France is two wins from defending its World Cup title, while Morocco takes another step into the history book with each victory.
France, which also won the World Cup in 1998, will face Morocco, the surprise team in Qatar, in a semifinal on Wednesday at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar. All the action can be seen on FOX and the FOX Sports App.
France advanced by edging England 2-1 in the quarterfinals in one of the best matches in Qatar. Les Bleus are in the World Cup semifinals for the seventh time.
France is the first defending champion to reach the semis since Brazil in 1998.
England vs. France highlights
England and France faced off in the quarterfinals of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Morocco is the first African nation to reach the semifinals. Morocco is the third country not in Europe or South America to advance to the semifinals (South Korea in 2002 and the United States in 1930 are the others).
There have been several spectacular runs to the World Cup semifinals over the years — Senegal to the quarterfinals in 2002, Costa Rica to the quarterfinals in 2014, South Korea to the semifinals in 2002 — but Morocco has to be up there with the best of them. Zero goals conceded through five matches? And against the likes of Belgium, Spain, Portugal and Croatia? Historical stuff. Morocco is the first African nation ever to reach the World Cup semifinals.
It isn’t pleasing to the eyes, but it is effective. Can it stop France’s relentless attack? Probably not, but I thought that against Portugal, too.
As predicted in this space, England did an outstanding job with the world’s best player, Kylian Mbappé. He was a total non-factor in the 2-1 victory. Mbappé runs into another elite defender in this match, his teammate at PSG, Achraf Hakimi. Expect Morocco’s biggest center back, Romain Saïss (years in the EPL, now with Besiktas in Turkey) to have the assignment of trying to nullify France’s aerial star Olivier Giroud. That is, if Saïss is able to go after he left the Portugal match injured (hamstring). Giroud’s header beat England; he’s also the leading scorer in France’s storied history with 53 goals, eclipsing Thierry Henry (51).
There’s a scenario where France gets one goal, finally breaking through the impenetrable Morocco defense, and then the floodgates open. France’s defense has allowed a measly nine shots on target through five games, so betting France to win with a clean sheet could have some value. After a physically and mentally draining run to the semifinals, Morocco’s defense crumbles against France’s speed on the wings. France just has too much firepower.
At +550, it’s tempting to take a flyer on Morocco pulling off another stunner after they beat Belgium and Portugal outright (and not on penalties, which officially count as a draw) on the way to the semis.
But the smart bet here is a stalemate. Defending champ France is easily the best foe the Atlas Lions have faced yet, and while Morocco is efficient on the counterattack, have been impenetrable defensively, and will effectively be playing a home game because of their traveling support, even getting to the tiebreaker will be difficult.