France reach World Cup final again after beating Morocco

France are through to the World Cup final after beating Morocco 2-0 on Wednesday night, keeping the reigning champions on track to be the first team in 60 years to win back-to-back titles.

France struck just five minutes into the game, when a shot from Kylian Mbappé bounced off a Moroccan defender and landed kindly for French left back Theo Hernandez to fire home with a flying kick.

Following a lively encounter with chances at both ends, substitute Randal Kolo Muani doubled the French lead within seconds of coming on, latching on to Mbappé’s deflected shot to tap the ball home with just over 10 minutes left on the clock.

France will now face Argentina in Sunday’s final at Lusail stadium, pitting Mbappé against his Paris Saint-Germain teammate Lionel Messi.

French manager Didier Deschamps will be chasing his third World Cup title, having won in 1998 as team captain and in 2018 as head coach. Victory on Sunday would also make France the first team to win back-to-back World Cups since Brazil in 1962.

Wednesday’s game was played in front of a raucous crowd of 68,000, heavily dominated by the red shirts of Morocco. Every touch of the ball by a French player was greeted with a barrage of whistles and jeers.

Morocco were forced to play most of the game without two of their first-choice centre backs — one pulled out during the prematch warm-up, while the other was forced off with an injury after 20 minutes.

Both teams struck the woodwork in a lively first half. Morocco had more of the ball but France registered more efforts on goal.

The second half started brightly, with Morocco looking more threatening as the game wore on. But France defended resolutely and looked a danger on the counter-attack.

Despite failing to keep a clean sheet in their previous World Cup games, France have looked confident throughout the tournament. They lost their final group match to Tunisia but had already secured the top spot for qualification to the knockout stages.

They saw off Poland in the second round with ease, before ousting England in a closely contested quarter-final.

Morocco have been the surprise package of the tournament, beating Belgium and Canada in the group stages, and drawing against Croatia, the losing semi-finalists from Tuesday night.

They then knocked out former champions Spain in a penalty shootout and beat Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal 1-0 in the quarter-final.

The success of the Atlas Lions, the first African team to reach a World Cup semi-final, has generated buzz across the Arab world and among the Moroccan diaspora in Europe.

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