Morocco hadn’t given up a goal they didn’t score against themselves in five games, plus 30 minutes of extra time. It took the world champions less than five minutes to end that, and with one more win, they will become the first team to repeat as champions since Brazil did it 60 years ago, with Morocco 2-0 Defeat By France.
The first blow came from the people you’d expect, though it wasn’t relatively as smooth. Kylian Mbappé’s shot couldn’t get through the crowd in the penalty area after Antoine Griezmann passed the ball to him. However, it found its way to left-back Theo Hernandez at the back post. He could get his foot over the high ball and guide it in for an underrated finish against an underrated opponent.
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With that early game state set, it took Morocco 32 minutes to complete more passes than they did in 90 minutes against Portugal (176):
But when France is ahead, they have more space, which can be dangerous. This was the case 12 minutes after France scored when Olivier Giroud hit the post with his left foot. Mbappé went forward for a chance after Morocco gave the ball away, and Giroud’s seventh shot of the match missed the goal by a little bit. It happened again 10 minutes before halftime.
Morocco’s best chance of the half came after they won a corner. Hakim Ziyech sent in a good ball, and Jawad El Yamiq tried to score with an overhead shot, but it hit the post and sent the teams to halftime with a match on their hands. It was one of four set pieces in the last few minutes, all of which came from The Morocco Right SideTM we all know, with Ziyech and Achraf Hakimi working off each other:
Even though the end of the first half was exhilarating, when the whistle blew, there was a sudden dose of reality:
Conversely, Morocco didn’t check their phones during the break, and they were better when they came out of the tunnel. In the first 15 minutes of the second half, they had 72.8% of the ball and moved it into dangerous areas. At times, it looked like they were about to tie the game. But as the game continued, there were few good chances to score. At 75 minutes, they were still losing 12-7 in shots and had only gotten 0.28 xG.
The first African team to make it to a World Cup semi-final got a bad bounce on France’s 13th shot, and 44 seconds after coming on, Randal Kolo Muani scored France’s 14th goal to all but put France through.
It was a French team that got sick, but it was also a French team that showed there was more than one French team. Aside from their players, France can come up with different ways to win games at the World Cup. This may not always be pretty, but it is functional. Remember, they were behind in their first game, but they beat Australia. Things went backward in a 2-1 win over Denmark, so they rested their best team against Tunisia. In the last 16, it was easy against Poland. They weren’t perfect against England, but England never put them where they needed to be. France played Morocco for 85 minutes, and in the end, the team that hadn’t kept a clean sheet in the tournament won against the team that had four clean sheets.
In France’s seventh World Cup semi-final, they won for the fourth time in a row. In the first three, they lost. They have since won two. Argentina has as well. One will have three on Sunday.