France into World Cup final with 2-0 win

France beats Morocco for place in World Cup final

France will take on Argentina in the World Cup showpiece after beating Morocco 2-0 in an absorbing semi-final to end the fairytale run of the north Africans and stay on course for a successful title defence in Qatar.

Theo Hernandez scored in the fifth minute in a perfect start for the holders, who would have been looking for an early strike to silence the rowdy Moroccan support at the Al Bayt Stadium and dent the confidence of their opponents.

But it still proved a close-run clash as Morocco overcame injury blows and showed no deference to France’s reputation, taking the game to them in a gallant effort that added to the glowing reputation they have earned at the tournament.

France settled the outcome with a second goal 11 minutes from time as substitute Randal Kolo Muani, with his first touch after coming on, tucked in a shot at the back post.

For the first goal, Hernandez had to lift his left foot high to connect with a bouncing ball from a tight angle to finish off a sweeping move started by Antoine Griezmann’s run down the right and a cutback pass that Kylian Mbappe initially fluffed.

Mbappe was the creator of the second as he attempted first to dribble through the Morocco defence and then shot, his effort deflected but falling kindly for Kolo Muani to net.

Olivier Giroud struck the post and missed from point-blank range in the first half at the end of a barnstorming run through the middle from Aurelien Tchouameni.

The midfielder threaded a superb ball to find Mbappe, whose miscued shot was poorly cleared, allowing Giroud a first-time shot which flew wide from close-in.

But Morocco were never overawed and had opportunities, with Azzedine Ounahi forcing two good saves from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, and curling set-pieces putting the French defence under pressure.

The north Africans were hit hard by injuries to their key centre-backs. The gamble of naming Nayef Aguerd in the starting line up failed to come off as he hurt his hamstring in the warm-up, while skipper Romain Saiss had to go off after 20 minutes.

Replacement central defender Jawad El Yamiq came closest to an equaliser with a spectacular bicycle kick on the stroke of halftime, following a poorly cleared corner by the French, with Lloris getting a vital touch as the ball hit the base of the upright.

France’s victory sets up the tantalising prospect of a decisive clash between Argentina maestro Lionel Messi, at the end of his international career, and France’s Mbappe, emerging as the next superstar of the world game.

Morocco’s exit was tempered by its achievement of becoming the first African country to reach a World Cup semi-final, a feat widely celebrated.

The players can expect to be hailed as heroes when they return home after Saturday’s third-place play-off against Croatia (2am Sunday AEDT).

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.