World Cup semi-finals: France beats outsiders Morocco and is in the final

France's world champions have abruptly ended Morocco's dreamy World Cup fairy tale and are already reaching for the golden trophy again.

World Cup semi-finals: France beats outsiders Morocco and is in the final

France's world champions have abruptly ended Morocco's dreamy World Cup fairy tale and are already reaching for the golden trophy again. The Équipe Tricolore defeated the first African semi-finalist 2-0 (1-0) on Wednesday and will meet Lionel Messi's Argentina in the big final on Sunday. The Moroccans are still proud of having achieved something historic at the World Cup in Qatar. The North Africans can still reach third place against Croatia on Saturday. At home, millions of people cheered and trembled - at least the extra time would have been deserved in front of 68,294 spectators in the Al-Bait Stadium.

Theo Hernández (5') scored the early lead and paved the way to the final after Lusail, which will also be the final between Messi and France's star Kylian Mbappé - both playing at World Cup hosts Qatar-funded giants Paris Saint-Germain. The successful defense of the World Cup title would be the first since the second Brazilian title in 1962. Eintracht Frankfurt's Randal Kolo Muani (79th), who had just come on as a substitute, decided the long open encounter.

To celebrate the day, which is particularly important for football in Africa, prominent figures gathered in the desert tent arena north of Doha. French President Emmanuel Macron sat next to Fifa President Gianni Infantino in the VIP stand. Ex-national player Mesut Özil also watched. The Moroccans were carried by a good 30,000 loudly cheering fans as the team line-up was read out. The small French block, on the other hand, could hardly be heard.

The loud whistles when the Équipe Tricolore had the ball didn't help at first. After a defensive mistake, the ball flipped in the Moroccan penalty area in the direction of Hernández, who easily shot past goalkeeper Yassine Bounou to take the lead. No player in a World Cup semi-final since 1958. In the stands, Macron clenched his fist in celebration. The game was politically charged - Morocco was a French protectorate until 1956, and over a million Moroccans live in France.

In the Al-Bait Stadium, the surprise team fought back as best they could. The selection of coach Walid Regragui, who impulsively shouted instructions onto the pitch on the touchline, played more attacking than before against Spain and Portugal. Azzedine Ounahi tested France's record goalkeeper Hugo Lloris with a long-range shot (10th). After 20 minutes, however, the second regular in central defence, captain Romain Saïss, had to leave the field. Nayef Aguerd had to sit out injured after the warm-up.

In this phase, the French didn't necessarily play like a world champion, but continued to play with the clear game idea of ​​coach Didier Deschamps. The ex-professional had to do without the previously strong Adrien Rabiot, who was ill on Wednesday. Bayern professional Dayot Upamecano was also on the bench. But the enormous speed of Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé kept flashing, behind them Antoine Griezmann sorted with a great overview. Only the goals were missing. Veteran Olivier Giroud only hit the post (17th), Mbappé and Giroud again missed further great chances (36th).

Because Jawad El Yamiq hit the post with an overhead kick just before the break (45') and Morocco got even stronger overall, the French could be satisfied with the close score at half-time.

Immediately after the restart, Morocco's star player Achraf Hakimi, who also plays for Paris, just barely defended against Mbappé (48th). When the Frenchman remained lying on the grass for a long time after a resolute tackle from Sofyan Amrabat, Macron watched with concern (51'). And Morocco got better and better, France's defense around Upamecano replacements Ibrahima Konaté and Raphaël Varane wobbled alarmingly.

Deschamps reacted after just over an hour and brought the Gladbach Bundesliga professional Marcus Thuram for Giroud. However, the performance of the two-time world champion was no longer sovereign. Unlike in the quarter-finals against Portugal, Morocco also shone in terms of play. In the penalty area, however, Regragui's selection lacked consistency, or a Frenchman intervened at the last moment. Kolo Muani's goal, coming for Dembélé, came out of nowhere - and made Macron applaud happily.