Reigning champions France end Moroccan fairy-tale to enter World Cup final

Reigning champions France end Moroccan fairy-tale to enter World Cup final

The reigning champions entered their second consecutive FIFA World Cup final after beating Morocco 2-0 in the semi-finals at the Al Bayt Stadium on Wednesday. France ended the Atlas Lions’ fairy-tale journey in Qatar with goals from Theo Hernandez and Randal Kolo Muani sending Les Bleus into Sunday’s final and setting up a date with Argentina and Lionel Messi in the showpiece event.

Didier Deschamps’ side are the first team since Brazil in 2002 to reach back-to-back World Cup finals and will hope to become the first nation in 60 years to defend their World Cup title and win successive tournaments.

France made two enforced changes to their XI for the semi-finals, with Dayot Upamecano and Adrien Rabiot making way for Ibrahima Konate and Youssouf Fofana due to injury. Morocco, meanwhile, were more unfortunate as West Ham centre-back Nayef Aguerd pulled up with an injury in the warm-up and had to be removed from the XI.

Walid Regragui switched to a back five against France in the semi-final to deal with their significant attacking threat, but Morocco suffered the worst start imaginable as the reigning champions broke the deadlock within five minutes. Antoine Griezmann played in Kylian Mbappe in the penalty area, and the forward’s deflected shot fell into the lap of left-back Theo Hernandez, who found the back of the net with an acrobatic finish.

The AC Milan defender became the first opposition player to score against Morocco at this World Cup, but the Atlas Lions didn’t let the early goal hurt their confidence. Midfielder Azzedine Ounahi forced an important save from Hugo Lloris with a long-range effort, while Hakim Ziyech also went close.

The African nation were dealt another blow when captain Romain Saiss had to be substituted in the first half due to injury, and France continued to create chances, with Olivier Giroud striking the post and Kylian Mbappe nearly finding the back of the net from Tchouameni’s pass. Morocco also went close to finding an equaliser on the stroke of half-time, with Hugo Lloris getting fingertips onto Jawad El Yamiq’s overhead kick to redirect it onto the post and away from danger. Morocco dominated the possession in the second period, but France found the second goal they needed to put the game to bed. Just 44 seconds after coming on as a substitute, Randal Kolo Muani scored his first international goal for Les Bleus, pouncing on a loose ball in the box that made it 2-0 and sent France into the final against Argentina.