France v Morocco: 2022 World Cup semi-final – live | World Cup 2022

Key events

Morocco was under French colonial rule between 1912 and 1956, which adds another layer to tonight’s game. We do not yet know how this layer will manifest. The relationship is complicated, especially because a couple of Moroccan players – and their coach Walid Regragui – were born in France. I don’t know enough about the subject to comment on it, and it has nothing to do with me being afraid of saying the wrong thing and being canceled before kick-off.

“Would Uruguay in 1950 count as a clash winner?” says Julien Menz. “There were also ‘shock’ finalists… I’m thinking of Sweden in 1958.”

True, but not many, and none in the modern era. Uruguay beating Brazil in 1950 was a shock, but – and I know this sounds contradictory – I wouldn’t say they were the winners of the shock. Morocco were 200/1 before the tournament; for them to reach the final, let alone win it, would be unprecedented.

“I agree with Charles Antaki yet there is a slight whiff of condescending status quo in this mainstream way of thinking,” says Peter Oh. “Morocco play like this not because they lack talent or creativity. They play like this because they have faced some of the most brilliant attacking forces football has ever assembled.

“Football is a game in which 11 players try to throw a spherical object into the net of the other team of 11. May Morocco do this more often than France today.”

How did they do that ?

Why did Morocco do so well at this World Cup – video


Teammates, friends, brothers… But tonight, they will be opponents ⚔️

— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) December 14, 2022

Team news: Saiss, Aguerd, Mazraoui all leave

Big news for Morocco: the captain Romain Sass, Nayef Aguerd and Noussair Mazraoui are all fit to start in defence. Well, they start.

Aguerd and Mazraoui replace Yahia Attiyat Allah and Selim Amallah in the only changes since the victory against Portugal. This likely means a move to a back five.

France also makes two changes, although theirs are applied. Youssouf Fofana and Ibrahima Konate replace Adrien Rabiot and Dayot Upamecano, sick. I say ‘sick’; apparently they caught the flu from all the air conditioning. Upamecano is well enough to be on the bench.

France (4-2-3-1) Loris; Koundé, Varane, Konaté, T Hernandez; Tchouameni, Fofana; Dembele, Griezmann, Mbappe; Giroud.
Replacements: Pavard, Disasi, Guendouzi, Kolo Muani, Veretout, Mandanda, Saliba, Upamecano, Coman, Areola, Camavinga, Thuram.

Morocco (5-2-3) Bono; Hakimi, El Yamiq, Aguerd, Saiss, Mazraoui; Amrabat, Ounahi; Ziyech, El-Nesyri, Boufal.
Replacements: Hamdallah, Zaroury, Sabiri, Mohamedi, Chair, Aboukhlal, Amallah, Ezzalzouli, Dari, Tagnaouti, El Khannouss, Benoun, Allah, Jabrane.

Arbitrator Cesar Arturo Ramos Palazuelos (Mexico)

Youssouf Fofana

“Yes – everything about Morocco being in the semi-finals is good. An African nation,” says Charles Antaki. “An Arab nation. A Muslim nation. Sticking two fingers to the colonial powers along the way; resolution; unity; and, above all, kissing your mother at the end of the game. Or almost everything: for neutrals, the football they play is rather dismal, or at least let’s say unattractive. It’s not as scary as I remember Greece was in 2004, but the massive continued defense, plus the occasional forward scout, isn’t a great watch. But good luck to them, of course.

I know what you mean, although I would say – like with Denmark when they won Euro 92 – some of their counter-attacks were downright exhilarating.

Preview of Jacob Steinberg’s big game


And now, for something completely different: a world Cup semi-final involving an African team. And an Arab team. Even in a footballing world full of hot air and hotter takes, it’s very hard to overhype this game: France versus Morocco, for a place in the World Cup final. Morocco have already made history, but imagine if they make it to the final. Imagine if they win the bugger.

First, a warning: tonight could be a thunderous anti-climax. The semi-final is usually where World Cup fairy tales end. There have been surprise winners of the Africa Cup of Nations, Copa America and European Championship – but never the World Cup, and there haven’t been many unlikely finalists either. The altitude of the semi-finals is usually too high for the underdogs. But then the altitude of the quarter-finals was supposed to be too high for the African teams.

Morocco – or should it be Morocky – defying logic, fatigue, injuries and a very tough draw (they won their group, remember) to get to this stage. They have already knocked out the 2nd, 7th and 9th ranked teams in the world; now they only have to take care of 3rd and 4th to finish – no offense to you, Brian – the greatest achievement in football history.

Like Argentina, they have been inspired by extraordinary support, and that should again be a factor tonight. The subconscious says France will win regardless, but that’s more based on history than evidence from this tournament. When Greece won Euro 2004, many people confused defensive excellence with luck; we should not make the same mistake with Morocco.

Morocco’s record this decade resembles that of a Pep Guardiola team: P41 W31 D8 L2 F86 A24. Yes, part of the opposition was relatively weak, but they are a team used to success. They have two main concerns tonight, and I’m not talking about Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann. The first is the number of their players who hit the ground against Spain and Portugal; the second is how they will react if they fall behind.

That hasn’t happened in eight games since the remarkable Walid Regragui took power in August, and Morocco are built – both tactically and psychologically – to protect rather than seek. But it’s dangerous to assume their limits, especially given their extraordinary team spirit. Obviously from this World Cup, Regragui’s players would crawl to the end of the world for him, let alone walk.

I haven’t really talked about France in this preamble. The main reason is that Morocco is the big story, but it’s also hard to know what to say about a team whose excellence has become so familiar in recent years. Although it wasn’t easy in Qatar – they still haven’t kept a clean sheet, and it’s easy to forget that they’re without at least four of their best XIs – they had the will have winners from day one.

France are two games away from becoming the first team in 60 years to retain the World Cup, which would mean instant all-time greatness. Three players at different stages of their careers – Mbappe, Griezmann and Olivier Giroud – are strong contenders to win the Golden Boot, Ballon d’Or or both.

Although it is the biggest game in Morocco’s history, for France it is just another semi-final – their third since 2016, fourth if you count the Nations League. They won all the others.

Tonight’s winners will face Team Lionel Messi in the final on Sunday. This can go in two ways: an expected victory for France or a resounding victory for Morocco.

To start up 7 p.m. GMT, 10 p.m. in Al Khor, 8 p.m. in Paris and Rabat.

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