France’s forward Kylian Mbappe puts on his jersey during a training session at the Jassim-bin-Hamad Stadium in Doha on December 12, 2022, in the build-up to the Qatar 2022 World Cup semifinal football match between France and Morocco. | Photo Credit: FRANCK FIFE / AFP
After putting Belgium, Portugal and Spain to the sword in Qatar, Morocco is looking to bring another soccer superpower to its knees when it faces France in the World Cup semifinal on Wednesday in a match heavy with political and social overtones.
Morocco, the first African side to reach the last four at a World Cup, will command ear-splitting support at the Al Bayt Stadium, and will need every bit of it to beat the defending champion and continue its fairy tale run.
The match against former colonial power France will take on an added edge. Morocco’s exploits in Qatar have provided an outlet for marginalised migrant communities in France, who have been out on the streets celebrating the teams wins.
The North Africans have ridden the wave of support throughout the tournament, crowds exhorting players to keep going as they emptied the tanks in every game.
After finishing top of a group that also included Croatia, Belgium and Canada, Morocco then knocked off the fancied Spaniards and Portuguese to reach the semis.
But whether it has enough to engineer an even bigger upset remains to be seen. By their own admission, there is a vast chasm in quality between the two sides.
France is expected to attack, Morocco to resist. Morocco’s defence has been virtually watertight, conceding only once – an own goal against Canada – in its five matches so far.
France: Hugo Lloris – Theo Hernandez, Dayot Upamecano, Raphael Varane, Jules Kounde – Adien Rabiot, Aurelien Tchouameni, Antoine Griezmann – Kylian Mbappe, Olivier Giroud, Ousmane Dembele
Morocco: Yassine Bounou – Achraf Hakimi, Jawad El Yamiq, Achraf Dari, Noussair Mazraoui – Azzedine Ounahi, Sofyan Amrabat, Selim Amallah – Hakim Ziyech, Youssef En-Nesyri, Sofiane Boufal
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The biggest omission from the Morocco lineup will be captain Romain Saiss. The defender was subbed off and stretchered off in the team’s 1-0 win over Portugal.