France have reached its second World Cup final in as many tournaments, claiming a 2-0 victory over a spirited Morocco in the second Semi Final.
The stage had been set for a genuine David vs Goliath battle, as Morocco had enjoyed a giant-killing run to this game, including victories against Portugal, Spain and Belgium. France on the other hand had enjoyed a close victory against England in their last game and had broken the World Cup winners curse from the group stages.
At the opening whistle, France immediately employed a high press in an attempt to pressure the Moroccan defenders and midfielders into mistakes. They looked to attack with pace and aggression and catch out Morocco early in the game.
It took France only five minutes to find a break through. Raphael Varane played a brilliant ball down the middle of the pitch to Griezmann, who squared the ball to Kylian Mbappe in the box. His shot was blocked but fell to a waiting Theo Hernandez, who thumped the ball past Bono in goal for the first of the match.
Hernandez became the first opposition player to score against Morocco this tournament, with their only goal conceded prior to this match coming in the form of an own goal.
Not long after Hernandez opened the scoring, Morocco’s Azzedine Ounahi produced a long range effort on Hugo Lloris that curled in towards the right post, forcing a good save from the French goalkeeper.
While Morocco had the majority of the possession in the first half, France were using their significant pace up front to trouble the defenders, a tactic they have employed throughout the entire tournament.
The use of long through balls from the French defenders and midfielders meant the Moroccan defenders were constantly needing to watch over their shoulders, even though they had set up a low block to combat the dangerous attack of the opposition.
36 year old Olivier Giroud continued to turn back the clock, attacking and intercepting with significant pressure that has seen him score on many occasions this tournament.
It took until the 35th minute for another serious attempt on either goal, as Mbappe almost found the back of the net. He fell over as he attempted to shoot past Bono after finding his way down the right side, resulting in a save down low.
A follow up attempt from Giroud while Bono was displaced travelled well wide and another counter-attacking chance went begging.
Jawad El Yamiq produced an incredible effort on the stroke of half-time for Morocco, with a bicycle kick flying in towards the left post. It took an unlucky bounce off the post and out and the follow up was able to be cleared.
Towards the end of the first half Morocco were finally able to produce some attack of their own but were unable to find the net, with the score staying at 1-0 going into half time.
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The second half saw a completely different game and one that went right down to the wire.
It began much like the first, with Morocco holding the majority of the possession. France were finding it difficult to break away this half however and were happier to sit back and absorb Morocco’s attack as they looked for an equaliser.
The intent on the ball from the African nation was visibly increased from the first half as they fought hard to find a goal against the reigning champions, with their fans spurring them on every chance they got.
The pairing of Hakim Ziyech and Achraf Hakimi on the right proved spectacular once again for the Moroccan’s, while Sofyan Amrabat was everywhere on the pitch as they pressured the French defence.
France’s ability to absorb Morocco’s chances finally paid dividends and again it was their star Mbappe that set up the goal on the attack.
Some brilliance up top from the PSG forward saw him make his way into the box in between several Moroccan defenders. A deflection from one such defender fell into the path of Randal Kolo Muani, who smashed it home from close range and almost put the result beyond doubt.
Morocco attempted to pull a late one back in injury-time, with a goal line scramble their closest opportunity to finding the back of the net.
The final whistle brought Morocco’s fairy tale story to a close, as they became the first African team to reach the Semi Finals of the World Cup and put in an admirable performance against Les Bleus.
The French were able to keep their first clean sheet of the tournament so far, playing defensively and not allowing Morocco to have open shots on goal behind their defensive line and relying on their counter attacking presence to get through on goal.
The win means France become the first nation to appear in consecutive World Cup finals since Brazil in 1998 and 2002. Their opponents will be a nation that appeared in the final just before France in Argentina, who will be looking to win and send Lionel Messi home with his first World Cup trophy.
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