France v Morocco: World Cup 2022 semi-final – live | World Cup 2022

Peep peep! France lead through Theo Hernandez’s early goal, but Morocco played an equal part in a thrilling and surprisingly open first half. Both teams have hit the post, and Hugo Lloris has probably been the busier keeper. See you in 10 minutes for the second half.

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Morocco are behind for the first time in the tournament!

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Great news for Morocco: the captain Romain Saiss, Nayef Aguerd and Noussair Mazraoui are all fit to start in defence. Well, they start.


Aguerd and Mazraoui replace Yahia Attiyat Allah and Selim Amallah in the only changes from the win over Portugal. That probably means a switch to a back five.


France also make two changes, though theirs are enforced. Youssouf Fofana and Ibrahima Konate replace Adrien Rabiot and Dayot Upamecano, who are unwell. I say ‘unwell’; apparently they’ve caught the flu because of all the air conditioning. Upamecano is well enough to be on the bench.


France (4-2-3-1ish) Lloris; Kounde, Varane, Konate, T Hernandez; Tchouameni, Fofana; Dembele, Griezmann, Mbappe; Giroud.
Substitutes: Pavard, Disasi, Guendouzi, Kolo Muani, Veretout, Mandanda, Saliba, Upamecano, Coman, Areola, Camavinga, Thuram.


Morocco (5-2-3) Bono; Hakimi, El Yamiq, Aguerd, Saiss, Mazraoui; Amrabat, Ounahi; Ziyech, En-Nesyri, Boufal.
Substitutes: Hamdallah, Zaroury, Sabiri, El Kajoui, Chair, Aboukhlal, Amallah, Ezzalzouli, Dari, Tagnaouti, El Khannouss, Benoun, Attiat-Allah, Jabrane.


Referee Cesar Arturo Ramos Palazuelos (Mexico)

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And now for something completely different: a World Cup semi-final involving an African team. And an Arab team. Even in a football world full of hot air and hotter takes, it’s very hard to overhype this game: France v Morocco, for a place in the World Cup final. Morocco have already made history, but imagine if they get to the final. Imagine if they win the bugger.


First, a warning: tonight could be a thundering anti-climax. The semi-final is usually where World Cup fairytales end. There have been shock winners of the Africa Cup of Nations, Copa America and European Championship – but never the World Cup, and there haven’t been many unlikely finalists either. The altitude of the semi-finals is usually too great for underdogs. But then the altitude of the quarter-finals was supposed to be too great for African teams.


Morocco – or should that be Morocky – have defied logic, fatigue, injuries and a very harsh draw (they won their group, remember) to reach this stage. They’ve already eliminated the teams ranked 2nd, 7th and 9th in the world; now they just have to take care of 3rd and 4th to complete – no offence, Brian – the greatest achievement in football history.


Like Argentina, they have been inspired by extraordinary support, and that should be a factor again tonight. The subconscious says France will win regardless, but that’s based more on history than the evidence of this tournament. When Greece won Euro 2004, many people confused defensive excellence with luck; we shouldn’t make the same mistake with Morocco.


Morocco’s record this decade looks like that of a Pep Guardiola team: P41 W31 D8 L2 F86 A24. Yes, some of the opposition was relatively weak, but they are a team that is used to success. They have two main concerns tonight, and I’m not talking about Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann. The first is how many of their players have run themselves into the ground against Spain and Portugal; the second is how they will react if they go behind.


That hasn’t happened in the eight games since the remarkable Walid Regragui took over in August, and Morocco are built – both tactically and psychologically – to protect rather than search. But it’s dangerous to make assumptions about their limitations, especially given their extraordinary team spirit. On the evidence of this World Cup, Regragui’s players would crawl to the ends of the earth for him, never mind walk.


I haven’t really spoken about France in this preamble. The main reason is that Morocco are the big story, but it’s also hard to know what to say about a team whose excellence has become so familiar in the last few years. While it hasn’t been plain sailing in Qatar – they still haven’t kept a clean sheet, and it’s easy to forget that they are without at least four of their best XI – they have had the aura of winners from day one.


France are two games away from becoming the first team in 60 years to retain the World Cup, which would mean instant all-time greatness. Three players at different stages of their careers – Mbappe, Griezmann and Olivier Giroud – are strong contenders to win the Golden Boot, the Golden Ball or both.


While this is the biggest game in Morocco’s history, for France it’s just another semi-final – their third since 2016, fourth if you count the Nations League. They won all the others.


Tonight’s winners will play Lionel Messi Team in the final on Sunday. There are two ways this can go: an expected victory for France, or an earthshattering win for Morocco.


Kick off 7pm GMT, 10pm in Al Khor, 8pm in Paris and Rabat.

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Key events

56 min After more intricate build-up play on the right, Ounahi’s cross almost falls for Hakimi in front of goal. It would have been done but for good anticipation by Griezmann on the six-yard line.

Hernandez is being overwhelmed on that side of the field.

55 minutes Morocco are looking really dangerous, particularly down their right.

54 min: Multiple chances for Morocco! Boufal’s dangerous cross from the right just evades En-Nesyri at the near post and comes to Attiatt-Allah, who can’t control his shot as the ball kicks up a little awkwardly. Moments later Attiat-Allah finds a bit of space on the left side of the area and tries to pick out En-Nesyri in front of an open goal. Konate, again, does extremely well to get in front and clear.

It’s all Morocco in this second-half so far. Photograph: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images

52 min Mbappe is back on his feet after receiving treatment. I think it was a fair challenge from Amrabat; it was certainly a strong one.

51 min Ziyech plays a beautiful one-two-three with Hakimi, whose cross is well blocked at the near post by Konate. France break through Mbappe, who is sent flying by an emphatic man-and-ball challenge from Amrabat just outside the area. The referee waves play on.

Kylian Mbappe goes down under a challenge from Sofyan Amrabat.
Kylian Mbappe goes down under a challenge from Sofyan Amrabat. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

50 minutes Ziyech’s cross is cleared at the near post by Konate. He’s quietly had a good game.

48 min Griezmann, arguably the player of the tournament, uses Giroud by not using him and slides a lovely ball towards Mbappe on the edge of the area. Hakimi tracks him well and Bono jumps from his line to claim.

47 minutes Mbappe roasts Hakimi and Amrabat on the left, gets to the byline but then overhits his cross.

47 minutes “I really can’t understand why more isn’t being made of that decision to penalize Boufal when Hernandez took him out,” says Sam Campbell. “We are constantly told getting the ball is irrelevant these days and Hernandez goes through him on the follow through. In my opinion that’s a far worse decision than any that England didn’t get at the weekend.”

I don’t think getting the ball is irrelevant; it depends on the context. In this case I think the fact he won the ball and pushed it away from Boufal made it just about a fair tackle. That said, Rio Ferdinand thought it should have been a penalty for Morocco.

Sofiane Boufal got booked for this inside the France box ?#BBCWorldCup #FifaWorldCup

— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) December 14, 2022


46 min peep peep!

Morocco substitution Yet another injury for Morocco. Yahya Attiat-Allah has replaced Noussair Mazraoui.

“The football’s kind of interesting,” writes Douglas. “Absolutely no one, whatsoever, is interested in any way, whatsoever, with emails you’ve received criticizing your content.”

“I think Morocco has looked very lively since they conceded,” says Alexandra Ashton. “Wouldn’t be too surprised if they nick one in the second half, and after that, who knows… An African side in the World Cup final would be something to behold, and I will never count this Morocco side out. They’re stellar.”

“Someone on the planet,” says David Neilson, “should mention that Mbappe was surrounded by seven Morocco players when he hit that shot that led to the Hernandez goal.”

What a goal that would have been ?

Hugo Lloris gets a hand to Jawad El Yamiq's overhead kick which hits the post ?#BBCFootball #BBCWorldCup

— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) December 14, 2022


“If you posted the players’ names from each team in a different font (or just italics vs caps) it would be much easier to follow for the probable majority who do not know the names of all the players,” says Michael Daley. “PS I agree about updating lineups with substitutions…”

Half-time reading

Half time: France 1-0 Morocco

peep peep! France led through Theo Hernandez’s early goal, but Morocco played an equal part in a thrilling and surprisingly open first half. Both teams have hit the post, and Hugo Lloris has probably been the busier keeper. See you in 10 minutes for the second half.

45 minutes Three minutes of added time.

44 min: El Yamiq hits the post! What a goal that would have been. Ziyech’s inswinging corner was headed away by Giroud towards the end of the area, where El Yamiq launched himself into a slightly inelegant but spectacular overhead kick. Lloris flew to his right and got the slightest touch to push the ball onto the post. That’s a helluva save.

Jawad El Yamiq hits the post!
Jawad El Yamiq hits the post! Photograph: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

44 min Ounahi plays an excellent return ball to Hakimi in the area, but his low cross is superbly blocked by the sliding Konate. Corner to Morocco…

42 min Morocco have had 55 percent of the possession, which I think is their highest in this tournament. It’s also the first time they’ve been behind in the tournament.

41 min “Your match stats do not show who has been substituted in the starting line up,” writes Nicklas Nilsson. “Room for improvement…”

Haven’t we all.

40 minutes Griezmann’s corner is flicked wide by Varane in front of the near post. A quarter chance at best.

38 minutes This is a decent spell for France, who knew that a second goal before half-time would probably finish Morocco off.

36 min: Great chances for Mbappe and Giroud! France should be 2-0 up. Tchouameni threaded a superb ball inside Hakimi to find Mbappe in the area. He screwed a shot past Bono that was kicked away by El Yamiq, although it wasn’t going in anyway as Mbappe had been knocked slightly off balance by Hakimi. France regained possession, and a few seconds later Giroud curled a first-time shot wide from about 12 yards. He should have scored.

A big chance for Olivier Giroud!
A big chance for Olivier Giroud! Photograph: Christophe Ena/AP

34 min Griezmann’s corner hits a couple of players and bounces away from goal towards Fofana, who hooks a shot on the turn high and wide. Wasn’t much of a chance.

33 minutes Tchouameni pings a long-range drive that is blocked by … Giroud.

29 minutes Giroud, who has been really good so far, nicks the ball off Amrabat in midfield before being fouled by Amallah.

27 minutes Boufal is booked for a foul on Theo Hernandez in the France area. It’s a good job Hernandez got a touch on the ball because he then wiped out Boufal in his follow through.

Theo Hernandez is lucky after sloppy play in his own box.
Theo Hernandez is lucky after sloppy play in his own box. Photograph: Friedemann Vogel/EPA

26 minutes The scoreline means Morocco are having a lot of the ball, more than in most games at this tournament, and they are playing with plenty of attacking optimism. Hakimi hits a stinging shot from 22 yards that is blocked by Konate.

24 min I’m now being told, via my inbox, that making a joke about old people living in fear of cancel culture is racist. How that works, I don’t know, but I think I might watch the football for a bit instead of trying to incorporate emails in this blog.

22 minutes So Morocco have lost both Saiss and Aguerd since they announced the team a couple of hours ago. If they do lose, they’ll always wonder what might have been with a fully fit defense. Then again, France can say the same about Rabiot and Upamecano, not to mention Benzema, Pogba, Kante and the rest.

21 minutes Selim Amallah replaces poor Saiss, which probably means a switch to 4-3-3. Saiss gives the armband to Hakim Ziyech.

19 minutes It looks like the Moroccan captain Romain Saiss is going off. That’s really sad, although not entirely surprising given the hamstring injury he suffered on Saturday.

Morocco captain Romain Saiss is struggling with an injury.
Morocco captain Romain Saiss is struggling with an injury. Photograph: David Ramos/Fifa/Getty Images

17 min: Giroud hits the post! A long ball from the back beats Saiss, who doesn’t look fit, and reaches Giroud. He smashes a half-volley that swirls away from Bono and thumps the outside of the post.

Olivier Giroud hits the post!
Olivier Giroud hits the post! Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

17 minutes Another promising break from Morocco. Boufal scoots away from a couple of players in midfield and angles a pass to Ziyech on the right side of the area. He takes a touch but shoots tamely wide on the stretch.

15 minutes The goal aside, Morocco have started really well. It will annoy them that the goal was so avoidable; there was no need for El Yamiq to try to win the ball in front of Griezmann, especially when there was so much space behind him.


Theo Hernandez puts the world champs ahead inside the first five minutes ?#BBCFootball #BBCWorldCup

— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) December 14, 2022


11 min: Good save by Lloris! Morocco have responded really well to going behind. Ounahi sidefoots a wobbling shot from 25 yards that is well saved by Lloris, diving a long way to his left.

9 minutes The defender on the line, Dari I think, had a chance to block Hernandez’s shot but seemed to panic and kicked under the ball. I’d like to see it again to be sure but it looked… if not a howler, then at least a missed opportunity.

8 minutes “Admitting that you don’t know enough about a topic to comment is intelligent, but you didn’t do that with the silly ‘cancelled’ joke, which implies that you are critical of negative responses to bigotry,” writes Michael S Weller. “You didn’t mean to imply that, I’m sure, but that’s how your joke comes across. A simple test: were you going to say something racist or xenophobic? If not, then you won’t be ‘cancelled’. It’s really easy not to be ‘cancelled’: don’t say bigoted things.”

That’s the last time I crack a joke on the internet.

Theo Hernandez, who had such a stinker against England, is now France’s hero. Griezmann slipped El Yamiq, who committed himself unnecessarily, in the inside-right channel and passed low towards Mbappe. He had one shot blocked, then another, but the ball ricocheted towards Hernandez beyond the far post. He did really well to get over the top of the bouncing ball – which was well above waist height – and crack it past both Bono and the defender on the line.

GOAL! France 1-0 Morocco (T Hernandez 5)

Morocco are behind for the first time in the tournament!

Theo Hernandez celebrates scoring the opener.
Theo Hernandez celebrates scoring the opener. Photograph: Dylan Martinez/Reuters
Goal for France!
Goal for France! Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

4 minutes A slow start, with both teams feeling their way into the game. Every French touch is being whistled.

2 minutes Hang on, Nayef Aguerd pulled out after the warm-up. Achraf Dari is playing instead.

Achraf Dari is a late, late swap for Morocco.
Achraf Dari is a late, late swap for Morocco. Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

1 min peep peep! The first World Cup semi-final involving an African team is officially underway.

History beckons. Dima Maghrib! ??????

— Ed Aarons (@ed_aarons) December 14, 2022


History beckons. Dima Maghrib! ??????

— Ed Aarons (@ed_aarons) December 14, 2022

Me on the beauty of Morocco, the Moroccan mums, and Islam

— Daniel Harris (@DanielHarris) December 14, 2022


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