An early goal from Theo Hernandez and a late tap in from substitute Randal Kolo Muani earned defending champions France a hard-fought win over a valiant Morocco side that made African World Cup history at the 2022 tournament.
– World Cup VAR: Why Morocco didn’t get first-half penalty call
– Marcotti: Messi’s magic a cherry on top of Argentina’s team win
France poured cold water on the hopes of another Moroccan miracle inside of five minutes when a scramble in the penalty area saw the ball fall to Hernandez, who met it at the back post and pounded a volley past Yassine Bounou.
But Morocco were never overawed and had opportunity as Azzedine Ounahi forced two good saves out of French captain Hugo Lloris with speculative efforts, and curling set-pieces put the French defence under pressure.
The north Africans were hit hard by injuries to their key centre backs with the gamble of naming Nayef Aguerd in the starting line up failing to come off as he hurt his hamstring in the warm-up and skipper Romain Saiss having to go off after 20 minutes.
Jawad El Yamiq‘s audacious overhead kick nearly drew Morocco level at the end of the first half, but Lloris just palmed the ball away from danger as France held on to their 1-0 lead.
Morocco came out squarely on the front foot after the break and Yahya Attiat-Allah spurned a golden opportunity to equalise as they spent much of the first 10 minutes of the second half on France’s defensive end of the field.
Kylian Mbappe‘s mazy run through tight space in the Morocco penalty area led to France’s second after the PSG star’s half-shot dribbled toward the goal and Kolo Muani pounced to double the lead with the third-fastest goal by a substitute in World Cup history as Les Bleus booked a return to the final.
Morocco coach Walid Regragui led the Atlas Lions on an improbable run in Qatar, overseeing a group-winning campaign, a round-of-16 win over Spain and victory against Portugal that made them the first African side to reach the semifinals before ultimately losing to France.
France beat Argentina 4-3 at the World Cup in Russia in 2018, although La Albiceleste own the head-to-head record historically with six wins, three draws and three losses in 12 meetings.
France became the first defending champions to reach successive finals since Brazil in 2002 and look to become the first team in 60 years and third team ever to retain the World Cup crown in back-to-back tournaments.
Information from Reuters was used in this report.