France Beats Morocco 2-0, Advances to World Cup Final vs. Argentina


France is one step closer to repeating.

Les Bleus topped Morocco 2-0 in their 2022 FIFA World semifinal matchup on Wednesday to advance to the final against Lionel Messi and Argentina.

France came out with its usual 4-2-3-1 starting formation but had to make two changes due to illness. Center back Dayot Upamecano and midfielder Adrien Rabiot each missed out, so Ibrahima Konate and Youssouf Fofana stepped in as like-for-like replacements.

Morocco reverted into a 5-4-1 starting shape after running with a back four against Spain and Portugal in its previous two games, primarily to give cover on the right-hand side. Achraf Hakimi likes to push up to boost the attack, but matching up with Kylian Mbappe meant needing more defensive cover should Mbappe break free on a counter.

The five-man low block didn’t last long, though. Morocco, which hadn’t conceded first all tournament or against the opposition, made a crucial defensive error when a center back stepped up to stop Antoine Griezmann’s run but slipped. Griezmann laid it off to Mbappe for a shot, which led to the opening goal.

Theo Hernandez quickly opened the scoring in the fifth minute for France when he got on the end of the Mbappe effort that was deflected.

Morocco now faced a scenario it avoided all tournament: needing an equalizer after going down a goal. The Atlas Lions have relied on their stout defense to lead to transition opportunities, but the game plan to shut out France went out the window with the early goal, so they had to be more aggressive going forward.

That also played into France’s hand given that Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele are two of the fastest wingers on the planet, so Morocco pushing up more often meant those two would have more cushion to run on the counter.

Morocco effectively controlled the ball and kept pressure on France’s backline to clear the ball, but Mbappe and Olivier Giroud each had huge opportunities to extend the lead, starting with a Giroud shot that clanged off the post in the 17th minute.

Then in the 35th minute, both players should’ve made it 2-0, but they rushed each of their attempts and the score remained 1-0.

The Atlas Lions’ best try in the first half was Jawad El Yamiq’s bicycle attempt just before the first half ended, which just bruised the bar and stayed out.

Morocco maintained possession throughout the second half, and had outstanding spells where they created numerous chances by overloading the left side of France’s defense. Mbappe not tracking back on defense to keep Morocco’s defense on its heels meant the Atlas Lions had the numerical advantage against the French backline, but Konate, Antoine Griezmann and Raphael Varane were all sensational in keeping the ball out.

France, on the other hand, continued to play the transition game in the second half, and attacking substitutes changed the game with the midfield struggles persisting. Marcus Thuram and Randal Kolo Muani each caused havoc on the left and right flanks, respectively, with the latter tapping home another Mbappe shot that was deflected in the 79th minute.

Kolo Muani’s goal essentially sealed the game as Morocco didn’t look like it had at least two more goals to give before regulation ended. In the end, it was a valiant effort for a team that no one saw making it this far, and there should be plenty more to come in future tournaments for the Atlas Lions.

France will now try to be the first team since Brazil in 1958 and 1962 to repeat as World Cup champions, but they’ll need to stop Messi and Co. in their quest to give La Pulga his first ever title in the quadrennial tournament.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup Final kicks off Sunday at 10 a.m. ET (7 a.m. PT).

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