Morocco, who are now Africa’s pioneers in the semi-finals face current World Cup champions France on Wednesday at the Al Bayt Stadium.
The Atlas Lions defeated Portugal 1-0 to go to the final four, while Les Bleus defeated a tenacious England team 2-1 to maintain their chances of winning back-to-back championships. The winner of this semi-final match will face either Argentina.
A missed Harry Kane penalty can be a prized possession, and Didier Deschamps claimed that France was the “fortunate” recipient of such good fortune when the defending champions stopped England from winning the match in a thrilling quarterfinal.
It has been 84 years since a European country advanced to the World Cup final as the reigning champions; the Italian greats of 1934 and 1938 were the most recent to do so. Les Bleus did not win any of their first three World Cup semi-finals, but they have since won on their last three occasions in 1998, 2006, and 2018.
Prior to their matchup with Morocco, France made sure they would still be without a World Cup 2022 clean sheet by conceding to Kane from the penalty spot. Morocco, in contrast, is a team that certainly knows a thing or two about keeping opponents at bay, even when forced to make defensive adjustments.
Whatever happens on Wednesday at the Al Bayt Stadium, the current Moroccan crop has already solidified its position in both national and continental folklore as the first-ever African country to advance to the World Cup semifinals.
Walid Regragui’s stand-ins performed admirably to hold back A Selecao, and a Youssef En-Nesyri header was all it took for the Atlas Lions to make African history. Walid Regragui was forced to play without Nayef Aguerd and Noussair Mazraoui while facing a Portugal side that had hit Switzerland for six goals.
Morocco would be deserving finalists after winning the most points possible against three international heavyweights in Belgium, Spain, and Portugal.
Regragui’s team has kept four clean sheets so far in Qatar, with Aguerd’s own goal against Canada the lone exception. Moroccan supporters should take pride in this statistic, as the last two teams to do so at the same World Cup was Italy in 2006 and Spain in 2010, both of whom went on to win the title.
Since only nine of the 45 shots Morocco has faced in the World Cup have been on goal, profligacy has also greatly benefited Morocco. However, facing a France team that hasn’t lost to the Atlas Lions in five games shouldn’t frighten Regragui’s players or their loud fan base.