France crushed Morocco’s World Cup dream with a 2-0 win against Morocco in their semi-final encounter, setting up a meeting with Lionel Messi’s Argentina on Sunday.
Despite a hostile audience, it appeared that France would make quick work of their opponents when Hernandez scored just five minutes at Al Bayt Stadium. Morocco, the first African and Arab team to reach the World Cup quarterfinals, pushed on despite losing important players to injury, only for Les Bleus to secure victory with a late second from replacement Kolo Muani.
France will face Argentina in the World Cup final for the fourth time in seven years on Sunday, attempting to become the first team to retain the title since Brazil 60 years ago.
This will be hyped as a duel between Messi and his Paris Saint-Germain colleague Kylian Mbappe, although the latter’s exceptional brilliance was not on display. Instead, France won thanks to a collective effort against a Moroccan squad that will now face Croatia in the third-place play-off on Saturday.Morocco advanced to the semi-finals by defeating Belgium in the group stage and then defeating Spain and Portugal.
The question was whether they could replicate the feat against the holders, and coach Walid Regragui’s plans were thrown into disarray due to a string of injuries.
After missing the quarter-finals, Nayef Aguerd was called up, only to withdraw at the last minute, with Achraf Dari filling in.
Then, after only 21 minutes, fellow defender and captain Romain Saiss had to depart his teammates, and Morocco had fallen behind.
France was welcomed with thunderous boos from the enormous Moroccan crowd while in control, but they quiet the fans with an early opening, Hernandez scored with an acrobatic volley at the back post after Mbappe’s attempt was deflected.
It was also only Morocco’s second goal surrendered at this World Cup, and the first scored by an opponent.
If the great Azzedine Ounahi forced a wonderful save from Hugo Lloris soon after, the evening might swiftly turn into a nasty reality check for them.
Olivier Giroud raced away when Saiss let a simple forward pass bounce over his head, but his shot struck the post.When Saiss came off, Regragui dropped his back three to match France’s 4-3-3. Morocco completed the half brightly and came close to tying the game when defender Jawad El Yamiq’s overhead kick was pushed into the post by Lloris from a corner.
The Atlas Lions then lost Bayern Munich left-back Noussair Mazraoui at halftime, but France was not immune to fitness concerns.
Adrien Rabiot and Dayot Upamecano, both starts in their quarter-final triumph against England, were out due to sickness.
Les Bleus are used to playing semi-finals on the edge of their seats, with their last three victories at this point coming by a single goal in 1998, 2006, and 2018.
As Mbappe pushed inside, coach Didier Deschamps removed Giroud and replaced him with Marcus Thuram, the son of Lilian.
Kolo Muani then replaced Ousmane Dembele and scored with his first touch with 11 minutes remaining, tapping in after another Mbappe attempt was deflected.
The Moroccan players knew it was game over, as did French President Emmanuel Macron, who stood in the audience to clap.