We are just hours away from a huge showdown between France and Morocco as the sides face off for a place in the World Cup final against Argentina in Qatar. France are looking to defend their trophy while underdogs Morocco are looking to pull off another huge upset.
After Argentina swept aside Croatia with a comfortable 3-0 victory on Tuesday, it is now time to see who their opponents will be. France, who have the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Hugo Lloris and Olivier Giroud, are the huge favourites, but Morocco will not make it easy for them.
They are the first African side to reach the last four and the fact they have beaten Spain and Portugal already means they cannot be taken lightly.
France were one of the pre-tournament favourites and they have not disappointed. Despite conceding an early goal in their opener against Australia, they ended up beating the Socceroos 4-1. Deschamps men then booked their place in the last 16 with a game to spare after a 2-1 victory over Denmark.
That allowed them to rotate their squad for the last match against Tunisia and they lost that one 1-0.
In the last 16, they came up against Poland who made it very tough for France in the first period.
They missed chances though and Giroud netted just before the interval. Mbappe then struck twice in the second half before Lewandowski’s late consolation met France won 3-1. In the quarters, they faced England and, despite taking the lead through Tchouameni, England were at least as good as them.
Kane levelled through a second half penalty, but Giroud put France back ahead with 12 minutes to go. Kane then skied his second penalty which allowed the French to progress.
As for Morocco, they are surprise package of the tournament. No one expected to them to reach this far, but they have a solid defence, a sensational goalkeeper in Sevilla’s Yassine Bono and a clear counterattacking strategy to thank for their success.
After beginning with a dull 0-0 draw with Croatia, they shocked Belgium with a 0-2 win before defeating Canada 1-2 in their last game to top the group.
In the last 16, they took on a Spain side who dominated possession from start to finish, but struggled to create many goalscoring opportunities.
After a goalless 120 minutes, Bono was the hero in the shootout as he made two saves in a 3-0 shootout win.
That took them into the last eight to face Portugal. They employed a similar strategy and Youssef En-Nesyri’s 42nd minute goal was the difference. Morocco won 1-0, ended Cristiano Ronaldo’s dream of winning the World Cup and set up the date with France.
Looking at this game on paper, France should be far too good for their opponents providing they know how to breach a very well organised Moroccan defence. However, one area France will need to improve is their defending.
They have conceded in every match so far in this tournament while the Moroccans have conceded just once and that was an own goal. Trying to outscore Morocco looks a dangerous game to play and the underdogs have absolutely nothing to lose.
France could be without Dayot Upamecano and Adrien Rabiot for this game after they missed training on Tuesday. If that were the case, Ibrahima Konate and Youssouf Fofana could replace them. Otherwise, the team is expected to be the same as the one which beat England.
Morocco have been hit by injuries in recent matches and their injury woes continued when Romain Saiss and Hakim Ziyech were forced off against Portugal. The latter is expected to play while the former is desperate to play as well, but Mazraoui could well return from his hip problem.
Nayef Aguerd is also injured, but he could battle through the pain and play as well. The number of games is certainly taking its toll on Walid Regragui’s men.
France possible line-up: Lloris; Kounde, Varane, Upamecano, T. Hernandez; Tchouameni, Rabiot; Dembele, Griezmann, Mbappe; Giroud.
Morocco possible line-up: Bono; Hakimi, El Yamiq, Aguerd, Mazraoui; Ounahi, Amrabat, Amallah; Ziyech, En-Nesyri, Boufal
Referee: Cesar Ramos (Mexico)