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France tops Morocco to book return to World Cup final


AL KHOR, Qatar — Morocco’s Cinderella run at the World Cup came to an end on Wednesday night, but not before pushing the reigning champions to the brink, sending their sizable and vocal fan support home with a performance to be proud of.

Theo Hernandez gave France a dream start and an early goal, and the French defense made it stand up, fending off wave after wave of Moroccan attacks on the way to a 2-0 victory in their World Cup semifinal at Al Bayt Stadium.

The victory propels Les Bleus into a World Cup final showdown with Lionel Messi and Argentina on Sunday at Lusail Stadium in a rematch of the 2018 World Cup Round of 16 meeting won by the French, 4-3.

Hernandez opened the scoring in the fifth minute when he volleyed home from close range to put the underdogs under early pressure.

Morocco kept up the pressure throughout the rest of the first half and into the second half, but never could break through. The Africans came closest to scoring just before halftime, when an ambitious bicycle kick by defender Jawad El-Jamiq hit the post.
Morocco battled through several injuries to its defense to keep the score close, and kept the French under pressure well into the second half. The reigning champions finally found an insurance goal in the 79th minute when Kylian Mbappe dribbled through the Morocco defense and took a shot that deflected right into the path of a wide-open Randal Kolo-Muani, who scored just seconds after entering the match.

France will now have a chance to become just the third team to ever win back-to-back World Cup titles, joining Italy (1934-1938) and Brazil (1958-1962).

Standing in the French team’s way is an Argentina side that has looked like a team of destiny, led by an inspired Lionel Messi and Albiceleste team that routed Croatia, 3-0, in Tuesday’s World Cup semifinal.

Both France and Argentina will be searching for their third World Cup title, with Argentina looking for its first title since 1986.


  1. having watched these playoff games i don’t see how what we are being taught to do responds to or beats what i have watched. i think we have plenty of raw talent and will be bouyed by miles and richards returning, reyna getting mainstreamed again, and whoever else new and young gets involved next cycle. but that’s personnel. what i watched these 2 semis 3/4 of these teams just flew down the field full speed at each other, using speed or taking people on. mbappe would flip a gear (and grab the defender’s shoulder, to be fair) and try and just run past his marker. messi and alvarez would just dribble people for argentina. what about our tactics seems designed to compete with that?

    what has happened is a bait and switch. i think we talked about preparing for an era kind of like this. that american players needed to be able to swashbuckle. we then haven’t actually done it, and what i see this era is going to reward speed and dribbling. instead of players who can emulate messi we have been given tactics. specifically, tentative slow build tactics. poorly designed for this era, IMO. if we get the ball wide and a defender is there, there is no mbappe speedy daring. there is no messi spin move and pass. even if we’re in their final 3rd. we turn around and pass back. you’re thus drilling into kids precisely the tentative response that is contrary to what 3/4 of the best teams looked to be doing. so for all the talk about finesse and skill we’ve just adopted a new organizational scheme, that holds the players back, and IMO a more regressive one than even before. cause the 2002 and 2010 teams looked more like these semifinalists than we do now. but we wanted to follow fashion advice.

    to be fair, GB deployed a hodge podge of tactics in qatar, not just his tentative scheme. but that itself hints at a mismatch with the group draw and the times. rather than trying to push our players in the mbappe or messi directions, we set out to neuter them. then discovered when we got a schedule that ooops these ideas won’t work. and improvised varying single game tactics. but anyhow, we spent the cycle working on tactics instead of emphasizing speed and skill, and then couldn’t use the tactics much. we talked about dribbling and daring, then dropped it, then arrived at the dribbling and daring world cup. benched our best dribbler, reyna, omitted green, konrad, hoppe, or other players with mindsets tuned to the times.

    i don’t want us to be a fashion follower again. our response to what we are seeing must push us forward in a way suited to our personnel. but for the next several years i don’t see slow sideways passing and high pressing working. i think that was a bill of goods, and worse, a bait and switch. i think the people who criticized the 2010 era team as needing more skill were right. but what i see right now takes even less skill than then. in an era that seems to be screaming speed and individual dribbling.

    • Mr. V.

      Compared to years past, national teams , even the humble ones, have more decently talented players. Which is why I was never too concerned about a Golden Generation. Yes we have a more talented players now and more of them. But so do many other formerly humble teams that we might face in a World Cup.

      So if all the rosters have experienced a significant increase in talent level then the difference should be the manager, yes?

      The good managers are not idealogues, like you and Gregg. Idealogues have a “vision”. Good managers national team managers are mechanics. They examine what they have, figure out how to make it work and proceed accordingly.

      “these teams just flew down the field full speed at each other, using speed or taking people on. mbappe would flip a gear (and grab the defender’s shoulder, to be fair) and try and just run past his marker. messi and alvarez would just dribble people for argentina. what about our tactics seems designed to compete with that?”

      If you have speed and athleticism or if you have a Messi and Alvarez, you let them do what they do best and build around that.

      These are national team games not club games.

      Tactics clearly work better when you have just a little time to practice them with the 10 other guys.

      Compare how much game time and practice time a player gets for his club. Do the same for his time with his national team. It won’t be close.

      France needed 7 games to win the 2018 World Cup. In a World Cup if you’re playing boring, ugly football for 7 games but you still advance, no one complains. But if a club team plays its first 7 games boring and ugly, everyone whines even if you win.

      It’s the difference between a brief fling and getting married. You don’t sweat the irritating little details about someone if you’re not going to be around that long. You just focus on getting what you both want.

      In 2018 France just basically dumbed the game down by playing a very compact, defensive 4-4-2 , conceded possession ( that’s like telling your drummer ok we’ll play a set of your original compositions, unless your drummer is Neal Peart or Phil Collins) and hit the opposition on the counter. Kante, held it all together, Pogba could launch the attacks, and they had Giroud, Mbappe and Griezmann to run the counters.

      Very simple and basic and very effective.

      What you’re seeing is good managers taking advantage of what they have the most of and trying to use that to win.

      It’s a reflection of the higher level of the available talent.

  2. France did the Morocco against Morocco. They said here have the ball and let’s see if you can score from possession based play.

    If Mbappé leads the French team to another WC trophy then he will be entering Pele level status.

    At 23 he will have at least two more WC’s with France to win more WC trophies and also become the tournaments top goal scorer above Klose.

    Can’t wait to see the final. Messi the idol V Mbappe the magnifique.


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