France’s build-up to the World Cup was dominated by talk of the so-called “holders’ curse” and Didier Deschamps’ uncertain future. Now France head into the December 14 semi-final at Al Bayt Stadium against Morocco as overwhelming favourites. The winners will take on Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the final on December 18.
This will be the defending champions’ seventh World Cup semi-final. After losing their first three, each one they have contested since – in 1998, 2006 and 2018 – has ended in French celebrations.
France qualified for the semi-finals of the World Cup for the seventh time in their history by beating England 2-1 on December 10 evening. An early Aurelien Tchouameni long range strike and an Olivier Giroud header sealed the win, after Harry Kane had initially equalised from the spot, before missing his second penalty of the night, shortly after Giroud had scored what turned out to be the winner.
Morocco not only qualified for their first ever World Cup semi-final, but in doing so became the first African side to achieve the feat in history. They were able to do so by beating Portugal 1-0 on the weekend, with striker Youssef En-Nesyri scoring the only goal of the game.
With the best defensive record at this year’s tournament, it is understandable why Morocco have made it this far, but with a combination of injuries to key players as well as France’s quality and experience, expect the defending champions to get the win here.
With Kylian Mbappe and Giroud hogging most of the headlines for France, Antoine Griezmann has made a big impact and Morocco must find a way of keeping him quiet. Overall at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the French star has the highest expected assists total (2.94) and has created a tournament-high 17 chances for team-mates.
While Morocco Morocco may not have most of the ball, the combativeness of players like Azzedine Ounahi and Sofyan Amrabat in midfield could be key, particularly with Griezmann so influential in his new midfield position.
Ounahi probably trump’s Amrabat in the elegance stakes, but the latter’s eight successful tackles is the fourth-highest among midfielders at the World Cup, while his tournament-leading 41 recoveries demonstrates the Fiorentina star’s fine understanding of how to read the game.