Morocco's World Cup dream is over, and France's dream of winning back-to-back titles remains alive. On Wednesday in the semifinal, France managed to score a goal in each half to advance to Sunday's final, beating Cinderella Morocco 2-0. The French will now face Argentina on Sunday in the cu[. Morocco will take on Croatia on Saturday in the third-place game.
Theo Hernandez scored a close effort in the fifth minute for the game-winning goal, and as Morocco valiantly pushed for an equalizer, it was Randal Kolo Muani who tapped in a Kylian Mbappe deflected shot in the 79th minute to put a bow on it.
Here's the winning goal:
The early goal set the tone for France, but Morocco dominated possession and had some decent looks to equalize, seeing a bicycle kick from Jawad El Yamiq hit the post in the first half.
Morocco were the darlings of the tournament and can still finished in third. They became the first African team to make it to the semifinals with their memorable run.
France, meanwhile, overcame numerous pre-tournament injuries, including to Ballon d'Or striker Karim Benzema, to make it all the way back to the big game.
Here are our takeaways:
Morocco went down swinging
What a story. Representing not only their country and the Arab world, but all of Africa as well, Morocco will finish the World Cup at worst in fourth place having secured wins over Belgium, Spain and Portugal. While far from as talented as the big dogs, they still have a superstar in Achraf Hakimi who has been stellar. We saw Hakim Ziyech come out of international retirement to produce big moments, and Sofyan Amrabat may well have earned himself a big January move from Fiorentina with his stellar performances in the middle.
It was, without a doubt, the most shocking Cinderella run at the World Cup that we've seen in a long, long time.
"We gave the maximum. It is the most important," Morocco's France-born manager Walid Regragui said after the match, according to beIN Sports. "We had a few injuries which does not help us. But I have nothing to say because we gave the maximum."
They played their first five games without conceding a goal to the opposition, with the lone one conceded being an own goal. Both of the goals they gave up to France came off of unfortunate deflections, and there was little they could do about it. They gave powers like France, Spain and Portugal serious trouble in this tournament, won their group and won the hearts of many soccer fans all across the world. The sport is in a better place than it was before the tournament because of Morocco, showing once again that no matter the talent, size, or history of your country, you can always dream.
France weren't overly impressive
This wasn't a game that France bossed, despite what you think the scoreline might take tell you. They deserved to win, don't get me wrong, but Morocco dictated the pace of the game with 61% possession and were just a couple key passes away from getting a goal. Of the eight shots Morocco had inside the box, just one went on frame as the victors closed down well when they needed to.
Credit has to go to France defensively though as the backline faced 13 shots, but there weren't many moments where it felt like Morocco would truly score despite some decent build-up play.
In the end, in what was a physical game between two impressive teams, France did more than enough despite not seeing much of the ball. They'll be sore leading up to the final after receiving quite a few overly tough challenges, but they'll refuel, knowing on Sunday they can be the first team to repeat as World Cup champions since Brazil in 1962.
Will the gameplan look similar to when they face Argentina?
Argentina are going to want the ball as much as possible, and we may see them also go with five at the back like we did against the Netherlands. But sitting back to defend, then going on the counter in this one, could it be that France will try to replicate that gameplan? Having Morocco bombarding you in attack is much different than facing Lionel Messi and Julian Alvarez, so it will be telling early on in the final just exactly how France will approach it. But, to their credit, they've looked sharp no matter what the style.
The important thing will be to, like in this game, be a bit smarter when they challenge, especially in the box after giving up two penalties to England in the quarterfinals.