On Wednesday at the Al Bayt Stadium, Africa’s pioneers Morocco will take on the World Cup 2022 holders, France, in a semifinal match that promises to be a massive test of their mettle.
The Atlas Lions upset Portugal 1-0 to advance to the last four, while Les Bleus sent a stubborn England team home by a 2-1 scoreline to preserve their ambitions of back-to-back championships, and the winner will face either Argentina or Croatia in the final.
France vs Morocco Match Preview
Didier Deschamps called France “fortunate” as the defending champions stopped England from taking football home in a spectacular quarter-final.
France won thanks to Aurelien Tchouameni’s thunderbolt, Olivier Giroud’s header, and Kane’s penalty, but fans were relieved and surprised when the England captain missed a second chance.
France had to endure a late Marcus Rashford free kick that nestled on the top of the goal, and referee Wilton Sampaio was controversial, but a spot in the semifinal was still well earned for a Bleus team aiming for back-to-back crowns.
The 1934 and 1938 Italian champions were the last European team to reach the World Cup final as reigning champions, although Les Bleus won their previous three semifinals in 1998, 2006, and 2018.
France conceded to Kane from the penalty spot, ensuring they would still be without a World Cup 2022 clean sheet before their semifinal against Morocco, who know how to keep opponents at bay, even with defensive changes.
No matter what happens in the Al Bayt Stadium on Wednesday, Morocco will go down in history as the first African team to reach the World Cup semifinals.
Walid Regragui’s stand-ins did well to hold A Selecao at bay, and a Youssef En-Nesyri header was enough for the Atlas Lions to create African history.
Morocco would be deserved finalist, having won all three matches against Belgium, Spain, and Portugal. The Atlas Lions reach the semifinals, keeping opponents scoreless throughout the tournament.
Aguerd’s own goal against Canada is the first time Yassine Bounou has been defeated in Qatar; Regragui’s side otherwise had four clean sheets. Morocco fans should celebrate this statistic, considering the last two teams to maintain five clean sheets in a World Cup were Italy in 2006 and Spain in 2010, both of which won.
Morocco’s profligacy has helped them since just nine of their 45 World Cup shots have been on target, but playing a France team that has never lost to the Atlas Lions in five meetings should not frighten Regragui’s players or their vocal fans.
France vs Morocco Team News
Dayot Upamecano and Adrien Rabiot, two key players for France’s chances in the semifinals, are questionable due to cold-like symptoms and a lack of Tuesday training. If either Ibrahima Konate or Youssouf Fofana is injured or unavailable, they will fill in.
Jules Kounde has supplanted Benjamin Pavard as the starting right back for Les Bleus should they all be healthy. In contrast, Theo Hernandez has done a respectable job in the absence of his injured brother Lucas Hernandez, who tore his ACL in the first game against Australia.
While Kylian Mbappe was kept relatively quiet by England, Les Bleus have now won all 10 World Cup games in which the 23-year-old has started. Olivier Giroud, France’s all-time leading male goalscorer, could become the oldest player to score five goals in a single World Cup should he make the net ripple here.
While Morocco’s 24-year-old attacker Walid Cheddira was never anticipated to compete for a starting role, he was banned for the semifinal after receiving two yellow cards in rapid succession against Portugal.
Aguerd, of West Ham United, missed the quarter-final triumph over Portugal due to an adductor injury he suffered against France in the last 16. However, when Romain Saiss was stretchered out on Saturday with a lingering hamstring problem, Regragui will do all it takes to have Aguerd ready.
Saiss has said that he would give it his all to recover in time for the semifinal; Mazraoui may also be able to return from his hip flexor injury; and Hakim Ziyech is likely to be alright, despite being substituted off over the weekend.
Regragui should rest comfortably knowing that both Yahia Attiyat Allah and Jawad El Yamiq had spirited efforts against Portugal and should be called upon in some capacity tonight.
- France Predicted Starting Squad: Kounde, Varane, Lloris, Upamecano, Tchouameni, Rabiot, T. Hernandez, Dembele, Mbappe, Griezmann, Giroud.
- Morocco Predicted Starting Squad: Hakimi, El Yamiq, Bono, Aguerd, Ounahi, Amrabat, Mazraoui, Amallah, En-Nesyri, Ziyech, Boufal.
Our Prediction: France 2-0 Morocco
Against Portugal, Morocco’s stellar defence held strong despite injury worries, but any more defensive fitness issues will terminate the team’s undefeated record and, indeed, their inspiring World Cup run.
France, who have only required Mbappe to be in the starting lineup to win World Cup matches, will undoubtedly take advantage of Regragui’s injured warriors trying to hurry back for what might be a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and a second consecutive final should be on the menu for Les Bleus.