Credit: FIFA

On Wednesday 14 December 2022, the second of two days of semi-final matches at this year’s FIFA World Cup took place in Qatar.

The second semi-final took place at the Al Bayt Stadium between France (the holders and who defeated England in their quarter-final) and Morocco (the First African side to qualify for a World Cup semi-final, who defeated Portugal in their quarter-final).

France were kitted out on their first-choice dark-blue jerseys, white shorts and red socks, with Morocco in red jerseys, green shorts and white socks. Inside the stadium, the number of Morocco supporters vastly outnumbered those for France. On the pitch, France had managed to progress this far despite a number of top players not being able to play due to injury, including Benzema, Pogba and Kante; and they had conceded goals in all their tournament games to date. Morocco, on the other hand, had surprised many people by their organisation on the field, resulting in a very mean defence which conceded few goals.

Within 5 minutes, France took the lead. Griezmann played down the right, got ahead of the defence and crossed the ball for Mbappe in the centre of the box who had two chances, both blocked by a brave Moroccan defence, before the ball fell to Hernández whose high kick found the back of the net despite the best efforts of Bono in goal. 1-0 to France. On 9 minutes, Oubani broke through for Morocco and would have equalised but for a wonderful outstretched one-handed save by Lloris in the French goal. 6 minutes later, Ziyech broke through on the right, cut inwards and shot, but the ball was comfortably saved by Lloris. On the counter attach, Giroud attacked the Moroccan defence and launched a pole-driver of a shot with his left foot which cannoned off the left post. On 20 minutes, Morocco replaced Saïss by Amallah, changing back to 4-3-3 formation they had deployed with great success for their previous games in the tournament. Whenever Morocco won the ball and started moving it forward, the noise level reaching a crescendo each time. On 26 minutes, Boufal received the first yellow card of the game for a dangerous tackle in France’s box. Ounani was winning most 50-50 balls in midfield, helping Morocco to gain more possession and trying to turn it into territory and, ultimately, goals; however, Mbappe remeained a threat every time he was even near the ball. Hernandez got a shot in on the Moroccan goal but it hit Giroud in the midriff instead of testing Bono. On 35 minutes, France almost doubled their lead with another move down the left, with both Mbappe and Giroud presented with chances. El Yamiq was playing well in defence, ensuring Griezmann’s was stifled by conceding a corner from which Varane’s shot was just wide of the upright. On 43 minutes, Morocco won a corner from which they almost scored, with El Yamiq’s spectacular overhead kick resulting in a fingertip save from Lloris who did enough to turn it onto the post. 3 minutes of added time. Morocco piled on the pressure and France pulled everyone back; Morocco had a couple of free kicks in dangerous positions with one of them ending with a flying two-handed punch from Lloris. HT 1-0 to France. Morocco made one substitution at half-time, with Attiat-Allah coming on for Mazraoui in defence. On 52 minutes, Morocco almost scored with crosses into the box from both the left and right, but both were stopped by a strong French defence. 4 minutes later, Morocco had another chance, but France’s defence was up to the task. Morocco were piling on the pressure, making life very uncomfortable for France. On 65 minutes, France withdrew Giroud for Thuram, with Morocco making a double substitution a minute later. On 70 minutes, France had a rare excursion upfield but Mbappe could not get a shot on target; a couple of minutes later, Fofana had a chance but shot wide. Morocco quickly moved the ball up the other end of the pitch; Hamdallah made a mazy run into the box but could not line up a shot. On 79 minutes, Mbappe made a similar run into the Moroccan box, slotting the ball into the path of Kolo Muani (who had only come onto the pitch less than a minute) who shot past Bono. 2-0 to France. 6 minutes added time. On 93 minutes, Morocco did everything but score with a great run from the left flank into the box, with a great cut-back only for some last-gasp French defending to deny the North African team what would have been a consolation goal. FT 2-0 to France.

Morocco will play in the 3rd place play-off on Saturday against Croatia, with France through to the final on Sunday, against Argentina.