FLOW Qatar Spotlight | Proud, brave Morocco; dream final; and France on cusp
Well done, Morocco!
The Atlas Lions have nothing to be ashamed of. They've won the hearts of many. They came, they saw but didn't conquer, and that's ok. The entire country should be proud, from the city of Tangier in the north to Dakhla in the south, they should say job well done.
Morocco were hit by Les Bleus, the defending champions with class splattered all over their roster. I believe the only reason Morocco lost to France was that they conceded first. I dare someone to debate that as I often say, men lie, women lie, and numbers don't.
Having come through the entire tournament, reaching the semi-final stage and not having been scored on by an opponent, they, perhaps, were lost as to how “we could rebound from this, what do we do”?
That was what proved to be their downfall, but they still have a chance at finishing third overall as they will lock horns with Luka Modric and Croatia in the third- and fourth-place playoff on Saturday. It will still be the best finish by an African team at the FIFA World Cup.
France showed their mettle, tenacity, and experience and have done something not seen in ages: a team reaching back-to-back finals.
The entire country of France will be chanting "Nous sommes prets!", "We are ready!"
France are on the cusp of history, having had their roster tested like never before. Injuries to key players before, as well as during, the tournament may have had even the most optimistic French fan concerned. Yet they still find ways to win. Didier Deschamps just knows how to operate in tournaments.
It doesn’t matter that Aurelien Tchouameni and Adrien Rabiot were out of the starting 11 with illness, with their midfield already missing Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté. France jumped on Morocco early but had to survive nervy moments at the end of the first half and a Moroccan surge in the second half when the French could not find the kill switch.
Find it they did, thanks to Kylian Mbappé carving out magic for substitute Kolo Muani seconds after coming on, and now, they will have a chance of becoming the first repeat champion in 50 years.
They are the first defending champion since Brazil in 1998 to reach back-to-back finals.
Morocco were walking wounded, and despite taking the early punch, they gave France real scares, pushing them as far as they could. Better decision-making in the final third and it could have been different.
Romain Saiss, their captain, being forced off, didn’t help matters defensively, but they have already done more than they could have dreamt of, with an opportunity to finish third on Saturday. Africa and the Arab world salute you. What a run!
We've got a heck of a final on our hands – Argentina vs France, Messi vs Mbapép, and destiny vs history. The final potentially perfect send-off for an all-time great vs the ascension of another. The heavyweight bout of all bouts. Let’s hope we get an all-time classic.
Brave Morocco never yield
The brave may fall, but they never yield, and despite going down 2-0 to defending champions France in their World Cup semi-final, Morocco never yielded and represented themselves, their nation, and the continent of Africa with pride as the French never had a comfortable moment throughout the contest.
Nevertheless, they lacked the finishing touch, unlike France, who survived the onslaught and struck at crucial times although their early goal did a lot to settle their nerves.
The stage has now been set, however, for a dream final between Kylian Mappé's France and Lionel Messi's Argentina.
France on the cusp of history but ...
While a 2-0 scoreline would suggest comfort, France’s win over Morocco today was certainly not that.
Lionel Messi and Argentina await, and in that semi-final, they must have seen the cracks in the armour.
France’s all-powerful aura first began to be chipped away in the quarterfinal encounter with England. Their defending on the flanks leaves something to be desired, and had Morocco had a little more quality in the final third, the game could have been less comfortable. And even so, it wasn’t.
France will certainly start favourites against the Argentines based on the football the two have played in this tournament, however, for the ageing Messi, there is hope.
Spare a thought for Morocco. They could not have had a worse start to the sem-ifinal, with the heart of their defence ripped out at the very start of the game. They fought hard to the end and proved deserving semi-finalists.
But they did miss a trick in not taking advantage of the make-shift wingback in Jules Koundé, and on the other side, Theo Hernánez, who Hakim Ziyech should have had the beating of.