Theo Hernandez scored the opening goal for France. France is now set to play Lionel Messi and Argentina in the championship game, looking to become the first team to do so since Brazil in 1962.
Morocco has been the surprise of Qatar 2022, and Walid Regragui’s team responded superbly after Hernandez’s opening goal in the fifth minute, holding the world champions at bay for sizable stretches in an impressive display of bravery and skill.
Kolo Muani of Eintracht Frankfurt, however, emerged as the surprise winner for France, scoring with his very first touch after Kylian Mbappe had a shot blocked 11 minutes from the end.
Prior to this game, Morocco had only given up one goal all tournament, and even that was an own goal as they became the first African team to advance to the World Cup semifinals.
All three players—Romain Saiss, Nayef Aguard, and Noussair Mazraoui—were deemed healthy enough to play, but West Ham’s Aguard withdrew after the pregame warmup, and captain Saiss was taken off midway through the opening frame because he was plainly having trouble.
That doubt appeared to be a factor in the disorganised France opening, in which Antoine Griezmann took advantage of Jawad El Yamiq’s slip to pass the ball back to Mbappe. Hernandez was alert to the possibilities as he produced an acrobatic finish after Hernandez’s first effort was blocked and a second was looped up off Oliver Giroud.
Saiss’ thigh gave out, and Giroud hit the post. However, Hugo Lloris had already stopped Azzedine Ounahi at full stretch before that, and El Yamiq nearly made up for his mistake with an overhead kick that smacked the base of the post.
After the break, Mbappe attempted to put France back in the game, but Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech emerged as the game’s best striker, directing a number of deft attacks down the right side.
Only after Dayot Upemacano was unable to play due to illness did Ibrahima Konate make last-ditch clearances, and France only gained breathing room when Kylian Mbappe’s quick feet created space for a half-blocked shot that fell kindly for Kolo Muani, who had played for only 44 seconds.
Morocco’s remarkable run will live much longer in the memories.