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World Cup 2022: France reach final, but not without fight for Morocco

Khor, Qatar - A flying goal by Theo Hernández would have snapped Morocco out of months of fantasy. It came too early, in just 4 minutes and 38 seconds, on a Wednesday night full of history and enthusiasm. It could have silenced the screeching whistles and rousing roars of Morocco's World Cup semi-final at the Al Bayt stadium, as it could have proved France had the upper hand, order had been restored and the final between France and Argentina was doomed of.

But in the ensuing 85 minutes, Morocco proved they belonged instead.

It failed to fully topple the defending champions and extend its magical run. It was knocked out of the 2022 Championship 2-0 after Hernandez's goal in the 5th minute and the final French tiebreaker. But it does it proudly, surrounded by cacophony of noise, with French football fever - France! - Persist for a lifetime.Argentina's second semi-final after Tuesday's exhilarating victory brought so much reckoning. It's upstarts versus blue bloods. It was colonized by colonizers. This is Africa versus Europe. It was a struggle of friends against friends, despite a tinge of unease that France has long brought about the marginalization of the people of North Africa.

But it's actually 11 football players against 11 football players. It's one multicultural team against another. That's pretty remarkable considering their respective pedigrees, stature, resources, earnings and pre-match odds.

France scored early and had more chances in the first half, but then went out. Attack after attack, it had to fend off Moroccan attacks, each of them called forward by tens of thousands of fans in red.

The prospective home team is awarded a penalty. Its menacing attack is thwarted by a lack of precision in the final third. The first half ended in a whirlwind as Jawad El Yamiq nearly scored the tournament's goal with a barbed shot. French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris barely saved the ball against the post.

Morocco's defensive five got off to a shaky start, with captain Romanses struggling in midfield with injury. Substituted after 20 minutes, Morocco went into a standard 4-3-3 and began to dominate France's two-man midfield.

After the intermission, the two sides continued to confront each other. France fell behind and couldn't settle for what felt like an eternity. Ibrahima Konaté has excelled in the center forward position of the French defence.

but the defending champion

They found their footing halfway through the half. Marcus Thuram came on and helped change the game by giving France a triple threat on the counter-attack. And Kylian Mbappé was sidelined on 75 minutes with some crunchy Moroccan challenges, who kept the Moroccan out. With a diabolical dribble, he made room for a shot that deflected straight into Randall Kolomouani's goal. That's it.

The result pitted France against Argentina in the final. It will pit the best teams from the past two World Cups against the greatest players of all time. Lionel Messi will be in search of his first title. France will be looking for their second consecutive victory and will become the first men's team to repeat the title since Brazil in 1962.

Yet 90 minutes on Wednesday were all about Morocco. The Atlas Lion has inspired millions - Africans, Arabs, Muslims and immigrants around the world. In Al Khor, they do more.

They had already been the first African team to reach a World Cup semifinal and the first Arab team to reach a quarterfinal. They oh-so-nearly set the bar even higher.

They didn’t, but even as the closing minutes became closing seconds and the dream elapsed, the drums kept banging, and the chants kept ringing.

Sunday will be the World Cup final of destiny — and perhaps of Messi. But this entire month has been the World Cup of Morocco.

Just two teams remain at the World Cup in Qatar after defending champions France ended Morocco’s dream run at the tournament to set up a sensational final against Argentina and Lionel Messi on Sunday.

World champions France used all of their experience to survive some nervy moments against Morocco, who produced a defiant performance despite going a goal behind within the opening five minutes. Walid Regragui’s side had become the first team from Africa to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup but it was France who progressed to the final thanks to goals from Theo Hernandez and substitute Randal Kolo Muani.
France and star forward Kylian Mbappe now face Argentina as they bid to become the first team in 60 years to win back-to-back World Cups. Argentina defeated Croatia on Tuesday following an inspired performance from Messi, who has confirmed Sunday’s final will be his last World Cup match as he attempts to win football’s greatest prize for the first time in his career.

Follow all the latest news and reaction from Qatar plus build-up to Sunday’s World Cup final between France and Argentina in our live blog below:

Sarina Wiegman embraced English culture from day one to succeed with England
Sarina Wiegman feels embracing the English culture was a crucial component behind her leading the Lionesses to a record-breaking year.

England enjoyed a remarkable 2022 under their Dutch coach, with European Championship success secured on home soil during a 12-month period where they remained unbeaten.

Bookending the major tournament triumph in the summer was Arnold Clark Cup glory in February and a memorable victory against World Cup holders the United States at Wembley in September.

The Hague-born Wiegman had only managed clubs in the Netherlands and supervised her own national team before she accepted the job from the Football Association.

AL KHOR, Qatar — France is heading back to the World Cup Final and aiming to do something that hasn't been done in 60 years - repeat as World Cup champions. France is making a return trip after defeating Morocco 2-0 in the semifinal.

It didn't take long for France to silence the overwhelmingly pro-Morocco crowd at Al Bayt Stadium.

In the 5th minute, the Moroccan defense let a ball scoot by to French forward Antoine Griezmann who passed it to Kylian Mbappé. Defenders swarmed him but he still managed a shot, deflecting it to Theo Hernández. He elevated and sent the ball with a soaring left-footed scissor kick beyond keeper Yassine "Bono" Bounou to score 1-0.

It was the first time Morocco had trailed in the tournament.

Morocco's defense and goalkeeping have been stellar this World Cup. Morocco hadn't allowed a single goal by an opponent the entire tournament until the semifinal. They shut out European soccer powerhouses: Croatia, Belgium, Spain and Portugal. Canada is the only team credited with a score - but it was an own goal, put in the net by a Moroccan player.

The first half goal wasn't the only down moment for the Atlas Lions. In the 21st minute, Morocco made an early substitution replacing their captain Romain Saiss who was injured (another defender, Nayef Aguerd, was pulled from the starting list just before kickoff also due to an injury).