France advanced to the World Cup final vs. Messi, Argentina
France beat Morocco 2-0 in the World Cup semi-finals at Al Bayt Stadium on Wednesday night to end the African team’s dream trip to Qatar.
An early goal from Theo Hernandez and a late pass from substitute Randal Kolo Muani earned defending champions France a hard-fought win over the gallant Morocco side that made African World Cup history in the 2022 tournament.
Didier Deschamps’ men will now face Argentina, who sealed a 3-0 win over Croatia on Tuesday as the two heavyweights met for the first time in a World Cup final.
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France poured cold water on the hopes of another Moroccan miracle inside five minutes when scrambling in the penalty area saw the ball fall to Hernandez, who met at the back post and volleyed past Yassine Bounou.
Olivier Giroud hit the post and missed from close range in the first half at the end of a barnstorming run through the middle from Aurelien Tchouameni.
But Morocco were never overwhelmed and had a chance when Azzedine Ounahi forced two fine saves from France captain Hugo Lloris with a speculative effort, and a curling set-piece put the French defense under pressure.
The north Africans have been hit hard by injuries to their key centre-back with the gamble calling Nayef Aguerd in the starting line-up missing as he injured his hamstring in the warm-up and captain Romain Saiss having to come off after 20 minutes. .
Jawad El Yamiq’s daring overhead kick nearly drew Morocco level late in the first half, but Lloris only tipped the ball from danger as France held on to their 1-0 lead.
Morocco went on the offensive after the break and Yahya Attiat-Allah wasted a golden chance to equalize as they spent much of the first 10 minutes of the second half at the French end of the pitch.
Kylian Mbappe’s run through tight spaces in the Moroccan penalty area earned France’s second after the PSG star’s half-time shot dribbled towards goal and Kolo Muani pounced to double the lead with the third fastest goal by a substitute in World Cup history as Les Bleus booked a return to the finals.
Morocco coach Walid Reragui led the Atlas Lions on an improbable run in Qatar, overseeing a winning group campaign, a last-16 win over Spain and victory against Portugal that saw them become the first African side to reach the semi-finals before losing. France.
France beat Argentina 4-3 at the World Cup in Russia in 2018 La Albiceleste has a head-to-head record historically with six wins, three draws and three losses in 12 encounters.
France became the first defending champions to reach successive finals since Brazil in 2002 and are bidding to become the first team in 60 years and the third team ever to defend the World Cup crown in back-to-back tournaments.
Information from Reuters is used in this report.