Qatar World Cup 2022 Day 24: France beat Morocco in World Cup semi-finals

Qatar World Cup 2022 Day 24: France beat Morocco in World Cup semi-finals
Morocco's not-so-secret weapon will be the incredible support from fans in the Al-Bayt Stadium and across the Arab world.
13 min read
14 December, 2022

France ended Morocco's World Cup dream as goals from Theo Hernandez and Randal Kolo Muani gave the holders a 2-0 win in their semi-final clash to set up a showdown on Sunday with Lionel Messi's Argentina.

Morocco, the first African or Arab team ever to reach the last four at a World Cup, dug deep despite injury problems only to concede a late second as substitute Kolo Muani scored moments after coming on.

France, who have reached a fourth World Cup final in seven editions, are hoping to become the first team since Brazil 60 years ago to retain the trophy when they take on Argentina at Lusail Stadium at the weekend.

"There is lots of emotion and lots of pride in the dressing room," said coach Didier Deschamps, whose side were congratulated at the stadium by French President Emmanuel Macron.

"It was an important step but there is still a last one to go."

Morocco had made history as the first Arab, African team to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup, after beating Belgium in the group stage and then knocking out Spain and Portugal.

3:35 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

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1:14 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Morocco coach says 'players gave everything' after World Cup defeat

Yassine Bounou stretched out his arm with everything he had, desperately trying to get something, anything, in the way of the ball. It was no use.

France substitute Randal Kolo Muani had come on only seconds earlier and with his first touch assured the defending champions of a second straight World Cup final, putting an end to Morocco’s proud fight once and for all.

France ended up winning 2-0 and will face Argentina for the title on Sunday.

“My players gave everything,” Morocco coach Walid Regragui said. “They’ve gone as far as they could. It’s difficult for them to take now. They wanted to rewrite the history books, but you can’t win a World Cup with miracles, you have to do it with hard work and that’s what we are going to do, keep working.”

For more on this story click here.

10:45 AM
The New Arab Staff

Arabs across the world have praised Morocco’s football team for their heroic World Cup performance against France on Wednesday.

The North African team lost 2-0 to France, but made history as the first team from the continent and the Arab world to make it to the World Cup semi-finals.

Football fans described the Atlas Lions as the World Cup winners for "millions" across the globe and congratulated them for representing "underrepresented parts of the world" in an "incredible show of resilience and hard work".

"They’ve made Morocco proud, they’ve made Africa proud and they’ve made Muslims all around the world proud," Twitter user Anisa wrote.

"They made WC history, played at the level of the best teams & players; they represented underrepresented parts of the world in football & brought together so many peoples. Morocco showed what’s possible & that must be celebrated," media producer Sana Saeed wrote.

Following the French win, France will face Argentina in the World Cup final in Qatar on Sunday.

For more on this story click here.

The North African team lost 2-0 to France [Getty]
8:59 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

France beat Morocco 2-0 in World Cup semi-finals

France beat Morocco 2-0 on Wednesday to set up a World Cup final showdown against Argentina and Lionel Messi.

Theo Hernandez put the defending champions ahead in the fifth minute after Morocco failed to clear their lines and substitute Randal Kolo Muani doubled their lead in the 79th minute.

8:30 PM
The New Arab Staff

GOAL: France 2-0 Morocco

France's Randal Kolo Muani scored his country's second goal of the night against Morocco in the 79th minute.

8:25 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

President Biden watches France-Morocco World Cup match with Moroccan PM

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday kept short a speech to African leaders and joined Morocco's prime minister to watch the country play in a historic World Cup semi-final against France.

Biden was keenly aware of the World Cup match in Qatar as he addressed nearly 50 heads of state gathered in Washington.

"I know you're saying to yourselves, make it short, Biden, there's a semi-final game coming up. I get it," he said to laughter and applause.

Biden stayed true to his word, wrapping up shortly after kickoff. He then watched the match with Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch and several other leaders attending the summit at central Washington's convention centre, according to the White House.

For more on this story click here.

Biden was keenly aware of the World Cup match in Qatar [Getty]
8:04 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Mbappe attends to fan struck by stray practice ball

Kylian Mbappe attended to a fan who was apparently struck by a stray practice ball ahead of the World Cup semifinal match between France and Morocco on Wednesday.

Mbappe was seen checking on the welfare of the France supporter, who appeared to be dazed, after the incident at Al Bayt Stadium.

The French players had been warming up on the field before the match started. It is not clear if Mbappe was the one who hit the errant shot into the stands, but he quickly went over to check on the man, who was also being helped by fellow fans.

8:00 PM
The New Arab Staff

France in lead over Morocco at halftime

France full back Theo Hernandez's hooked volley in the fifth minute gave the defending world champions a 1-0 lead over Morocco at halftime in their World Cup semi-final on Wednesday.

The French, attempting to become the first team to retain the title since Brazil 60 years ago, went in front when Hernandez benefited from a deflection and beat keeper Yassine Bounou with a high volley at the far post.

France's all-time top scorer Olivier Giroud went close to adding another when he thundered a shot against the post in the 17th minute.

Morocco, bidding to become the first team outside Europe and South America to reach the final, suffered two injury blows with centre back Nayef Aguerd pulling out during the warm-up and captain Romain Saiss forced off in the 21st minute.

They came close to an equaliser, however, on the stroke of halftime through Jawad El Yamiq's bicycle kick which Hugo Lloris palmed away.

7:10 PM
The New Arab Staff

GOAL: France 1-0 Morocco

France full back Theo Hernandez scored his first goal of the night against Morocco in the 5th minute.

6:27 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

France make changes to starting line up for match against Morocco

France have made two changes to their starting line-up for Wednesday's World Cup semi-final against Morocco, with Adrien Rabiot and Dayot Upamecano both dropping out of the side due to illness.

Youssouf Fofana comes into the midfield in place of Rabiot, who has appeared in all five of France's matches so far but is not even listed among the substitutes for the match at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.

Ibrahima Konate of Liverpool takes the place of Upamecano alongside Raphael Varane in central defence, although the Bayern Munich man is at least named on the bench.

It is just a seventh cap for Monaco midfielder Fofana, and a sixth cap for Konate, as the holders look to secure a place in Sunday's final against Argentina.

The rest of coach Didier Deschamps' starting XI is the same as against England in the quarter-final, when they won 2-1 thanks to a late Olivier Giroud goal.

Morocco are the first African team and the first Arab team to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup.

5:05 PM
The New Arab Staff

Omani influencer asked to wear France shirt by Morocco fans after unlucky World Cup run

An Omani influencer is being urged by Morocco football fans to cheer on France during Wednesday's World Cup semi-final match, following an unlucky run in his predictions so far.

Mohammed Al-Hajri, better known as Mjomba, has picked a side in the World Cup games he has attended in Qatar, so far, and worn their colours as a sign of support.

Unfortunately for the teams in question, they have gone on to lose.

Morocco fans, knowing they face an up-hill battle against World Cup favourites France, want to summon Mjomba's uncanny ability to pick the wrong side by asking him to wear a Les Bleus shirt tonight.

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5:04 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Police in France geared up for the country's World Cup football semi-final against Morocco on Wednesday, after scuffles which followed last week's Moroccan quarter-final win over Portugal.

Some 10,000 police officers will be mobilised nationwide, of which 5,000 personnel will be posted in the Ile-de-France region around Paris and some 2,200 in the capital, double the security staff than for earlier key World Cup matches, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said on France 2 television.

"Our Moroccan friends, just like the French supporters, are welcome to organise a party and our job is not to stop them from partying… but this will have to be done under good security conditions," Darmanin said.

Clashes had erupted in Paris on 10 December after Morocco defeated Portugal as victory celebrations with waving flags and honking soon turned into violence on the streets as rioters thrashed storefronts, forcing the riot police to use tear gas.

France is a former colonial ruler of Morocco and has a large Moroccan diaspora, concentrated mainly around Paris and the Mediterranean coast area.

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3:28 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Messi confirms Qatar final will be last World Cup game

Lionel Messi has confirmed he will play his last World Cup game when Argentina take on France or Morocco in Sunday's final in Qatar.

Messi lead Argentina to a 3-0 win over Croatia in their semi-final on Tuesday and will earn his 172nd cap at the weekend when he tries to bring the country its first World Cup title since 1986.

"I feel very happy, to be able to achieve this, to finish my World Cup journey by playing my last game in a final," Messi told Argentine media outlet Diario Deportivo Ole.

"It's many years for the next one and I don't think I'll be able to do it. And to finish like this, it's the best," added the Argentina captain.

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Lionel Messi has confirmed this is his last World Cup [Maddie Meyer - FIFA/FIFA/Getty]
3:22 PM
Basma El Atti

German media compares Atlas Lions players' celebrations to Islamic state's gestures

A German media outlet compared the Moroccan men's football team's celebrations at the World Cup to the Islamic State group's gestures, sparking outrage and controversy over the "Islamophobic" coverage of Morocco's victory.

In a news clip, a TV host for the popular German channel Welt claims that three Moroccan players, who posed smiling and raised their index finger after winning their quarter-final match against Portugal, were using a similar 'salute' used by members of the Islamic state.

The picture in question is of Moroccan players Zakaria Abouklal, Abdelhamid Sabiri and Ilias Chair.

The three players posed with a Moroccan flag between them and raised their index fingers, a sign Muslims have used for decades as a celebratory reminder of the oneness of God and an affirmation of faith.

The news segment went viral on social media, sparking criticism of German media's incitement of hatred against the Atlas Lions and Muslims in Germany, where Islamophobic crimes soared in the past few years.

"I am fascinated every day by the extent to which German racism presents itself with its coverage of the World Cup," tweeted Germany-based journalist Hebh Jamal.

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3:17 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Hakimi, Mbappe 'bromance' on pause as Morocco v France lock horns semi-final

Paris St Germain (PSG) stars Achraf Hakimi and Kylian Mbappe will lock horns in Wednesday evening's World Cup semi-final clash, pitting the two teammates and friends against each other.

The players have spoken of their friendship long before the France v Morocco game, but now with the stakes high, the "bromance" has been put on pause.

"After we play against Morocco, I have to destroy my friend," French forward Mbappe said in a video on a trip to Qatar in January with their club PSG.

"I'm going to kick him," a smiling Hakimi responded.

The pair have also appeared in many videos together, and share a signature celebration which they often perform together. Hakimi, who scored Morocco's winning penalty against Spain, performed the penguin walk without his mate.

The two friends have been in contact during the tournament, however, with Mbappe visiting Hakimi during a day off to congratulate him on Morocco's win streak.

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Mbappe (left) and Hakimi (right) usually fight for the same side at PSG [FIFA/Getty]
3:14 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Morocco airline cancels some World Cup fan flights to Qatar

Morocco's national airline said it was cancelling some flights it had scheduled for Wednesday to carry fans to Doha for the World Cup semi-final, citing what it said was a decision by Qatari authorities.

"Following the latest restrictions imposed by the Qatari authorities, Royal Air Maroc regrets to inform customers of the cancellation of their flights operated by Qatar Airways," the airline said in an emailed statement, according to Reuters.

The Qatari government's international media office did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The New Arab could not verify the reports but has contacted Qatari aviation authorities for comment.

Royal Air Maroc (RAM) had previously said it would lay on 30 additional flights to help fans get to Qatar for Wednesday night's semi-final game against France, but on Tuesday a source at a RAM travel agency cited by Reuters said only 14 flights had been scheduled.

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The cancellation of Wednesday's seven scheduled flights means RAM was only able to fly the seven flights on Tuesday, leaving fans who had already booked match tickets or hotel rooms unable to travel.

RAM said it would reimburse air tickets and apologised to customers.

The cancelled flights impact "2,100 passengers", a separate source, who wished to remain anonymous, told AFP, adding that 23 other flights operated by RAM are still planned.

(Reuters, AFP)

1:08 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Morocco World Cup wins met with mixed reactions in Western Sahara

After the final whistle of every match Morocco won in its history-making World Cup run, crowds poured out of homes and cafes in the biggest city of Western Sahara, celebrating for hours.

The revelers included some Sahrawi people, members of an ethnic group that has sought independence for Western Sahara since Morocco annexed the disputed territory in 1975. Other Sahrawis rooted for Morocco's defeat on the football field or refused to take part in the celebrations.

The presence of some Sahrawi fans cheering for Morocco in the streets of Laayoune illustrates the unifying power of the first Arab or African team to advance so far in the world’s biggest sporting event.

Al-Salik Al-Yazid, a young Sahrawi in Laayoune, said "the historic success of the Moroccan national team" has created a collective feeling of "overwhelming joy that included all Arabs and Africans, despite the constant discontent with the Moroccan state".

He called it a sign of gradually shifting mindsets among younger Sahrawis who grew up under Moroccan rule and under a 1991 ceasefire that ended a 16-year conflict between Moroccan forces and Algeria-backed Polisario Front independence fighters.

"With the growth of generations merging and coexisting in one common environment, it has become natural to find Sahrawi individuals celebrating the victory of the Moroccan national team," Al-Yazid said.

"Many Sahrawis have overcome the problem of identity caused by decades of political struggle."

However, a long-promised referendum on the territory’s future never took place. Low-intensity hostilities have reignited, leaving the truce at risk of unraveling in Morocco-controlled Western Sahara.

Sahrawi people make up a minority of the estimated population of 350,000 in the territory, a Colorado-sized region rich in phosphates and fishing grounds. The rest, following nearly a half-century of settlement efforts, are mainly Moroccans.

Other Sahrawis live in the sliver of Western Sahara ruled by the Polisario, or in refugee camps in Algeria.

Sahrawi independence activists say it's not possible to separate the Moroccan team from the Kingdom of Morocco itself.

The team represents the Royal Football League and by extension the monarchy, "which for us is the cause of the tragedy of our people through its forceful occupation of Western Sahara", said Mubarak Mamine, a Laayoune-based Polisario Front activist.

"Football is a tool used by the Moroccan regime to divert the attention of the Moroccan people from their basic issues, especially in light of the deteriorating economic and social conditions in the country," Marmine said.