France beat Morocco 2-0 to set up FIFA World Cup final clash with Lionel Messi’s Argentina in Qatar

Home Sports France beat Morocco 2-0 to set up FIFA World Cup final clash with Lionel Messi’s Argentina in Qatar
France beat Morocco 2-0 to set up FIFA World Cup final clash with Lionel Messi’s Argentina in Qatar

There’s no fairytale for Morocco as defending champions France triumph 2-0 to set up a World Cup men’s final date with Lionel Messi’s Argentina.

A goal after just five minutes from defender Theo Hernández gave France a dream start inside a cauldron of noise at the Al-Bayt Stadium, which was packed to the brim with Moroccan supporters.

Morocco, who lost defender Nayef Aguerd after the warm-up, fellow centre back Romain Saïss after 20 minutes, and left back Noussair Mazraoui at half-time — all of whom came into the game under an injury cloud — enjoyed the majority of possession in the first half.

Second half substitute Randal Kolo Muani put the result beyond doubt in the 79th minute, just 44 seconds after coming on, with a tap in at the back post to silence the crowd.

Olivier Giroud and Jawad El-Yamiq both hit the post in the first half, and Morocco created plenty of chances, but could not find a way through to end their chances of a stunning final appearance.

France were aiming to reach back-to-back finals for the first time, but there was little doubt who the majority of the crowd were hoping would progress to meet Argentina in the final on Monday morning AEDT.

From the moment La Marseillaise was whistled and jeered to the raucous, frenzied rendition of the Moroccan National Anthem, it was clear France would have to contend with both Morocco and the crowd.

However, just five minutes into the game, they were silenced when Hernández brilliantly rifled a high, bouncing ball into the net at the back post to put France ahead.

Theo Hernandez celebrates by standing with his arms outstretched
France made the breakthrough in the opening five minutes.(Getty Images: Dan Mullan)

It was the first time an opponent had scored past Morocco in their last ten matches — the only other goal they conceded was by an own goal against Canada in the group stages.

Morocco had built their epic run to the semifinal, the first team from Africa and first from an Arab nation with a majority Muslim population to do so, off the back of rock solid defensive wall and counterattacking prowess.

After going behind so early, they had to switch tack.

Randal Kolo Muani holds his hands like a bird
Randal Kolo Muani’s second ended the game in favour of France.(Getty Images: Lars Baron)

Morocco coach Walid Regragui appeared to attempt to shield his established centre backs by switching to five at the back, a formation the Atlas Lions had not attempted before in this tournament. 

The pre-game loss of Aguerd did not alter that plan, but the withdrawal of Saïss 20 minutes in did prompt a return to four at the back and instantly they were better for it.

Giroud did hit the post and blazed wide when should have done better, but from the mid-point of the half Morocco started to press through the ever impressive Hakim Ziyech.

It was from a Ziyech cross that El-Yamiq’s incredible effort in the shadows of half-time came back off the post, a goal that would doubtless spurred the Moroccans on.

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Jawad El-Yamiq’s strike would have been stunning.(Getty Images: Ulrik Pedersen/DeFodi Images)

However, as much as they pushed throughout the second half, France, led in midfield by man of the match Antoine Griezmann repelled every attacking raid.

Abderrazak Hamdallah had two golden chances to level the scores only to be denied by some last-ditch defending as the French began to display the vulnerabilities they have displayed throughout the tournament.

But Kolo Muani’s first touch goal, assisted by some excellent work by fellow substitute Marcus Thuram and Kylian Mbappé, put any doubt to bed and made France the first team since Brazil in 2002 to reach back-to-back deciders.

Whether France can become the third team to lift the trophy in two consecutive tournaments after Italy in 1938 and Brazil in 1962, will depend on whether they can handle the talents of Messi and Argentina. 

Look back on how the action unfolded in our live blog.

Key events

Live updates

Thanks for joining us

By Simon Smale

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Congratulations to France for continuing their superb record at the World Cup of late and reaching a second consecutive final.

For Morocco, you hope this is just the beginning and that they can make a real run at next year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Côte d’Ivoire.

First they have to pick themselves back up for a third-place play off against Croatia.

France though, will meet Argentina in the final. Both teams are flawed, which should make for a superb final.

We hope you’ll join us for that.

Antoine Griezmann is man of the match

By Simon Smale

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Probably not a surprise, he was instrumental in midfield both in attack and defence.

The desolation of defeat

By Simon Smale

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Hats off to Sofyan Amrabat

By Simon Smale

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It’s hard to pick out one Moroccan player for special praise, but surely Sofyan Amrabat deserves some.

He was excellent this morning and the numbers back it up.

Full time stats

By Simon Smale

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Still football friends

By Simon Smale

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Kylian Mbappé and Achraf Hakimi, best friends from Paris Saint Germain, were smiling and joking in the tunnel before the game.

They had a couple of encounters in the match.

And afterwards, Mbappé went straight over to his mate to commiserate.

And then they swapped shirts.

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France head to back-to-back finals

By Simon Smale

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When Brazil did it 1998 (Brazil made three consecutive finals between 1994 and 2002) they lost 3-0 to France.

Didier Deschamps is just the third manager to lead a team to back-to-back finals.

Brave Morocco did not disappoint

By Simon Smale

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Incredible stuff really from the Atlas Lions.

They continued to fight throughout the match, even with the disruption caused by losing one defender and playing with two more who were far from fully fit and had to be replaced before the second half got underway.

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They have broken through the dual glass ceilings of being the first African team and first Arab team to make the semifinal of the World Cup.

Sure, they did not have the quality this morning, but their tournament has been superb.

Allez les Blues

By Simon Smale

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Full time: France are in the World Cup final!

By Simon Smale

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Key Event

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France had to hang on at times, but it is they who will join Argentina in the World Cup final in Qatar.

The Moroccans gave everything and had a handful of chances throughout the game.

They dominated possession but did not quite have the quality to break down the French defence.

France were far from convincing, but then were far from completely convincing against England in the quarter final either, but they’re through and they have a shot at making history. 

90+4′ Chance Morocco!

By Simon Smale

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What a run from Abde Ezzalzouli, down the left, to the byline, where he cut it back and Abderrazak Hamdallah simply had to score but the French somehow get bodies back.

How did they not score there? It’s not the first time they’ve been in the box and not pulled the trigger.

90+3′ Chance Morocco!

By Simon Smale

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Double chance there for Morocco, who had a chance to shoot with Azzedine Ounahi but they can’t get the ball away with any power and France survive.

90+2′ Morocco deny Mbappé

By Simon Smale

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Clever from the PSG man, who flicked the ball from his left to right side with a clip off his boot and then races towards the penalty area, where he is denied by a host of Moroccan defenders.

90+1′ Six minutes to be added on

By Simon Smale

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90′ Chance Morocco

By Simon Smale

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Boufal shoots from the left side of the penalty area but straight at Lloris, who saves at the near post.

The flag has gone up though for off side.

Boy, that would have been close had it gone in…VAR would have definitely had a look.

But would have, should have, could have, that’s all Morocco have at the moment unfortunately.

Third quickest?

By Simon Smale

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 Considering it was a matter of seconds (44 of them) I’m amazed there have been two faster impacts off the bench.

85′ Morocco free kick

By Simon Smale

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Morocco need something from this, Ziyech looking to sweep the ball into the penalty area from the right.

There is a lot of pushing and shoving so the referee tells everyone to chill out for a bit.

Big build up but the free kick is a poor one and headed away from danger.

79′ Goal France!

By Simon Smale

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Key Event

He’s been on the field a handful of seconds but Muani may have sent the French to the final!

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It was nicely done by France, winning the turnover in midfield and then sweeping into action, Thuram linked up with Mbappé on the edge of the penalty area, with Mbappé spinning on his heels to create the space superbly.

The ball was then played in to Muani, via a deflection, and right into the bread basket.

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The crowd are silenced now. Game over.

78′ Morocco sub the sub

By Simon Smale

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Selim Amallah, who came on earlier, is now being withdrawn in place of Abde Ezzalzouli.

Meanwhile, France switch out Ousmane Dembélé for Randal Kolo Muani.

76′ Chance Morocco!

By Simon Smale

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Abderrazak Hamdallah did really well to run with the ball into the penalty area, but just could not pull the trigger and as a result was forced wide.

It was a good turnover in midfield as France just got caught in possession — a bit sloppy from the reigning World Champions.

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