(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) – Theo Hernandez fired France into an early lead before substitute Randal Kolo Muani sealed a 2-0 victory against an excellent Morocco at Al Bayt Stadium, to send Les Blues into the World Cup final.
France remained on course to become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to retain the world title and will now meet Lionel Messi and Argentina in the showpiece.
Morocco have been the surprise package of Qatar 2022 and Walid Regragui’s side responded superbly after Hernandez’s fifth-minute opener, pinning back the world champions for significant periods in a display of considerable courage and skill.
But Eintracht Frankfurt striker Kolo Muani proved to be France’s unlikely hero, scoring with his first touch after Kylian Mbappe had a shot blocked 11 minutes from time.
In the process of becoming the first African side in history to reach the World Cup semifinals, Morocco had only conceded once in the tournament heading into this match, and even that was an own goal.
Romain Saiss, Nayef Aguard and Noussair Mazraoui were all passed fit to start but West Ham’s Aguard withdrew after the warmup and captain Saiss was substituted midway through the first half when clearly struggling.
That uncertainty seemed to contribute to a chaotic France opener, where Antoine Griezmann seized upon a slip from Jawad El Yamiq and cut the ball back to Mbappe. The Paris Saint-Germain star had his first effort blocked and a second looped up off Oliver Giroud, with Hernandez alive to the possibilities as he found an acrobatic finish.
Giroud struck the upright as Saiss’ thigh gave out, but Hugo Lloris had already produced a save at full stretch from Azzedine Ounahi by that point and El Yamiq almost atoned for his error with an overhead kick that thumped the base of the post.
Mbappe tried to get France back on the front foot after the restart but it was another winger, Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech, who was the outstanding attacker of the half, orchestrating several intricate attacks down the right flank.
Ibrahima Konate, only playing after Dayot Upemacano was ruled out through illness, made last-ditch clearances and France only had breathing space when Mbappe’s quick feet made room for a half-blocked shot that fell kindly for Kolo Muani, who had only been on the field for 44 seconds.
The memories of Morocco’s incredible run will last much longer.