France will defend its World Cup title in the 2022 final when it meets Argentina following Les Bleus’ 2-0 win over stubborn Morocco in Qatar on Wednesday.
The 2018 champions got an early goal from Theo Hernandez but found themselves under serious duress during much of the second half as the Atlas Lions — Africa’s first World Cup semifinalists ever — kept pressing to continue their impressive run so close to home.
But Randal Kolo Muani came off the bench to score with what was likely his first touch of the night so give France a two-goal cushion that would prove plenty good to seal a place in the final.
France will now try to stop Lionel Messi from ending his World Cup career with a famous title win when the two sides meet Sunday in the final, while Morocco will tangle with Croatia in the third-place game on Saturday.
France shows championship mettle (including its manager)
Didier Deschamps has been around the block with this France side, winning the 2018 World Cup in often sensational fashion.
But their titles have not come without challenges, and Les Bleus have shown that they can when even when it second gear (or even when second-best, as they were against England in the quarterfinals).
France had really teetered on the edge of clear inferiority for a long spell in the second half. Deschamps put on Marcus Thuram for Olivier Giroud, which helped a bit, but his insertion of Randal Kolo Muani for Ousmane Dembele worked a treat and quickly so as the Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder scored in the same minute he entered the fray.
This was a gutsy showing from France, and not just because it was under fire and survived to control its World Cup tale. The stadium was incredibly loud and — by all accounts — heavily slanted to the Moroccan side which had captured the attention of the world and had the backing of much of the Arab culture as well.
And France might’ve fallen apart without influential Adrien Rabiot, who was ill and missed the match to join tournament absentees Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante.
That meant that 22-year-old Aurelien Tchouameni and 23-year-old Youssouf Fofana would have to do big jobs in the center of the park and goodness, did they?! Tchouameni was credited with 10 recoveries and Fofana added five. Big-time stuff.
All of this shows why Deschamps’ now decade-long run in charge of the team has been at least doubly as successful in games and wins as any other boss in French history, and why only Jacques Santini has a better win percentage as Bleus manager.
Stars of the Show
Theo Hernandez goal video: France lead after five minutes
🇫🇷 ¡Francia sorprende a Marruecos!
— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) December 14, 2022
How to watch France vs Morocco live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 2pm ET – Wednesday, December 14
Stadium: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)
Key storylines, players to watch closely
Kylian Mbappe, the leading goalscorer at the World Cup, was kept quiet by England but Griezmann pulled the strings in his new No. 10 role and Giroud popped up with the winning goal as the French keep finding a way to win. When you think about Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Christopher Nkunku all being out of this tournament due to injury, the strength of their squad is sensational. Quietly Aurelien Tchouameni and Adrien Rabiot have been superb in midfield too. The only issue is that France has yet to keep a clean sheet and they do look vulnerable on the counter.
As for Morocco, their goalkeeper Yassine Bounou has been exceptional, so too has captain Romain Saiss (who is nursing a hamstring injury) while Achraf Hakimi, Sofiane Boufal and Hakim Ziyech give them real quality in wide areas. The star of the show has been Sofyan Amrabat in central midfield, while Azzedine Ounahi has been a revelation alongside him. In truth, the entire Moroccan side has excelled and they’ve kept four clean sheets in five games so far at the World Cup. They are well-organized defensively but break with purpose and skill when they get the chance to attack. They are so dangerous, especially with their huge support which has made all of their World Cup games seem like home games.
France lineup, quick facts
Current FIFA world ranking: 4
World Cup titles: 2 (1998, 2018)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group D)
Coach: Didier Deschamps
Key players: Kylian Mbappe, Hugo Lloris, Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud, Raphael Varane
At the 2022 World Cup – Beat England 2-1 in the quarterfinals
Et la feuille de match avec les 11 titulaires Marocains ! 💪 pic.twitter.com/qL5qPccv8e
— Equipe de France ⭐⭐ (@equipedefrance) December 14, 2022
Morocco lineup, quick facts
Current FIFA world ranking: 22
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
Best-ever World Cup finish: This tournament
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CAF
Coach: Walid Regragui
Key players: Achraf Hakimi, Yassine Bounou, Youssef En-Nesyri, Romain Saiss, Hakim Ziyech
At the 2022 World Cup – Beat Portugal 1-0 in the quarterfinals