France vs Morocco 2-0: Mbappe to Face Messi in the Final

A goal from Theo Hernandez after just five minutes put France off to a good start against Morocco in the second World Cup Semi Final. Randal Kolo Mouani doubled the lead towards the end of the game, delivering to Didier Deschamps and co. the ticket to their second Final in a row.  

Let’s be honest: it was expected and, in many ways, desirable. The World Cup in Qatar will thus end with a stellar Final that will put against each other Argentina’s Leo Messi, the best player of a decade, and Kylian Mbappé, the man who is bound to receive the baton from him. 

They will battle for their sides to make history – Argentina to triumph for the first time since 1986 and France to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since Brazil in 1962 – but also to win the Golden Boot award, as they are currently the joint top-scorers with five goals.  

And Morocco? The Atlas Lions gave France a run for their money and left the tournament with their heads held well high, proud of what they achieved for themselves and for Africa. It was not to be taken for granted, especially after they went down on five minutes and soon lost their captain Romain Saiss to an injury. 

Coach Walid Regragui’s boys did react and perhaps would have deserved to score at least once. But the 0-2 loss doesn’t take anything away from their incredible World Cup run. 

The Moroccan coach lined up his side in an ultra-defensive 5-4-1 fashion. But his plans were disrupted fast, both because his side conceded early on and because the risk he took by deploying an off form Saiss didn’t pay out. His captain was forced to abandon the game after just 16 minutes. 

Regragui replaced him with Selim Amallah and promptly switched back to a 4-3-3 formation. Morocco regained their composure and started to push, but the damage had already been done back then.  

Indeed, it had taken just five minutes for Les Bleus to score one of the fastest goals ever seen in a World Cup Semi Final. Antoine Griezmann took advantage of a Jawad El Yamiq defensive mishap to serve Mbappé in the box. The PSG starlet’s conclusions were blocked twice, but the ball came around Theo Hernandez, who whipped it past Yassine Bounou with an acrobatic scissors kick. 

It seemed that beginning of a rout for Morocco as Olivier Giroud came close to making it two with a powerful right foot shot that was only denied by the post. The Atlas Lions‘ defense, so far their most powerful department, appeared shaky and confused tonight (no wonder, since three out of the four designated starters were unavailable…). 

But the Moroccans rolled up their sleeves and, facilitated by a bit of overconfidence on the French part, progressively got back in the game, pushing from the right channel where Achraf Hakimi and Hakim Ziyech stole the spotlight. 

They had their best chance to equalize on 42 minutes as El Yamiq went for a spectacular chilena kick from a corner and equalized the count of posts hit by the two contenders. It could have been the goal of the tournament but luck was not on the Moroccans’ side.

After the restart, Regragui’s side continued to push and again came close to drawing level on 53 minutes. This time, Ibrahima Konaté had to clear the ball right on the goal line as substitute Yahia Attiyat Allah attempted a close range tap in. 

France’s game plan, on the other hand, seemed to be to weather the Moroccan storm and hit them on the counter. It was not an unrealistic expectation, considering that they had Mbappé on their side.

In the middle of the second half, the PSG man authored a devastating 40-meter counterattack and it took a desperate slide tackle from Sofyan Amrabat to save the Atlas Lions from conceding again (the Fiorentina midfielder did foul him right on the edge of the box, but the referee didn’t seem to notice…) 

France’s second came with ten minutes to go. Mbappe, once again, wreaked havoc in the Moroccan area as he sneaked past two defenders and served Kolo Mouani the chance for an easy tap in at the far post. The Eintracht Frankfurt player scored from his very first touch as Deschamps had sent him just a few seconds earlier. That’s what you call good timing. 

Morocco deserved at least to halve the gap and it only made sense that the goal would be scored by Azzedine Ounahi – on of the best midfielder that featured in Qatar – but his last-gasp shot was cleared by Jules Koundé.  



December 14, 2022 – FIFA World Cup Semi Finals

SCORERS: 5′ T. Hernandez, 79′ Kolo Mouani

FRANCE (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Koundé, Varane, Konaté, T. Hernandez; Tchouameni, Fofana; Dembélé (78′ Kolo Muani), Griezmann, Mbappé; Giroud (66′ Thuram) (Mandanda, Areola, Pavard, Disasi, Guendouzi, Veretout, Saliba, Upamecano, Coman, Camavinga) Coach: Deschamps
MOROCCO (5-4-1): Bounou; Hakimi, El Yamiq, Saiss (21′ Amallah, 78′ Ezzalzouli), Dari, Mazraoui (46′ Attiyat Allah); Ziyech, Ounahi, Amrabat, Boufal (66′ Aboukhlal); En-Nesyri (66′ Hamdallah) (El Khannous, Benoun, Zaroury, Sabiri, Mohand Mohamedi, Chair, Jabrane) Coach: Regragui
REFEREE: Mr. Ramos (Mexico)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Boufal (M); Added Time: 1st Half 3′, 2nd Half 6′
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