France vs Morocco World Cup 2022: Date & Time, Match Preview, Team News, Prediction
Defending champions against underdog challenger, a true David vs. Goliath meeting as France, the 2018 title holders take on Morocco, the first African nation to ever reach the World Cup semifinals.
Les Bleus managed to squeak by a tough challenge from England thanks to Harry Kane's late missed penalty, but they'll have a very different challenge on their hands up next.
Morocco sport a patchwork squad, beset with injuries, but the Atlas Lions have banded together to sport exceptional and surprising depth. They are boosted by a quasi-home field advantage, as their fans have flocked to Qatar in droves to create a stunning atmosphere.
Will France move to the precipice of a World Cup double, or will Morocco graduate from history-maker to true title contender?
France vs. Morocco match facts
|Photo: Getty Images|
• Date: Wednesday, December 14
• Kickoff Time: 2:00 pm ET / 7:00 pm GMT / 6:00 am AEDT (Thu, Dec. 15)
• Location: Al Bayt Stadium
• Official: Cesar Ramos (Mexico)
France vs. Morocco team news
The pre-tournament absences of Paul Pogba, N'Golo Kante, Mike Maignan, Christopher Nkunuk, Presnel Kimpembe, and Karim Benzema haven't proven nearly as meaningful as previously believed. Olivier Giroud has replaced Benzema as prime goalscorer with aplomb, while Theo Hernandez has stepped in for his stricken brother Lucas Hernandez at left-back well after the latter's torn ACL in the group stage opener.
Morocco have a number of issues on the injury front. The most concerning is to captain Romain Saiss, who was reportedly carrying an injury into the Portugal game and had to be stretchered off in the second half. Noussair Mazraoui and Naif Aguerd both missed the Portugal match with injuries of their own. However, Morocco's strength has been in their surprising depth. Yahia Attiyat Allah filled the massive shoes of Mazraoui's absence admirably, while Badr Banoune came on for Saiss and held the line.
|Photo: Getty Images|
A missed Harry Kane penalty is a collector's item in football, and France was the "lucky" recipients - according to Didier Deschamps - of such good fortune, as the reigning champions prevented England from bringing football home in a memorable quarter-final.
Aurelien Tchouameni's thunderbolt and Olivier Giroud's header either side of an accurate Kane penalty got the job done for France, although Bleus supporters were relieved and stunned in equal measure when the England captain blazed a second spot kick over the top.
France also had to survive a late Marcus Rashford free-kick which nestled onto the roof of the net, and referee Wilton Sampaio found himself at the center of controversy too, but a place in the semi-final was wholly deserved for a Bleus side whose aspirations of back-to-back titles are still alive.
Les Bleus failed to win any of their first three World Cup semi-finals, but they have since prevailed on their last three occasions in 1998, 2006, and 2018, and it has been 84 years since a European nation managed to reach the World Cup final as reigning champions - the Italian luminaries of 1934 and 1938 were the most recent to do so.
By conceding to Kane from the spot, France ensured that they would still be without a World Cup 2022 clean sheet ahead of their semi-final with Morocco, who by contrast certainly know a thing or two about keeping opposing players at bay, even with defensive alterations being forced upon them.
No matter what transpires at the Al Bayt Stadium on Wednesday, the current Morocco crop has already cemented its place in national and continental folklore as the first-ever African nation to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup.
Being forced to cope without Nayef Aguerd and Noussair Mazraoui while meeting a Portugal side who hit Switzerland for six was not what the doctor ordered for Walid Regragui, but his stand-ins performed admirably to keep A Selecao at bay, and a Youssef En-Nesyri header was all it took for the Atlas Lions to make African history.
Having taken maximum spoils against three international behemoths in Belgium, Spain and Portugal, Morocco would be worthy finalists indeed, and the Atlas Lions enter the semi-final having remarkably prevented opposing players from scoring in the entire tournament so far.
Aguerd's own goal against Canada represents the only time that Yassine Bounou has been beaten in Qatar - Regragui's side otherwise has four clean sheets to their name - and the Morocco faithful ought to enjoy this statistic, as the last two teams to keep five clean sheets in a single World Cup were Italy in 2006 and Spain in 2010, both of whom went on to become champions.
Profligacy has been of major benefit to Morocco too, as only nine of the 45 shots they have faced at the World Cup have been on target, but facing a France side who have never suffered defeat to the Atlas Lions in five matches should not intimidate Regragui's players or their vociferous fanbase.
France vs. Morocco prediction
|Photo: Getty Images|
• France 1-0 Morocco
It is going to be brutally difficult for France to break Morocco down, that much is clear.
Despite many of us doubting Morocco's ability to keep Portugal off the board, the African nation only went and blanked their European foes across 90 minutes despite a host of injuries to key players. Therefore, we're no longer doubt the ability of this quasi-home team to perform.
It will take a Herculean effort to get past Morocco's organization and structure, but this is no green squad France possess. While Portugal and Spain deployed young, inexperienced sides against Morocco who struggled to adapt in a pressure situation, France will know exactly how to attack their opponents.
At the risk of doubting Morocco a third time, it's tough to imagine the Atlas Lions advancing to the World Cup final. An early goal will be key for France here, as the longer they go without scoring, the more panic will set in and the more Morocco will grow in belief.
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