocco franticly managed to get in the way of his effort too, but failed to control or clear it, and it bounced to Theo Hernandez.
Hernandez paused for a split-second, unhurried as the ball came to a striking height while goalkeeper Yassine Bounou was bearing down upon him, then leapt into the air and connected with the ball beautifully, sending it past the keeper and into the net. It was the first goal Morocco had conceded to an opposition player at the World Cup in Qatar.
Five minutes in and Morocco’s already tough job became even harder.
Morocco make France work
Azzedine Ounahi’s ninth-minute effort from 25 metres out forced a good save from a diving Hugo Lloris. Hakim Ziyech shot wide in the 15th minute after a sweet breakaway from Morocco’s box.
But then it was France’s chance to counter and Olivier Giroud smashed a shot into Morocco’s left upright.
With half an hour down, Morocco had another good spell of possession in front of France’s goal, but again Walid Regragui’s men could not find a way through France’s defence. With seven blue shirts in their own box at one point, not even Ziyech’s mazy back-and-forth probing run could amount to anything.
Just before halftime, a great delivery from the corner by Ziyech eventually came to Jawad El-Yamiq. El-Yamiq, back to goal, launched himself into the air, connecting for a spectacular overhead bicycle kick that forced Lloris to palm the shot onto the post.
Two minutes later and another corner for Ziyech. This was comfortably dealt with by Lloris but gave the Moroccans a sense of momentum. They were getting under the skin of the French, who promptly gave away two free kicks within striking distance. At the break, France were ahead but Morocco’s Atlas Lions were the ones roaring.
Hamdala goes close
Abderrazak Hamdallah stopped twice as he neared France’s goal in the 74th minute, perhaps second-guessing himself on this huge occasion. Whatever the reason, it was one stop too many for Morocco’s best chance of several in the second half.
Mbappe, Thuram and Muani combine
Kolo Muani, on the field for less than a minute, could not miss from two yards out. Mbappe managed to pick up a loose Moroccan pass in midfield, bringing it into a congested Moroccan box. His shot bounced off Abde Ezzalzouli into the path of Muani, who tapped it in. Game over.